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Has it ever occurred in US history or in other countries, where:

  1. Person A and Person B both are Presidential candidates.
  2. Say, 60% of people are pro Person A, and 40% are pro Person B
  3. Now, a third person, Person C, also becomes a candidate
  4. Now, the 60% of people vote to Person A, and C, so
  5. Now Person A gets 30% votes, Person C gets 30% votes, and Person B has 40% votes and becomes the President?

(was there any measure added to prevent that from happening? For example, if there are 3 candidates, then each citizen can cast 2 votes, and voting for 1 person count as two votes?)

A and B in (1) can represent different things, like for evil or for virtue, no matter A is for virtue or B is for virtue, then the people who are for virtue (or evil) can result in a final opposite result because of the third person.

It may not be "virtue" vs "evil". It could be just taking the direction of the country towards X vs Y.

Having the exact opposite result of what the majority of people want, appears non-democratic and illogical1. It is known as the sea clam and the crane bird fight, and the fisherman takes them both. (the crane wants to take the meat inside the clam, but the clam shuts close, and clamp the crane's mouth beak. So the crane cannot fly away, because of the clam, and the clam cannot go away, because of the crane. Now the fisherman just come and easily take them both for his dinner or somebody else's dinner).

This seems to be happening in Taiwan in the 2024 January election.


  1. illogical meaning the majority of people in fact want virtue (or evil), but because of a third person, the opposite result came out
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  • How is allowing multiple candidates "non-democratic and illogical"? Politics is very rarely about logic in any circumstance.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Jan 13 at 8:54
  • illogical meaning the majority of people in fact want virtue (or evil), but because of a third person, the opposite result came out Commented Jan 13 at 9:04
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    P. Geerkens is correct; this is a fairly standard issue in psephology. (yes, this comment exists entirely to allow me to use the word psephology; I would never otherwise have the chance.) Psephology's mantra seems to be "No election method is fair". Society selects the election method that gives the kind of bias they will tolerate. (it most be wonderful to study a subject where all answers are wrong)
    – MCW
    Commented Jan 13 at 14:45
  • 2
    The term you are looking for is "spoiler effect."
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 13 at 14:57
  • This regularly happens in Britain's parliamentary elections. Labour and Conservative are the two main parties of left and right, but there is a smaller centre, Liberal Democrat party. In most 600+ constituencies there is a three-way fight (in some more parties enter the frame - eg the Scottish National Party and Brexit party.) So it consistently happens that a member is elected with less than 50% of the vote. This has led to constant pressure to change to a "proportional voting system" such as the "single transferable vote" and which exists in much of Europe.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 13 at 17:22

1 Answer 1

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Yes, and with some frequency.

It's widely accepted that the 1912, 1992, and 2000 Presidential elections saw this occurrence:

  1. In 1912, Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party split the Republican vote, allowing election of Woodrow Wilson.
  2. In 1992, Ross Perot's entry again split the Republican vote, allowing election of Bill CLinton.
  3. In 2000, Ralph Nader's entry split the Democrat vote, allowing election of George W. Bush.
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  • Due to the vagarities of the Electoral College, its not easy to demonstrate who would have won what states without a 3rd party participant (and who would have voted for someone else vs. just not voting at all). I think a good case can probably be made for #3 (which wasn't done here), but the rest are just some people's opinion, not known facts.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 13 at 16:26
  • @T.E.D.: That's why I didn't include Wallace's run in 1968. He collected votes from both parties, with a populist & states' rights platform very different from both main parties. However the clearest of the above is most definitely #1, Roosevelt's Bull Moose party in 1912. That run fractured the Republican Party in a manner that it never fully recovered from. Further, I chose the wording "It's widely accepted that ..." carefully. I stand by that. No-one can prove any of these, as you note, but they all remain "widely (as opposed to universally) accepted that". Commented Jan 13 at 20:24
  • @T.E.D.: I'm going to follow that up a bit: Absolutely, I lose a criminal trial on both #2 and #3, as there is reasonable doubt, and possibly even #1. I definitely win a civil trial, as the balance of probabilities on all three I believe to be comfortably above 50%. So the most likely scenario is that two of the three above are correctly analyzed - but neither of us knows for sure which two. Commented Jan 13 at 20:27

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