Does the two-party system lead to voter apathy?

After taking an unintentional hiatus (the week just vanished into this air), here’s an idea that’s been poking around in my head for awhile.  I have a theory that our present two-party system naturally leads to low voter turnout.  Personally I find it sad when a good turnout is still less than two-thirds of registered voters.  Apparently there are a number of theories bouncing around about this, but I have my own (technically it is a hypothesis since it has not been rigorously proven).  Anyhoo, here it is.

Let’s take the Presidential election as our example.  It might be best explained with some numbers.  Imagine that it is 18 months prior to the election.  A poll of registered voters is conducted to see who is their favorite candidate, regardless of party.  The results are:

Candidate A – 15%

Candidate B – 12%

Candidate C – 11%

Candidate D – 18%

Candidate E – 16%

Candidate F – 8%

Candidate G – 7%

Candidate H – 9%

None of the above – 4%

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that these people are fanatical enough about their candidate that they’ll put a bumper sticker on their car or something like that

We can safely assume that a few of the polled voters are independents considering they make up a fairly large portion of registered voters.  But these voters have very limited participation in the primaries since most states have closed primaries.  Thus, while from the numbers above you might expect the top candidates in each party (according to that list) make it to the end, those numbers mask these independent voters and it is possible a candidate with less overall support but more party support will rise to the top (gee, have we seen this before??).  Once the primaries are over, you’re down to two candidates, not necessarily the top two in our poll.  Even if we did use the top two from our poll, they’re only the combined favorites of 33% of our original voters.  Now, many people will still vote for a less desirable candidate (lesser of two evils seems to be standard), but it’s not unreasonable to assume that you’ll lose people as the process whittles the number of candidates down.  People become disenchanted or simply can’t muster up the enthusiasm for anyone but their original favorite candidate.

I have no idea if I’m explaining this well, but it seems to me that a viable third party would at least get the numbers of active voters up a tad since it would provide an added element, e.g. take the top three candidates from above and you’ve immediately included more voters.  Does this make any sense to anyone else?  I’m having a hard time explaining it since it’s getting late, but it seems to make sense in my head.


One Response to “Does the two-party system lead to voter apathy?”

  1. […] the greatest disadvantage in my mind is the dominance of the two-party system (I have a theory it leads to voter apathy).  But too many parties can simply lead to chaos.  George Washington felt the entire concept of […]

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