Third Party Candidates And Voter Turnout: Policy Implications For Public Financing Of Presidential Elections
Given the soaring cost of mounting a presidential run, public campaign financing for elections is a policy issue overdue for reform. The financial advantage held by major party candidates in the 2008 election effectively eliminates any legitimate third party challengers without access to vast sums of money. At the same time, many eligible voters choose not to participate in the electoral process, possibly due to the perception of lack of choice among candidates. Analysis that indicated more voter choices increases voter turnout could aid policymakers in overhauling the public campaign funding system. With these issues in mind, this thesis examined the effect of third party candidates on voter turnout in United States presidential elections. Using multinomial probit analysis, the effect of third party candidates in five elections after 1948 was examined where such candidates attracted at least 2.75 percent of the vote. The results showed that Ross Perot had a positive impact on voter turnout in attracting voters who do not see major differences between the two major political parties in the 1992 election. Additionally, voters who did not perceive major differences between the two parties were more likely to abstain from voting in each of the elections analyzed.
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