It Happened: Third-Party Candidates Split The Vote

In the most crucial swing states of this general election, third-party candidates and their voters effectively thwarted the will of the majority of Americans. Their cumulative votes denied Hillary Clinton the victory and landed an inexperienced and precariously unprepared real estate guy in the Oval Office.

That’s according to data compiled by David Wasserman with the Cook Political Report in its National Popular Vote Tracker. The numbers from that report show that in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, had votes cast for third-party candidates been diverted to Clinton, she would have won the states, their electoral votes, and now be assembling her White House Cabinet.

Here’s the breakdown of votes.


  • Trump – 4,617,886
  • Clinton – 4,504,975
    • Margin of Difference: 112,911
  • Third Party Candidates – 297,178


  • Trump – 2,279,543
  • Clinton – 2,268,839
    • Margin of Difference: 10,704
  • Third Party Candidates – 250,902


  • Trump – 2,360,408
  • Clinton – 2,186,496
    • Margin of Difference: 173,912
  • Third Party Candidates – 173,912


  • Trump – 2,944,123
  • Clinton – 2,875,952
    • Margin of Difference: 68,171
  • Third Party Candidates – 214,571


  • Trump – 1,404,000
  • Clinton – 1,381,823
    • Margin of Difference: 22,177
  • Third Party Candidates – 189,490

Caveats apply. This is a numbers-only analysis that doesn’t take into consideration any other factor – and there are many. A recount is in the works for Wisconsin, likely to be followed in Michigan and Pennsylvania. And, there’s the whole knit of Russian intervention, media collusion, redistricting, fake news, secret servers, crazy tweets, outright lies, shade, suspicion, cyber war, hacked voting machines, lost ballots, padded votes, voter suppression ad nauseum that irrevocably damaged the electoral process.

However, all accusations and conspiracy theories aside, what needs attention from all pundits of every persuasion is the increasing preference among voters for a third-party candidate. This post-election analysis by NBC News cites a five to six percentage point draw by these voters in the swing states. Back in July, a Wall Street Journal article correctly hypothesized that votes for alternate parties could cost Clinton the election, particularly in Florida and other swing states. While the numbers of third-party votes have remained low, they are not negligible. The 8 November results prove that they are a disruptive force, as far as major party candidates are concerned.

Third-party voters cross the spectrum of political ideology – ranging from far right to far left. The idea of them merging under a single banner is improbable. It’s more likely these diverse voices will continue to affect election outcomes.

In this year’s presidential contest, those voices effectively silenced the preference of the majority of American voters. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over two million ballots. And yet, a tiny percentage thwarted the choice of 64,680,345 Americans.


One thought on “It Happened: Third-Party Candidates Split The Vote

  1. I see the point, but why not blame the tens of millions of eligible voters that didn’t vote? Their numbers are far greater than those who voted third party (or for a major party for that matter—see image below). So their counterfactual impact on the election is surely greater than third party voters, no?

    Whatever you think, thanks for sharing the data. It was helpful.


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