60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republican parties do such a poor job representing the American people that an alternative, third major party is needed.
George Washington issued a warning about political parties more than 200 years ago, saying they were destructive and could divide the country.
Those sentiments reflect the views of the majority of the American people surveyed in a Gallup poll released last week.
According to the poll, 60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republican parties do such a poor job representing the American people that an alternative, third major party is needed.
“These results show that the American people have finally had enough of a two-party system that so constantly works against their interests,” writes Evan Lyne, a co-chair for “Young Greens,” the youth caucus of the Green Party, and a student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
“When I see such a high percentage, it gives me hope and further motivation to work with the Green Party.”
The infighting in Congress disappoints Lesley Chan, president of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. She founded her school’s YAL chapter because she saw the need for a libertarian group on campus.
Chan thinks neither of the two major parties adequately reflects the views of the American people. She, too, says she would like a third major party to emerge, but she is unsure how three parties would function in the current political system.
“I think what would be most practical would be for the Republican or Democratic Party — but most likely the Republican Party at this point — to adopt more socially liberal views so it would become essentially the libertarian party to go up against a left party,” Chan says.
Not everyone fits completely into Democratic or Republican ideology, says Diana Reighart, president of YAL at the University of Richmond. She does not think third party candidates are viable in national elections, but she wants more options and a better diversity of opinions.
Even though she knew he would not win, Reighart voted for libertarian Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential election.
She says if people would do what she did in 2012 and vote how they really think, representatives would actually represent their views.
“If you think about what you want and you vote that way instead of voting for a particular party just because that candidate will win, I think the government would benefit from that kind of citizen research and citizen awareness of politics,” Reighart says.
People in both major parties are dissatisfied with politics right now, says Lyda Loudon, who founded Tea Party Youth at age 14. Because of this, she thinks a third major party is inevitable — whether we like it or not.
“[A third major party] could go really well, or it could be really terrible. It would depend on what that third party consisted of,” Loudon says. “Hopefully, a third party would consist of a more accepting, less exclusive campaign that takes the better qualities of both parties.”
However, some college students remain committed to the current two-party political system.
While Aslinn Scott, the western regional vice chair of the College Republican National Committee, understands people’s frustrations with government and is also frustrated herself, she remains committed to a mainstream party because she believes it is still more influential than third parties.
Scott says Republican beliefs resonate with people, but her party must rebrand and rebuild going forward.
“We’re seeing lots of people being afraid of the Republican Party image, and a lot of people defaulting to the Democratic side because they don’t like what the GOP is doing.” Scott says.
Giovanni Hashimoto, College Democrats of America social media coordinator, thinks third parties and fringe groups have given students a negative view of the political process and that Democrats’ ideals will continue to attract Millennials.
“Whether it’s making college affordable, combating climate change, promoting economic recovery, common-sense gun safety … students have and will continue to support the party that better represents their values,” writes Hashimoto, a sophomore at Pacific Union College.
Scott believes the way forward is still through established parties.
“The only way to actually make change within the party is to be within the party yourself and not join the fringe groups who claim they are going to work from the outside when they have no ‘in.'”
Allison Hammond is a senior at University of Kansas.