Overall, 52 percent of Americans would like to add a third major political party, while only 40 percent feel Democrats and Republicans do an adequate job representing the American people, according to the latest Gallup poll. The interesting finding of this poll is that it found across the political spectrum, liberals, moderates and conservatives, all equally felt the need for more than the two parties.
Clearly, the reason we have only two viable political parties while Denmark has half-a-dozen isn’t because Americans don’t think they need more options. Support for more political parties had been very strong for years (PDF).
This issue is that our electoral system, unlike the Danes’, is designed to prevent there from being more than two major parties. Having important elections where there is only one winner, President and Governors, and using first-past-the-post voting creates a dynamic that tends to deny us more political choices. Any left- or right-leaning third parties would tend to split the vote on one side of the ideological spectrum. throwing the election to the sole party on the other side, like what we saw with the Conservatives winning the recent Canadian federal election. This creates an instability likely to collapse back into just two parties.
It doesn’t need to be this way, though. We could adopt other voting systems, like proportional representation and, to a lesser degree, instant runoff voting, which allow there to be more than just two political parties, and where you can freely vote your convictions without giving power to the party you least agree with.
Of course, to change our federal election system to allow for more viable parties would require action to be taken by the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. And given how much Americans would love to vote for another party, what is best for Democrats and Republicans is to keep the system as it is, where all they need to do to win is be just slightly less terrible than the other party.