Are voters warming to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? They are not. A look at a national poll from Quinnipiac University provides a snapshot of the race and the dour narrative fueling it: A majority of voters don’t like either candidate. Respondents think Clinton is smart (87 percent) and has the right experience to be president (71 percent), but she’s dishonest (66 percent). And Trump? He’s not levelheaded (71 percent) and lacks appropriate experience (65 percent).
In other words, one’s seen as dishonest, the other’s a hothead. Negatives like those make one wonder if Americans would consider supporting an alternative candidate. Quinnipiac asked that question and found that yes, 37 percent would consider voting for a third-party candidate, even though they know little about the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein.
The best opportunity to begin hearing from one of those alternative candidates would be on Sept. 26, the first presidential debate. With Johnson ahead of Stein (he runs as high as 10 or 11 percent in some polls, compared with Stein’s 3 or 4 percent), Quinnipiac asked if he should be included in the presidential debates: 62 percent, nearly two-thirds of respondents, said yes, Johnson should participate.
So, a recap of voter sentiment: With Clinton and Trump competing in a race that looks too much like an ugly baby contest, a lot of Americans would like the chance to take a closer look at Gary Johnson in particular.
The hurdle in Johnson’s way is the terms set by the private, nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. The group says that to participate a candidate will need to hit an average 15 percent support level in five national polls before late September. Johnson is at 10 percent in a secondary question contained in the Quinnipiac poll results. But if pollsters acknowledged voter dissatisfaction and began treating the 2016 election as a real three-way race, it seems certain the Libertarian Party candidate would get past the 15 percent mark right away, even as a still-relative-unknown.
If the Republicans were willing to hear from 10 candidates at the first primary debate last summer (with seven more appearing at a prior forum), then let’s respect the wishes of a dissatisfied electorate and open up the first general election debate to Johnson. Once on that stage, it will be on him to make his mark.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE