How Big a Third-Party Threat Is Trump?

The FINANCIAL -- If “The Donald” loses the Republican presidential nomination and runs as a third-party candidate, he definitely could put a crimp in GOP hopes to reclaim the White House.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 29% of Likely U.S. Voters say they are at least somewhat likely to vote for Trump if he is not chosen as the GOP nominee and runs as a third party candidate. But that includes only 14% who say they are Very Likely to vote for him. Sixty-eight percent (68%) say they are unlikely to vote for the billionaire developer if he runs as a third-party presidential candidate, with 51% who say it’s Not At All Likely, according to Rasmussen Reports.

Worrisome for Republicans, however, is the finding that over a third (36%) of Likely GOP Voters say they are likely to vote for Trump if he’s a third-party candidate, with 18% who are Very Likely to do so. One-in-three (33%) voters who are not affiliated with either major party also are likely Trump voters, including 16% who say they are Very Likely to vote for him if he runs third-party.

Even 19% of Democrats describe themselves as likely Trump voters, although that includes just nine percent (9%) who say they are Very Likely to vote that way.

Right now, Trump leads the pack of 16 major Republican presidential hopefuls, going into their first debate this week. 

Forty-six percent (46%) of all voters say they have voted for an independent candidate not affiliated with either major political party. Among these voters, 34% say they are likely to vote for Trump if he ends up running as a third-party presidential candidate, including 18% who say they are Very Likely to do so.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on July 28-29, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

At this early stage of the game, name recognition is key, and the headlines Trump has been making in recent weeks have undoubtedly helped push him to the top of the heap.

Here’s how all the presidential hopefuls stack up so far.

Men are more likely than women to have voted for an independent candidate. Blacks are less likely to have voted that way compared to whites and other minority voters.

Trump is a more attractive third-party candidate to men and younger voters than he is to women and those 40 and over.

Interestingly, roughly one-third of both conservative and liberal voters say they are likely to vote for Trump if he runs third-party, while 74% of moderates say they are Not At All Likely to do so.

Thirty-four percent (34%) of voters who think the country is heading down the wrong track say they are likely to vote for Trump if he’s a third-party candidates, but just 21% of those who say the country is heading in the right direction agree.

As each candidate formally announced in recent weeks, Rasmussen Reports asked voters in their respective parties what they think of the candidate and how they rate his or her chances to be their party’s nominee next year. Bush is seen as having the best shot among Republicans, with 56% who see him as the likely nominee, but his last name is a drawback for some. 

Hillary Clinton remains far and away the leader for the Democratic nomination. But some in her party worry about her electability given the controversies swirling around her, and Vice President Joe Biden is now reportedly exploring a presidential bid to challenge her. Rasmussen Reports will survey on Biden later this week. 

In January 2012 just before the last presidential primary season kicked off, only six percent (6%) of Likely Republican Voters said they were prepared to vote third-party if their favorite didn’t win the party nomination.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of all voters said later that year that the current electoral setup discourages third-party challenges. 

The GOP appears on the brink of civil war, so if Bush, anathema to many conservatives because of his moderate views on illegal immigration and his support of the Common Core national education standards, wins the party nomination, will many right-leaning voters bolt?

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.