Amidst the bulk of supporters for major presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a few students at the University of Miami are voting for third-party candidates. While each student has specific reasons for supporting these candidates, the general consensus is the same: the current major candidates gunning for the White House are unacceptable.
Two of the more popular third-party candidates are Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, the governor of New Mexico, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, a member of the Lexington, Massachusetts, Town Meeting from the second district.
Though typically buried under the media storm that focuses on the major Democratic and Republican candidates, Johnson’s policies of minimizing the government’s role in personal decisions – such as abortion and marriage equality – have been popular among student voters. Stein’s hands-on approach to social issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Dakota Pipeline protests have similarly won some voters.
Johnson’s lack of knowledge on the Syrian city of Aleppo made some voters questions his qualifications to deal with foreign policy. Jill Stein’s claims of Wi-Fi being harmful to children, along with her indecisiveness in taking a side and a video that surfaced of her in a rock band affected her chances.
Both Johnson and Stein have been doing poorly in national polls, with Johnson lingering from 5 to 10 percent, though still significantly higher than Stein’s predicted support – two percent.
A poll conducted by The Miami Hurricane showed that of 106 students surveyed, five supported Johnson, which is around 5 percent, falling in line with national polls.
One Johnson supporter, sophomore Ryan Yde, said he will stand by the candidate despite his low chances of reaching the presidency.
“I care about the principle and voting for the candidate for the right reasons, I want to vote for somebody because I love their platform,” Yde said. “I would love to see him win, but statistically it’s hard. It’s about principle at the end of the day.”
Though Yde said Johnson isn’t his ideal candidate, he fits the “parameters” to serve as president, better than Trump and Clinton do.
“You always have to settle, you won’t find your ideal candidate no matter what. I don’t care about political affiliation, I vote on political ideology,” Yde said. “I don’t know how you can look at the mirror after your candidate wins. Trump and Clinton are both awful … I will not participate in this atrocious election in supporting either Democrat or Republican.”
Austin Skiera, a senior from Illinois who cast an absentee ballot voting for Johnson, said he feels he is the most qualified candidate for president and isn’t trying to “stick it to” any other candidate.
“People say a vote for Johnson is a vote for Clinton or Trump,” he said. “I support Gary Johnson, I believe he is the best option.”
Skiera preferred Johnson’s commitment to free trade and how he wants to minimize the role the government plays in people’s lives.
Skiera supported different Republican candidates during the primaries, apart from Trump, who he dislikes.
“Anyone would be more qualified than him,” he said. “Trump has a long laundry list of things … a crass man, a great entertainer but a terrible leader.”
An alumnus who wanted to remain anonymous is one of the few vocal Jill Stein supporters, but he did not want to be identified in case future employers would factor his political affiliations against him.
Though he admitted Stein lacks the political experience of some other candidates, he praises her as a politician “for the people.”
“She has been consistent and on the forefront of progressivism for decades,” he said. “She is a candidate who marches with the people.”
The supporter said he believes third parties help challenge “mainstream parties” of the major candidates, who he said have based their campaign strategies on each other’s shortcomings instead of their respective strengths.
“The notion that we have to vote Democrat … is fear mongering defined. There are good Democrats and good Republicans as well as bad ones. Vote for whoever helps you,” he said.
Josh Zuchniarz, a senior, said he will not vote for Clinton or Trump because voting for either would place a psychological burden on him – he does not fully support either of the major party candidates.
“I cannot be personally complicit in a Trump or Clinton presidency,” Zuchniarz said. “It is immoral to vote for either of them. When faced with that choice, I choose neither and if it means my candidate has no chance, at least my soul is clean from voting for the others.”
He initially supported Jeb Bush in the primaries, but once it was clear Trump would be the Republican candidate, Zuchniarz switched to Johnson, whose non-intervention foreign policy and hands-off approach aligned with what he looked for.
“He worked in government and in state and knows how to get things done,” Zuchniarz said. “More than anything else, the other two candidates are unacceptable.”
Karen Sancen said her loyalties lie with the Republican party, bordering on Libertarian due to their economic policies and hand-off approach when it comes to social values.
“Libertarian believes the less government is involved in social issues the better it is,” Sancen said. “They can’t tell you how to live your life, that’s where I agree.”
Johnson as a candidate though, isn’t the most ideal choice for Sancen, calling him a “weird” man. However, he has more appeal than the other candidates.
“Gary Johnson is a really ridiculous man, he says things and very strange things. Not very presidential, but then again, neither is Donald trump,” she said. “I kind of don’t care if Donald or Hillary wins. I will be upset but at the end of the day, I think it’s more important who wins the Senate seats and House of Representatives, which will affect the presidency of Clinton or Trump.”
Sancen is more interested in the Libertarian party, where if they get 5 percent of national votes, it would legitimize the party and allow federal funding in the next election.
Similarly, the anonymous Stein supporter hopes Stein would hit 5 percent of all votes that would not only help the future of The Green Party but also improve democracy.
“I believe that Jill – not Johnson – is much better than either candidate running,” the anonymous Stein supporter said. “A third party getting enough votes will be the best thing for democracy, in terms of legitimizing other options and in terms of causing political ideologies to shift and expand. Having more choices helps end the duopoly of democracy that really exists as a stranglehold on democracy.”
The majority of students on campus have either been Clinton or Trump supporters, yet third-party supporters have not received as much backlash as some thought they would.
“Most people are uncomfortable with both candidates so they share my feelings,” Yde said. “Some of them choose to plug their nose and vote for the lesser of two evils. I haven’t gotten much hate from either party. They respect my opinion.”
In Skiera’s eyes, Trump supporters get persecuted more by other students than third-party supporters and, no matter the outcome, his vote is what matters to him.
“No one vilifies us for supporting third parties whereas if you are a Trump supporter, you face real persecution because he is a vilified individual,” Skiera said. “I am just exercising the vote that is given to me by voting for the person I feel that is most qualified for the office of presidency in terms of experience.”
Sancen has many Trump and Clinton supporters trying to convince her to vote for their candidate, but, despite numerous attempts to try and like Trump due to her loyalty to the Republican party, she couldn’t find herself “getting on the Trump train.”
“If Hillary wins, I can live. If Donald wins, I may be worried,” Sancen said. “I guess me voting for Gary Johnson is some sort of subconscious effort to vote for Hillary without actually voting for Hillary.”