Steven Windmueller
Where Jews and Judaism Meet the Political Road!

Third Parties, Jews & Democracy

In preparation for the 2024 campaign, there is an emerging discussion about the possibility of one or more “third parties” entering this race.[1] Beyond whether there will be a high-profile third-party nominee, numerous “candidates” are already lining up to run.[2] In connection with the two major parties, the core question, who benefits and who doesn’t?

More directly, In 2024, how likely will there be a significant portion of Jewish voters embracing one or more of these alternative candidates?  Over the decades, Jews have had an interesting relationship with such parties. The data introduced below provides some evidence of the impact of third-party candidates have had on Jewish voting behavior and more broadly on American society.

Background Data:

Only once did one of the two major parties ever lose to a third party, and that was in 1912 when the Progressive Party ran ahead of the Republicans.  The last third-party candidate to actually win an Electoral College vote was George Wallace, who in 1968 won five Southern states and 46 Electoral College votes as a segregationist with the American Independent Party.[3] On twelve occasions third party candidates registered more than 5% of the total vote in presidential campaigns.

Jews and Third-Party Presidential Candidates:

Year      Third Party Candidate   Jewish Vote  National Overall Vote 

1920      Eugene V. Debs                        38%                    3%

1924      Robert LaFollette                     22%                  17%

1948      Henry Wallace                          15%                    2%

1968      George Wallace                         2%                   13%

1980      John Anderson                         15%                     6%

1992      Ross Perot                                   9%                   19%

1996      Ross Perot                                   3%                     8%

2000      Ralph Nader                                1%                     2%

What is important to understand that each election has its own distinctive voting characteristics, policy debates and political issues. Certainly, how well mainstream candidates are perceived adds another dimension to the success or failure of these “alternative” political choices.

Indeed, Debs and LaFollette represented socialist ideas, particularly appealing to a segment of new American Jewish voters who had previously encountered socialist ideas and parties in Eastern Europe. In none of these elections however did these outliers achieve any significant impact on the voting public. Nonetheless as we will note below, even a small percentage of votes can shift the outcomes in a close national presidential campaign.

In other elections, various third-party candidates did appeal to an element of Jewish voters, whereas in other contests, Jewish representation appeared to be minimal.

Third Parties Over Time:

As we can see from the footnote posting of all elections covering the period of 1900 to 2012, American politics seems to always include an array of “third party” candidates.[4]

Contributions of Third Parties:

 Posted below is a summary of some of “effects” of the presence of such candidates and parties:[5]

  • Third parties may also help voter turnout by bringing more people to the polls.
  • Their platforms and candidates often bring vital issues to the attention of the public and mainstream parties.
  • Third parties can dramatically impact the outcomes of highly contested campaigns, potentially shifting in swing states the outcomes. Third parties generally have more of an impact on one political party by splitting its voters.

 The Most Recent Elections:

While we don’t have data concerning the impact of the Jewish vote in connection with the Green Party or the Libertarian Party for 2016 and 2020; we believe that both parties did capture a larger number of Jewish voters in the earlier campaign (2016) than in the latter.

Let’s just take a look at three “swing” states covering the past two presidential elections where both the Greens and Libertarians were involved. The data does suggest that these parties had some impact on the 2016 outcome, but not so with 2020![6]                 

Pennsylvania 2016 with a Third Party:   

*Donald Trump: 48.2%   Hillary Clinton: 47.5%

Pennsylavania 2020 without a Third Party:

*Joe Biden 49.7%      Donald Trump 48.7%


Michigan 2016 with a Third Party:

*Donald Trump:  47.3%     Hillary Clinton: 47.0%

Michigan 2020 without a Third Party:

Donald Trump:   47.8%        *Joe Biden: 50.6%


Wisconsin 2016 With a Third Party:      

*Donald Trump:  47.2%        Hilary Clinton: 46.5%

Wisconsin 2020 without a Third Party:

Donald Trump:  48.5%          *Joe Biden:          49.5%


There is a growing likelihood that the No Labels Political Party will be fielding a candidate in 2024.[7]

“No Labels was created in 2010 with the goal of building bipartisan coalitions in Congress. This is the first time the organization has considered getting involved in presidential politics, which its leaders say is because both the Democratic and Republican parties have become too extreme. They call the third-party option an “insurance policy” that will only be used if the Democratic and Republican nominees for president are not acceptable to No Labels members”.

