WATCH | Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are experiencing the so-called "third party fade." According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Johnson is polling at about 7.1 percent, down from a high of 9.2 in September. Stein has gone from a high of 4.8 over the summer to around 2 percent.
Historically, third party candidates tend to see their support peak in the summer, and drop as Election Day gets closer. A political science theory called Duverger's Law explains why.
What is Duverger's Law?
Named for French sociologist Maurice Duverger, the theory says that a country's electoral system determines how many major parties the country will have. In "winner-take all" systems, like we have in the United States, two-party systems tend to emerge.
Unlike a proportional system, where parties are assigned legislative seats that reflect to the percentage of votes they get, winner-take-all systems elect whoever gets the largest number of votes. In other words, the minorities parties get no representation.
Picking the lesser of two evilsIn a two-party system, it's possible for the party least preferred by voters to win.
Here's how: According to Duverger, voters begin to realize that voting for a weaker party might actually be helping the candidate they like the least to win.
Faced with this choice, they end up choosing the more viable, "lesser of two evils." Over time, thirds parties are forced to either fuse with a major party or get shut out entirely.
It's a self-perpetuating cycle
Polls suggest Americans are hungry for a third party that would compete with the Republicans and Democrats.
But for third parties to win in this country, they need to be able to convince voters that they have an actual shot at winning -- that voting for them is not a waste.
And in our electoral system, that's just not possible.
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