7 most successful third-party US presidential bids since 1945

The Democratic and Republican parties dominate American politics, but what have been the most successful third-party bids since WW2?

Here are the top seven performing third-party bids since 1945 ordered by vote share.

7th - Henry A. Wallace

Wallace stood as the Progressive presidential candidate and won 2.37% of the vote at the 1948 election. Standing on a left-wing platform, Wallace won no electoral college votes, coming in fourth place behind the Dixiecrats.

Wallace was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second vice president, but was removed from the ticket ahead of the 1944 election, a decision which led to Truman’s presidency as a result of Roosevelt’s death.

Incumbent Democratic president Harry Truman won the election.

6th – Storm Thurmond

At the same election, Thurmond and his running-mate Fielding L. Wright won 2.41% of the vote for the States’ Rights Democratic Party. The party was given the nickname of the Dixiecrats as they were made up of southern Democrats disgruntled with the Democratic party over the issue of racial segregation and states’ rights. At the 1948 election, Thurmond won 39 electoral college votes, winning Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Louisiana, as well as an electoral college vote from Tennessee.

5. Ralph Nader

At the 2000 US presidential election, Republican George Bush defeated Democratic Vice President Al Gore to become America’s 43rd president. The Greens' Ralph Nader won almost three million votes, giving him a share of 2.74% of the total vote. Just five electoral college votes – and slightly over half a million votes – separated Gore and Bush, making it one of America’s closest elections. While it is impossible to say for sure, it is possible that Nader’s popularity cost Gore the election, especially in the crucial state of Florida.

4. Gary Johnson

While the 2016 election headlines were dominated by Clinton’s defeat and Trump’s shock victory, the most recent big vote had another story. The Libertarians received their best ever share of the vote at a presidential election, with 3.28% of the popular vote going to Gary Johnson and his running-mate William Weld.

The party improved on its 0.99% share of the popular vote in 2012, suggesting that general displeasure at the unpopular, establishment Hillary Clinton and the unpopular, controversial Donald Trump helped the party at the most recent election.

3. John B. Anderson

In 1980, Republican nominee Ronald Reagan challenged Democratic President Jimmy Carter for the country’s top job. Reagan succeeded in his attempt and made Carter a one-term president. Reagan won 50.7% of the vote and 44 states while Carter won just six states and D.C.

In third place, was John B. Anderson, an independent who won 6.6% of the popular vote share, but no electoral college votes. Anderson had initially run in the Republican primaries, but left the race to pursue an independent presidential bid due to disagreements with Republican policy.

2. Ross Perot

In 1996, Perot ran under the Reform party banner, winning 8.4% of the vote, but the most successful third-party US presidential bid took place four years early.

1. Ross Perot

Businessman Perot entered the 1992 election as an independent candidate. He surged in the polls, running on a solid platform of quickly eliminating the deficit and strongly opposing NAFTA.

He quit the race in July, but returned ahead of the election, still managing to win 18.9% of the popular vote; almost one in five voting Americans cast their ballots in his favour.

Had he stayed in the race could he have had an even more successful election?

The election performance figures included are based of those on the Wikipedia page containing the list of the best third-party performances in US presidential elections.