 Moving Forward:

 Should America experience a repeat of the 2020 campaign, Biden vs. Trump, what will be the effect of third-party candidates on the 2024 outcome, and who might benefit? In elections where one or both of the mainstream candidates are seen as problematic, third-party candidates fare better. Even as we acknowledge this possibility, as history has shown, the impact of such candidates on the results can be seen, at times, as problematic.

How will Jewish voters perform in next year’s contest, and are we likely to see some movement by disaffected Jewish Republicans and disenchanted Jewish Democrats to “move” their support to a third-party?





  • 2012 Stein (Green), Barr (Peace and Freedom), Anderson (Justice), Lindsey (Socialism and Liberation) 0.43%
  • 2008 Nader (independent), McKinney (Green), Calero (Socialist Workers), LaRiva (Socialism and Liberation), Moore (Socialist) 0.71%
  • 2004 Nader (independent), Cobb (Green), Peltier (Peace and Freedom), Brown (Socialist), Calero (Socialist Workers) 0.52%
  • 2000 Nader (Green), Harris (Socialist Workers), McReynolds (Socialist) 2.75%
  • 1996 Nader (Green), Moorehead (Workers World), Feinland (Peace and Freedom), Harris (Socialist Workers), Peron (Grassroots) 0.79%
  • 1992 Fulani (New Alliance), Daniels (Peace and Freedom), Warren (Socialist Workers) 0.12%
  • 1988 Fulani (New Alliance), McCarthy (Consumer), Winn (Workers League), Warren (Socialist Workers), Lewin (Peace and Freedom), Holmes (Workers World) 0.33%
  • 1984 Johnson (Citizens), Serrette (Alliance), Hall (Communist), Mason (Socialist Workers), Holmes (Workers World), Winn (Workers League) 0.23%
  • 1980 Commoner (Citizens), Hall (Communist), DeBarry (Socialist Workers), Smith (Peace and Freedom), Griswold (Workers World), McReynolds (Socialist), Pulley (Socialist Workers) 0.42%
  • 1976 McCarthy (independent), Camejo (Socialist Workers), Hall (Communist), Wright (People’s), Levin (Socialist Labor), Zeidler (Socialist) 1.17%
  • 1972 Jenness (Socialist Workers), Spock (People’s), Fisher (Socialist Labor), Hall (Communist), Reed (Socialist Workers) 0.33%
  • 1968 Blomen (Socialist Labor), Gregory (Peace and Freedom), Halstead (Socialist Workers), Cleaver (Peace and Freedom), McCarthy (New Party/write-in) 0.28%
  • 1964 Hass (Socialist Labor), DeBarry (Socialist Workers) 0.11%
  • 1960 Hass (Socialist Labor), Dobbs (Socialist Workers) 0.13%
  • 1956 Hass (Socialist Labor), Dobbs (Socialist Workers) 0.08%
  • 1952 Hallinan (Progressive), Hass (Socialist Labor), Hoopes (Socialist), Dobbs (Socialist Workers), Krajewski (Poor Man’s) 0.34%
  • 1948 Wallace (Progressive), Thomas (Socialist), Teichert (Socialist Labor), Dobbs (Socialist Workers) 2.75%
  • 1944 Thomas (Socialist), Teichert (Socialist Labor) 0.17%
  • 1940 Thomas (Socialist), Browder (Communist), Aiken (Socialist Labor) 0.36%
  • 1936 Lemke (Union), Thomas (Socialist), Browder (Communist), Aiken (Socialist Labor) 2.56%
  • 1932 Thomas (Socialist), Foster (Communist), Harvey (Liberty), Reynolds (Socialist Labor), Coxey (Farmer-Labor) 2.73%
  • 1928 Thomas (Socialist), Foster (Communist), Reynolds (Socialist Labor), Webb (Farmer-Labor) 0.94%
  • 1924 LaFollette (Progressive), Foster (Communist), Johns (Socialist Labor), Wallace (Commonwealth Land) 16.85%
  • 1920 Debs (Socialist), Christiansen (Farmer-Labor), Cox (Socialist Labor), Macauley (Single Tax) 4.54%
  • 1916 Benson (Socialist), Reimer (Socialist Labor) 3.27%
  • 1912 Debs (Socialist), Reimer (Socialist Labor) 6.18%
  • 1908 Debs (Socialist), Gillhaus (Socialist Labor) 2.92%
  • Debs (Socialist), Corregan (Socialist Labor) 3.23%
  • 1900 Debs (Socialist), Barker (Populist), Maloney (Socialist Labor), Ellis (United Reform) 1.32%




About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
Related Topics
Related Posts