Up or down?

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Clinton's Edge Grows If Third Parties Fade

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Hillary Clinton, who enjoys a significant lead in the presidential race, is positioned to receive an additional edge if the relatively robust showings of the third-party candidates fade, as usually occurs, by Election Day.

Clinton has a six-point head-to-head advantage over Donald Trump in the latest Bloomberg Politics poll. That margin is narrowed to four points when Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party aspirant Jill Stein are thrown into the mix.

Combined, these two candidates are getting 13 percent of the vote. In most recent elections, third- or fourth-party candidates do much better months before November than they do as the election nears and voters focus on choosing a potential winner. When forced to chose between Clinton and Trump in the Bloomberg poll, these Johnson and Stein voters prefer the Democratic nominee, 44 percent to 28 percent. 

If patterns hold, this might give the Democratic candidate an additional point advantage in the Nov. 8 election and conceivably tilt a couple closely contested states.

In the poll, these are relatively small numbers, and this is a rather volatile slice of the electorate. If there is a drop-off in support for Johnson and Stein, it doesn't mean these voters will opt for Clinton or Trump. They might not cast their ballots for either. 

Still, the internal dynamics are more favorable for the former secretary of state, since this 13 percent far prefers her to Trump.

These voters give the Democratic Party a better than 2 to 1 unfavorable score,  but are down on the Republicans by close to 4 to 1.  

Choosing between Clinton and Trump on various issues, they pretty well reflect the overall electorate saying she would get more done and is better prepared to be commander-in-chief and conduct foreign policy, while he would do more to create jobs and rein in Wall Street. 

President Barack Obama, somewhat surprisingly, does pretty well with these minor-party supporters with a 55 percent to 44 percent approval.

Not surprisingly, they are very negative about the major-party nominees -- which is why these voters are, as of now, backing other candidates. Clinton's approval rating is only 16 percent. 

That looked terrible until Bloomberg Politics pollster Ann Selzer asked them about Trump. Only 10 percent had a favorable view of him. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net