Did Gary Johnson Matter?

garyjohnsonThe following analysis assumes (as seems likely) that Trump has won Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona and Alaska, while Clinton has won New Hampshire. This gives Trump a total of 316 electoral votes, or 46 more than he needed.

Gary Johnson’s vote share exceeded the Trump/Clinton margin in 10 states, 6 of which (with a total of 38 electoral votes) were won by Cliniton and 4 of which (with a total of 75 electoral votes) were won by Trump.

Therefore, without Johnson in the race (and assuming that his absence wouldn’t have switched any Clinton voters to Trump voters or vice versa), Trump might have won as few as 316-75=241 electoral votes (making Clinton the president-elect) or as many as 316+38=342.

From there, you can draw your own conclusions.

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18 Responses to “Did Gary Johnson Matter?”


  1. 1 1 Harold

    Don’t know what you saw in the States, but over here all we saw of Johnson on the TV was him not knowing what Aleppo was and a few other short clips that probably did not show his strongest points.

    If he had not stood, who would have got the votes he did get? Is there a consensus, or does nobody have a clue?

  2. 2 2 iceman

    I presume most people who voted for him would not have voted for the other two

  3. 3 3 Ken B

    iceman 2 is correct. I would not have voted for either no matter who else was or was not on the ballot. I’m not a GJ voter but I think most of us who rejected the main party candidates did so because we rejected both the main party candidates.

  4. 4 4 Ken B

    Am I the only one who read this post and thought “Stage 3: Anger & Bargaining”?

  5. 5 5 Will A

    There are many house races involving libertarians. They almost always take votes from Republicans and are the reason why a Democrat might win a seat.

    It usually isn’t the other way around. If Johnson wasn’t there most likely his voters would have split between Trump and as iceman and Ken B suggested no one.

  6. 6 6 nobody.really

    For what it’s worth, Clinton won MN.

    But if Trump had won all Johnson’s votes, Trump would have won MN.

  7. 7 7 Ken B

    Harold
    I saw a few longer clips of GJ responding to simple questions by getting belligerent and angry. Snotty too. And flippantly dismissive of the notion that foreign affairs might matter. It wasn’t just the major parties offering up dreadful candidates this time.

  8. 8 8 Harold

    Ken B #4. You are probably right. Brexit felt like a bereavement over here, and this seems worse in some respects. This is what happens if you look at the economy as a group of individual actors and forget about the social aspects.

  9. 9 9 iceman

    Will A – I agree when libertarians do take votes it tends to be from the candidate that is viewed as a “less pure” option for smaller govt. I think this time Trump did not represent much smaller govt (as SL has explained in detail), and / or his personal baggage was too much for some to stomach in any event.

  10. 10 10 Jonathan Kariv

    This strikes me as the wrong metric. Of course that depends on the question you’re trying to answer. If it’s “Would the election outcome have been different sans a libertarian candidate?”, then comparing GJ’s share to the margin assumes GJ voters are all going to vote (as oppossed to stay home) and vote the same way (I guess to Hillary in this case). If you’re trying to answer “Did Johnson effect the libertarian parties future/current prospects and how?” then we’re in the realm of asking “what would have happened with someone else ( Weld?) at the helm”.

  11. 11 11 Ken B

    @Jonathan Kariv 10
    Oh it’s far worse than that. The real question is, did Hillary prevent Gary Johnson from being elected? How dare she run, and steal his votes?

  12. 12 12 Dave

    To people who vote based on issues (hah!) Gary Johnson is more likely to have stolen votes from Trump than from Clinton. His view about “reforming” (or “ending”, depending on who you ask) Social Security, Medicare, the IRS, and the Department of Education are more in line with traditional Republican philosophy.

    As far as I can tell, almost no one votes based on party platform, but the argument could be made that Johnson’s platform was more about “free enterprise” than about “freedom”.

  13. 13 13 Jonathan Kariv

    @KenB 11. Beautifully put but does more to answer “Did Hillary matter?” than “Did Johnson matter?”

  14. 14 14 Ken B

    @Jonathan 13
    It’s called “rejecting the implicit premise” ;)

  15. 15 15 Ken B

    Evidently smileys don’t work here. (Must be a economics blog.)

  16. 16 16 Ken B

    Gary Johnson might have mattered, but not in the way you mean. In my opinion his self-control is worse than Trump’s. He was manifestly less serious than Trump, especially on foreign affairs. He was more condescending and smug than Hillary Clinton. He blew the best chance for major gains, for becoming part of the conversation rather than remaining a fringe, that libertarians have ever had. Faced with the worst Republican nominee in over a century, and the most corrupt nominee of any party since Chester Arthur, the Libertarian Party came up with a *worse* candidate than either major party. He mattered.

  17. 17 17 iceman

    It really was a missed opportunity to get the 15% to get a libertarian on the debate stage. Millions of people could have heard issues framed in a way they had never considered before — by reconsidering their first premises

  18. 18 18 Ken B

    17
    Exactly Iceman. The chance to be part of the conversation.

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