As the country begins to dissect the implications of Donald Trump's stunning victory in the 2016 election, the impact of third-party candidates is starting to come into focus.
The 2016 election has turned out to be historic in many respects. One way is just how unlikable both the Democratic nominee and the Republican nominee were. Hillary Clinton is viewed more unfavorably (55 percent) than favorably (44 percent), while president-elect Trump has an even larger divide with only 36 percent of voters having a positive opinion of Trump, while 63 percent feel the opposite.
Unlikability numbers like this can certainly increase the role that third-party candidates can play. And it seems it did just that.
Clinton lost some key battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania by fewer votes than third-party candidates got. In Florida, the former secretary of state lost by just shy of 120,000 votes, handing Trump 29 electoral votes. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson alone received about 206,000 votes.
Michigan was a similar story. Trump's margin of victory was under 12,000 votes and little-known Darrell Castle, the Constitution Party candidate, got just shy of 17,000 votes in the state. The Libertarian and Green Party candidates got over 223,000 votes.
Stein alone received nearly 31,000 votes in Wisconsin, a state Clinton lost by just over 27,000 votes.
Some may be quick to say Johnson and Stein took votes away from either Trump or Clinton, but it's simply too hard to tell whether third-party voters would vote Trump or Clinton if those were the only options -- or if they would have voted at all.
In the battleground states of Ohio and North Carolina, Clinton wouldn't have been able to pull off a victory even if every person who voted for a third-party candidate had cast their vote for her instead.
In Ohio, she would still be over 218,000 votes short. In North Carolina, she'd be down just shy of 50,000 votes.
Both Johnson and Stein received a greater percentage of the popular vote than they did in 2012.