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Many students are dissatisfied with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and are thus turning to third-party candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

Credit: Guyrandy Jean-GIlles , Guyrandy Jean-GIlles

Traditional United States presidential election theory holds that the real race is only between the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties. But this time around, two third-party candidates have slid into the spotlight and some Penn students are opting for those alternate choices.

College junior Hunter Pearl, who plans to vote for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson in November, said the former New Mexico governor is the candidate that best represents what the American people want.

“I support Gary Johnson because it is obvious that the primary two candidates do not offer real choices or bring in the kinds of ideas that the majority of Americans actually want,” Pearl said.

He also said that he likes that Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld have the most governing experience, and that they have good records of balancing the budget and bringing bipartisanship to their respective states.

“Johnson and vice presidential candidate William Weld are the most experienced in governing of all of the candidates,” Pearl said. “They are the only ones that can break out of the Washington gridlock.”

Pearl considers himself a Libertarian, but he believes that Johnson can appeal to a wide range of people.

“Gary Johnson, even if you don’t agree with him one hundred percent, is the most intelligent and rational choice,” he said. “Anybody who would slightly consider themselves fiscally responsible and socially moderate...or tolerant should take a serious look at Gary Johnson.”

College sophomore John Matthews is planning to vote for another third party option, Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein.

“I think that [Stein] provides on the one side, a left alternative to the Democratic Party and I think at the same time her policies are bringing the United States in the right direction rather than the less wrong direction,” he said. “I do think Hillary Clinton is a less dangerous candidate than Donald Trump, but I think that … her politics are bringing the United States in the wrong direction.”

Matthews believes that he can now comfortably vote for Stein with Hillary Clinton leading in most national polls over Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“There is very little chance of Donald Trump winning which means it’s safer to vote for a third-party candidate,” he said. “At the same time, I think that it’s valid to vote for a third-party candidate in the first place because I think that candidates like Hillary Clinton have determined...who their policies will appeal to, and their policies don’t appeal to me so I shouldn’t actually be voting for them.”

Political science professor Dan Hopkins offered some insight into why third-party candidates are so appealing in this election, but said he believes there will be a decline in the number of people planning to vote third party as the election approaches. He cited the historically sky-high unpopularity of the primary candidates as the main reason for the appeal of candidates like Johnson and Stein, along with the fact that more and more voters seem to be less strongly tied to the Republican and Democratic parties.

“They are happy to flirt with a Gary Johnson candidacy or a Jill Stein candidacy,” he said.

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