Family, Home, and Social Sciences
First Faculty Advisor
David B. Magleby
First Faculty Reader
A key reason Duverger’s Law is valid is a voter’s belief that a third-party does not have a chance at winning an election in a “first past the post” electoral system. Duverger’s Law has traditionally been explained through two reasons—a mechanical factor and a psychological factor. The mechanical factor focuses on aspects of electoral systems that work against third parties, while the psychological factor focuses on what voters think and feel about third parties. In the 2016 presidential election in the United States, voters in the state of Utah demonstrated that their perception of the electability of a third-party candidate has a substantial effect on the third-party vote share. The Utah Colleges Exit Poll surveyed Utah voters during the 2016 election, asking if they would vote for a candidate other than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump if the voter thought a third-party candidate could win Utah. My research indicates that if people had believed that a third-party candidate could win the state of Utah and voted for their preferred candidate, Evan McMullin potentially could have won the state of Utah and gained 6 votes in the Electoral College. If that had happened, Trump still would have had the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the presidency, but McMullin would have been the first third-party candidate to win votes in the Electoral College since George Wallace in 1968. This finding demonstrates the importance of the psychological factor in Duverger’s Law. Duverger’s Law was powerful, even with two very disliked candidates from the two major parties.
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Geilman, John, "The Effect of Belief of Victory on Third-Party Vote Share: Duverger's Law & Why Evan McMullin Lost Utah in 2016" (2018). Undergraduate Honors Theses. 21.