Following the Bush-Gore 2000 contest, there was a lot of commentary on the alleged spoiler role of Ralph Nader and his Green Party in Florida, won by George W. Bush with 537 votes. In fact, the certified vote tally shows that ALL of the eight third-parties obtained more than 537 votes. Data from the 2016 race are also suggestive.
Here follows a table with data for the presidential candidates of the major parties and minor parties that appeared on the ballot in the 2000 general election. Following the table are data from the 2016 presidential election.
Presidential candidate Vote total % Party
and running mate
George Walker Bush–
Richard Bruce Cheney 2,912,790 48.847% Republican
Albert Arnold Gore Jr.–
Joseph Isadore Lieberman 2,912,253 48.838% Democratic
Winona LaDuke 97,488 1.635% Green
Patrick J. Buchanan–
Ezola B. Foster 17,484 0.293% Reform
Art Olivier 16,415 0.275% Libertarian
Nat Goldhaber 2,281 0.038% Natural Law
Gloria La Riva 1,804 0.030% Workers World
Curtis Frazier 1,371 0.023% Constitution
Mary Cal Hollis 622 0.010% Socialist
Margaret Trowe 562 0.009% Socialist Workers
Write-ins 36 0.000%
This prompts the question: In what states in the 2016 election was the margin by Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, or Clinton over Trump, eclipsed by the votes for third parties?
The answer is 13 of the 50 states.
Here are the figures from Cook Political.
Trump over Clinton/All Third Parties
North Carolina: 49.8/46.2/4.0
Clinton over Trump/All Third Parties
New Hampshire: 46.8/46.5/6.7
Also note: Oregon: 50.1/39.1/10.8
Of course, these figures do not tell us how voters for third parties would have voted if they had not voted for the third party they did.
Would their second choice have been Trump or Hillary?
Spero News columnist James M. Thunder is an attorney who practices in the Washington DC area.