It’s hard out there for third-party candidates. They’re excluded from debates, structurally disadvantaged by America’s first-past-the-post electoral system, and squeezed out of media coverage between a well-oiled political machine and, in at least one instance, an actual wall of garbage.
Nevertheless, with a large number of Americans dissatisfied with both major party candidates, the 2016 election cycle presents an opportunity that third-party candidates haven’t seen in a generation.
However, a poll released on Tuesday by Public Policy Polling shows there’s still a lot of work to be done. The Democratic-leaning pollster surveyed 944 like Texas voters between Aug. 12 and Aug. 14 about their presidential preferences and, because the options included some of the internet’s spiciest memes, came up with some interesting results.
In a matchup against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, and Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein attracted about 2 percent of the vote. Another question in the poll asked respondents about a theoretical slate of candidates that, in addition to Trump and Clinton, included Deez Nutz and Harambe, which polled at 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Some explanation is probably required.
Harambe was a 17-year-old Western Lowland gorilla who was fatally shot earlier this year after a 3-year-old boy fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. Harambe’s death initially sparked outrage, while gradually evolved into a sort of ironically overwrought performative mourning for the deceased primate. When rumors briefly circulated that Mexican drug lord El Chapo had escaped from prison yet again, for example, people on Twitter speculated he broke out to avenge Harambe. Boston College quarterback Patrick Towles dedicated his 2016 season to Harambe, and countless online petitions have been launched to turn Harambe into a Pokémon.
Or, to encapsulate it in a single image:
Deez Nutz is a joke candidate created by a 15-year-old high school sophomore named Brady Olson. Mr. Nutz attracted attention after Olson filed an official statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and even went so far as to create an official website with a platform in favor of same-sex marriage and the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.
While the comparison isn’t 1-to-1, because they were never put in a direct head-to-head matchup, Stein was effectively polling behind a literal sophomoric joke and even with a weird meta-commentary satirizing how people express grief of public figures online. 2016 everybody, drink it up.
This isn’t the first time Public Policy Polling has measured public sentiment about either Harambe or Deez Nuts. The firm showed Deez Nutz attracting the support of 8 percent of Minnesota voters last August, and Harambe got 5 percent nationally in another poll last month.
Here’s the thing: Harambe does not have a position on foreign policy because he is currently chilling with Cecil the Lion in the great zoo in the sky. Even when Harambe was alive, his conception of the U.S.’s role in the Middle East lacked nuance. Olsen is a couple decades below the 35 years of age threshold necessary to run for president. So, you don’t really need to know anything about either them to make an informed choice for president.
But you should probably learn a thing or two about Stein. For starters, watch this video of Stein formally accepting the Green Party presidential nomination at the party convention in Houston earlier this month.
The PPP Texas poll also contained some pretty bad news for Trump. The poll had Clinton only trailing Trump by 6 points, which is significant because, in the 2012 election cycle, Republican Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama in the Lone Star State by 16 points. Clinton winning in Texas would be enormous, seeing as how the last Democrat to take the state was Jimmy Carter back in 1976.
However, as PPP’s Tom Jensen explained in an email to the Daily Dot, a lot of conservative Texans seem unwilling to accept a Clinton victory.
“We continue to find that Trump voters overwhelmingly buy into his preemptive claims about the election being rigged,” Jensen said. “Just 19 percent of Trump voters grant that if Clinton wins the election it will be because she got more votes, while 71 percent say that it will just be because the election was rigged. More specifically 40 percent of Trump voters think that ACORN, which hasn’t existed in years, will steal the election for Clinton.”
If Harambe comes out on top, it can be assumed there will be similar questions about underhanded shenanigans.