A large majority of Americans, 58 percent, believe that the country needs a third major party to adequately represent the American people, according to a new Gallup poll. Only 35 percent think the Democratic and Republican Parties do an adequate job representing the electorate.
The desire for a third party is high because currently both parties are unpopular with the American people. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll found that both the Democratic and Republican Parties favorability numbers were negative. Perhaps more importantly, it found that overwhelming majorities disapproved of the job performance of Congressional Republicans and Democrats.
The country does not lack additional viable alternative political parties because people think the two major parties do a good job representing them or because the two major parties are too popular to allow room for an alternative. There is clearly the desire for greater options.
The problem is systemic.
The reason we have only two major parties is because our elections are dominated by single-winner elections–President, Governor, single member Congressional districts, Senate, national, state, local–where a plurality wins (first past the post) in most cases. If we adopted a proportional representation system for legislative elections and/or instant runoff voting, it would enable the development of more viable political parties. Of course, that would require the Democrats and Republicans who control our government to put in place policies what would increase competition and potentially endanger their stranglehold on political power.