Jill Stein could soon be making a big jump in the polls, with the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton starting to turn into a blowout and polls likely underestimating the growing support for the Green Party.
Stein, running to the left of Hillary Clinton, has been lingering around the 2 percent mark in most of the national polls to come out in recent weeks. While it would take something of a miracle for Stein to win a state — or even grab double-digit support — the Green Party’s goal may be the 5 percent threshold that would guarantee matching federal funding for the next election cycle. And that could be well within reach.
Although Stein appears to be only about halfway there in the polling, there are a number of signs that the current polling is underestimating the support for the Green Party this election cycle.
One of the biggest factors in Jill Stein overperforming her polling could be in the models these polls use to predict likely voters. Guessing which poll respondents will actually show up on Election Day has always been something of an informed guess for pollsters, and they don’t sound terribly confident this year compared to the past.
“These methods, which have been around for so long, may be losing some of their accuracy because circumstances have changed,” Scott Keeter, a senior survey adviser at Pew Research, told the Atlantic. “Whether there has been a change in our politics in just the last two years that makes all of this less accurate is really impossible to answer at this point.”
And those likely voter models — the ones that are used to show Jill Stein’s low support — are generally weighted to expect fewer young and first-time voters. That happens to make up a large share of the Green Party’s base, so a model that fails to take these voters into account will have Jill Stein underperforming.
There are other good signs for Jill Stein that may have not yet shown up in the polls. For one, October is traditionally a time when the polls tighten and third party voters begin to “come home” to the two major party candidates. That is one of the main reasons why third parties have underperformed polls in most recent election cycles. Back in 2012, Jill Stein polled between 1 and 2 percent in polling through the summer but ended up with a little more than 400,000 votes nationwide.
In a post-mortem analysis, Salon noted that the tightening race led many people away from the Green Party. Although Barack Obama ended up beating Mitt Romney comfortably in the electoral map, national polling leading up to Election Day suggested that the two were within about a point of each other.
As Salon noted, Stein fared poorly because the perception of a close race scared many people away from voting third party.
“Why’d she fail? Pretty obvious. Media coverage of the race suggested that it would be close. Stein, like Nader, collapsed when protest voters got skittish about throwing the election away from Obama. You can see this best in Florida, where Stein currently has 8,757 votes. In 2008, Nader got 28,128 votes in Florida. (He ran on the Ecology Party ticket.)”
The 2016 general election appears to be moving in the opposite direction. After Donald Trump’s terrible performance at the first debate, his campaign has been in freefall and his poll number sinking.
With Hillary Clinton appearing to be headed toward a comfortable victory over Donald Trump, the argument that “a vote for a third party candidate is as good as a vote for Donald Trump” has lost all steam, and third-party voters will likely be sticking with their first choices.
The next few weeks will be key in showing just how much Jill Stein could be underperforming in the polls. If the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continues to widen, it would be likely that Stein’s poll numbers would start to tick upward as the hesitant Clinton voters feel safer with going back to their first choice. Whether it’s enough to get Stein up to 5 percent — well, that’s a question that may not be answered until late on November 9.
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