Prediction: Gary Johnson >5%

So, I don’t usually make a lot of election predictions (beyond the fact that you can usually trust a polling consensus), but I’m going to make one (other than my oft-stated, Hillary Clinton will very likely win) about 2016.  I predict that Libertarian Gary Johnson will get more than 5% of the vote.  I think there’s a non-trivial amount of Republicans out there– especially of the libertarian bent, of course– who loathe Trump and what he represents, but cannot bring themselves to vote for Clinton.  Of course, for a political person, it’s really hard to simply abstain from a presidential election.

The solution?  A vote for Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.  Johnson is actually quite qualified as third-party candidates go, having served as Governor of New Mexico.  And his running mate, William Weld, was a popular governor of Massachusetts.  I think the more it looks like Trump is going to lose (based on polling in September onward) the better Johnson will do.  If it ends up being a neck-and-neck race, many Republicans will hold their nose, with both hands, and vote for Trump.  But if it seems pretty clear Trump will lose, why demean yourself by voting for an incompetent bigot.  Gary Johnson then represents a very respectable alternative, except for hardcore social conservatives.  So, that’s my prediction.  In the Fall, when it looks like that Trump will lose, a decent number of principled conservatives (i.e., the principle of not voting for a lunatic, blowhard, dangerous-to-democracy bigot) will vote for Johnson instead.  And his vote total will come almost exclusively out of otherwise Republican voters.

Hey, I’m a social scientist, so I’ll hedge all this with maybe, probably, etc., but this strikes me as quite reasonably likely scenario.

Seth Masket had a recent post on this nicely fleshing out all the Political Science behind it.  In this case, Seth and I had the same idea independently (so it must be right), he just beat me to writing about it (and did a more thorough job).


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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