Is 2016 the year for a minor party breakthrough?

From the moment 17 Republican candidates headed by a reality TV star kickstarted the process, the 2016 election cycle has been unique and unpredictable. With fewer than 80 days remaining, markets point to a one-sided contest yet both adjectives still apply.

Betfair punters will be used to the straight-up, binary choice available in the three US elections since our inception in 2001. This time around, as many as five candidates are garnering news coverage.

Whereas the Republican and Democrat nominees accounted for over 98% of the vote in 2004, 2008 and 2012, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are averaging only 88% combined in polls. When Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are added to the question, that shrinks to 79%.

In short, a fifth of the US electorate remains unattached to either Trump or Clinton, despite a lifetime in the media spotlight. The latest NBC poll showed Johnson and Stein on 16% combined, despite Americans knowing relatively nothing about them.

Considering both ran in 2012 and won less than 1%, this is a significant breakthrough, with the potential to grow. Were either to reach an average of 15%, they would get into the TV debates. Against two historically unpopular candidates, with the electorate more volatile than ever, that could have a gamechanging effect.

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