Gary Johnson doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In recent elections, third-party candidates have tended to lose support as Election Day approaches. But the Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former New Mexico governor is holding steady in the polls, and we’ve reached a point in the race at which past third-party candidates had already started to see their support nose-dive.
Johnson is pulling in about 9 percent in the national polls, according to the FiveThirtyEight polls-only average. And his share in national polls has not fallen as we’ve gotten closer to the election. Indeed, Johnson’s support right now is higher than many other viable1 third-party candidates’ at a similar point in campaigns since 1948.
*Average of polls conducted in the seven days ending on Aug. 25 of each election year.
Sources: Roper Center, Gallup, FiveThirtyEight polling database
Johnson is pulling in at least twice as much of the vote as Henry Wallace or Strom Thurmond was in late August 1948, as Ralph Nader was in 2000 and certainly as Johnson himself was four years ago. Perhaps even more impressive is that Johnson is polling right about where Ross Perot was in 1996, when Perot had a nationally known name after his strong 1992 run. That said, Johnson is nowhere near the success of that 1992 campaign: Perot was pulling in 20 percent as a hypothetical candidate after leaving the 1992 campaign in July but before re-entering the race in October.
And notice: Most third-party candidates didn’t lose that much support between late summer and Election Day. Besides John Anderson in 1980, no candidate ended up finishing more than 3 percentage points below where they were polling in late August. The average drop-off is about 2 percentage points. Anderson, meanwhile, …