Most Americans Ask: Who is Gary Johnson?

New poll shows only 6 percent believe Libertarian candidate could win

Posted June 6, 2016 at 2:17pm


Most Americans have never heard of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson , and very few believe he can capture the White House this fall, according to a new Economist/YouGov poll .  

Only 6 percent of those surveyed believe Johnson “could possibly win” a race that likely will pit him against Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton . And 55 percent of respondents say they have never even heard of the former New Mexico GOP governor.  

Analysts believe Johnson could pick off Republicans disgruntled about Trump being the party’s nominee and independents who decide they cannot vote for the real estate tycoon or for Clinton.  


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“All this talk about third parties, well, I’m it,” Johnson said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press .” He contends that “the great middle of this country is libertarian” because “most people are fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” But the poll suggests he will have to convince a lot more voters.  

To that end, 53 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans say they have never heard of Johnson, who flipped to the Libertarian Party in 2011 ahead of an unsuccessful 2012 White House run.  

Fifteen percent of poll respondents who identified as independents reported either a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” impression of Johnson. Among Republicans, that mark was 13 percent.  

A nearly equal amount of independents said they “might consider” voting for him (17 percent) than answered they “would never consider” voting for him (19 percent). Only 9 percent of Republicans said they might consider it, compared to 26 percent who said they never would.  

Johnson told ABC News’ “This Week ” last month that merely being included in polls would help his chances.  


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“It’s a real chicken and egg thing,” Johnson replied. “If you’re not in the polls, of course, you don’t get the attention.”  

Chris Galdieri , a political science professor at St. Anselm College, said Johnson faces “a very uphill” fight to secure enough support to make a difference in the general election.  

“I think it’s possible in a place like New Hampshire . It’s a swingy state with ‘old-line’ Yankee Republicans,” Galdieri said. “Some people say, ‘I can’t see this happening with Trump as our nominee and can’t pull the lever for HRC.’ He would be a viable alternative for that.”  

Still, history suggests it is unlikely Johnson will “get from having 1 [percent] or 2 percent to actually carrying a state,” Galdieri said. “He ran in 2012 and didn’t make an impact. You just can’t ignore that.”  

The Trump factor may change that in the handful of battleground states that could decide the next president.  

“Johnson might tip some states to Clinton that otherwise would have gone Republican if there are Republicans and independents in those states that decide,” Galdieri said, “‘I just can’t vote for either one, so I’ll vote Libertarian.’ Or if someone like Mitt Romney says, ‘We can’t abide by having Trump, so you should vote for Gary Johnson.’”  

Contact Bennett at Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT

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