ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — In an election year when polls show voters don’t approve of either President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump, third party and independent options are attracting notice from some.

“I do think that these conditions with two candidates who are not well-liked running — that you do have a greater opportunity for there to be a higher third-party vote share this time around,” said Geoffrey Skelley, a senior elections analyst at 538.

Third parties have played a significant role in some past races, including in 2016, when then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lost key swing states by fewer votes than third-party candidates netted, and in 1992, with independent Ross Perot.

This year, some candidates, like Cornel West, are running to Biden’s left, arguing he isn’t as progressive as the base Democratic voter.

Democrat-turned-independent Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., on the other hand, is running on an anti-establishment platform that’s more difficult to peg on the ideological spectrum — one that includes a vociferous push to tackle climate change while also promoting conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and skepticism of vaccines that could resonate with hard-liners on the far right and far left.

“I feel that the Democratic Party’s really moved away from representing any values that I have,” said Oliver Shampine, who referenced Biden’s handling of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza and noted that West speaks more about the need for peace and treatment of Palestinians.

“Both candidates have had their chance, they’ve had their four years in the White House, and I haven’t seen a difference that I would like to see,” added Maddie Garvia. “I’m very, I’m very sure that Kennedy will provide great results for every American.”

Looming over the election is also No Labels, an outside group that is considering running a “unity ticket” of a Republican and a Democrat, though it’s still unclear precisely who they’d want to team up for a presidential run. They’ve set a deadline of Friday to make their decision.

The group is banking on wide enough frustration with a likely Biden-Trump rematch to open a lane for it to launch its own ticket — with early polling and interviews suggesting that frustration could come to a boil among parts of the electorate.

“I want to see us have somebody that is willing to work with the other side, gain respect, show respect, collaborate, solve, bring us together — not be throwing mud pies at each other,” said Louise Short. “Biden and Trump are throwing salvos they’re not saying what they stand for.”

In the end, it’s extremely unlikely that any third-party candidate will win the presidential election this year, given how many voters typically choose Democrats or Republicans and logistical challenges like name recognition and ballot access, experts say.

But if a candidate ends up pulling enough votes in key states from either Biden or Trump, they could serve as a decider for the entire country.

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