As the campaign enters its final month, Libertarian Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, and Jill Stein of Massachusetts, the Green Party nominee, are fading in the polls. It appears the electorate is settling down to a familiar binary choice.
Johnson and Stein have been their own worst enemies in some ways. He has stumbled badly on questions about foreign affairs. She's a medical doctor who opposes childhood vaccinations.
They could still play a spoiler role in November if they siphon support in key states that otherwise would have gone to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
Johnson is averaging about 7 percent in the Real Clear Politics aggregate of national polls; his high point in the website's survey was 9 percent, on Sept. 10. Stein is pulling down an average of 2.4 percent of the national popular vote, according to RCP. She crested at 4.8 percent on June 28.
This year, third-party backers are disproportionately young, according to polling, and the Clinton campaign, in particular, has been targeting millennials, arguing that they shouldn't waste a vote and help elect Trump. More than half of Johnson and Stein voters identified as independents, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Oct. 1.
As the election draws closer, some third-party backers are changing their minds. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday, for instance, Clinton had the support of 48 percent of voters aged 18 to 34, the coveted millennials. In the university's mid-September poll, she had 31 percent of their backing.
Johnson had 11 percent support among millennials, down from 29 percent in the earlier survey. Stein was at 9 percent, down from 15 percent.
Quinnipiac also found a big movement of independent voters in Clinton's direction in Friday's poll, following Trump's perceived loss of the first debate Sept. 26 and continuing controversy over his treatment of women.
"It's exactly what Clinton wanted to see happen," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll. "We're getting down to brass tacks, the existential questions. People are thinking hard about the election, and they're making their choices."
This year, Johnson and Stein have caught the attention of voters because of antipathy toward Clinton and Trump, not because of their advocacy of particular issues.
Margaret Bonnem, a stay-at-home mother in Colliersville, Tenn., previously supported Stein but told the AP pollsters she now realizes that "a third-party candidate can't really do anything but pull votes away" from major-party candidates who can actually win.
"I can't vote for Trump, and I don't want him to benefit from me voting for someone else," said Bonnem, 54, who has decided on Clinton. "So I'll end up voting for someone I don't fully trust."
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