Shannon Jones

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Regional Research Institute

Document Number



Regional Research Institute


Democrats and Republicans traditionally dominate elections in America. The main goal of this project lies in determining if support for third parties exists and if certain third party support patterns exist within the United States. This project examines gubernatorial elections beginning with 1866 and continuing through 1996. This research does demonstrate that third party support has definite patterns and characteristics. Certain third parties rise up and exist for definite periods of time. Eventually they lose their support or their cause loses its salience. However, it remains one huge cycle: prevalent parties appear, and then disappear, making way for other parties to emerge. The Midwest, the Far West states, and select New England states have all consistently supported third party candidates. Obviously, the Midwest states existed mainly as agrarian communities and areas of prevalent immigrant settlements. Therefore, during the times of hardship it is obvious they would support third parties concerned with issues they felt. Following this agrarian tradition, certain states (Minnesota and Wisconsin) still today support third parties more often than other states. The gubernatorial elections in these areas reflect the values, traditions, economics and social nature of the citizens. Third parties play an important role in the two party system which most Americans accept without question. The entrance of a third party onto the political scene in America gives rise to those important questions. Third parties offer a forum for discussion of new and different ideas. They often allow disadvantaged groups to have a choice in the politics of their chosen party. In essence, third parties allow for expressions of discontent.