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The Issue:

A significant percentage of Americans are currently dissatisfied with both political parties in the United States. Statistics show increasing public support for the establishment of a third political party, especially among younger voters.


The Game Design Prompt:

Envision a new political party and design a game that reveals how your party will successfully enter the 2020 presidential race and change the trajectory of the election.

 What would the new party be called? What would your mascot be (Donkeys, Elephants, and more)? What color would represent your party? What is your campaign slogan?  How would you make voters aware of the new party? What strategies would you use to win public support? What would your party do better than the others regarding the environment, schools/standardized testing and raising or lowering the income tax or another issue?


71% of millenials think there needs to be a third party. (NBC)

“In 2013, a year after the APPC survey, more than 40 percent of respondents identified themselves as Independent, more than either Republicans or Democrats.” (Annenberg)

Support for a third major party hit a record high among independents—77 percent—while 52 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of Republicans say a competitive third party is needed. (Newsweek)

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 57% of people believe both parties do such a poor job that a third political party is needed.

A NBC/WSJ poll shows 38% of respondents think the two-party system is seriously broken and the country needs a third party.



Everyone Loves a Party

Political parties, that is! A political party is an organized group of people who share similar political views and work to influence the government in support of those views. Countries all across the world have political parties. Why? Because organizing into parties is a powerful way for groups of people with similar views to work together to influence government. Political parties play different roles in different countries depending on the kind of party system a country has.

No Democracy, No Party

Some countries have no political parties at all. Most of these countries are not democracies, so citizens have limited influence on government. For example, political parties are banned in the Middle East nation of Qatar. The nation is led by a monarch, who gets his position by birth and appoints most government officials.

A few countries that are not democracies have a single-party system with one major political party. China is a communist state with one political party, called the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Technically there are a few other parties, but they are all controlled by the CCP.  In most single-party systems, it is illegal to oppose the main political party. The Chinese government does not allow citizens to form parties that oppose the CCP.


Party On!

Most countries have multi-party systems where three or more political parties share power. In many of these countries, lawmakers are elected by proportional representation—each party gets a number of seats that corresponds to the amount of support the party gets from voters. Almost all European governments work this way. In other countries, such as Japan and Australia, voters elect individual candidates to each seat. However the voting works, multi-party systems always have at least three parties with members elected to government office. There may be one or two parties with more support and influence, but many parties are represented. Often no party has a clear majority, so parties must work together in government.

Either This Party or That One

A few countries with multi-party systems have developed into a two-party system with two major political parties that hold most of the power. Other parties exist, and they sometimes gain enough support to win a few seats in the nation’s legislature, but they never get enough representation to have any national influence. This is the least common system around the world—and it’s the one we have in the United States. Here, the vast majority of Americans identify with either the Democratic or Republican parties. The U.S. has many “third parties” that often put candidates on the ballot. Some are occasionally elected, but none of these parties has gained a foothold in national government.


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The Big Two

In the United States, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are the two main political parties. Are there other parties? Sure. The U.S. technically has a multi-party system. But these two parties have gained so much power that almost every person elected to government office belongs to one of them. Most Americans identify with one of these two parties, but about 40% of Americans identify as politically independent, meaning they don’t want to identify with any party. Most independents end up voting for either a Democrat or a Republican, and many “lean” toward one party or the other. Independents may be more open to supporting candidates from either party, and some independents are elected to office.


Third Parties

Many political parties exist in the United States. Candidates for political office can represent any party, but that doesn’t mean you’ll see everyone’s name on the ballot. Each state has rules about ballot access – allowing a political party to put a candidate on the ballot. Usually the rules involve getting a certain number of signatures from registered voters. These rules keep most third parties from even offering a candidate for voters to choose from. The Democratic and Republican parties have ballot access in all the states. The Libertarian Party is the largest third party, with ballot access for the presidential election in more than 30 states. As of 2015, the Green Party had ballot access in over 20 states, and the Constitution Party had access in over 10 states.

The Party Platform

One thing political parties have in common is that they stand for something. If you want to know what a party believes, its platform is a document that describes the party’s views on all the major issues facing the nation. This set of statements is called a “platform” because it is the set of beliefs the political party stands on. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party keep their platforms broad and simple to attract as many supporters as possible. At first, it can be hard to tell the difference on some issues. Both parties might say they want better education or more jobs, but what does that mean? The party’s platform explains what that party thinks “better” education looks like and how the jobs should be created. You can find a political party’s platform by going to the party’s website.


Political Parties Support Candidates

In the U.S., you’ll be most aware of political parties during an election season. Candidates who are running for political office almost always declare themselves a member of a political party. By doing this, a candidate gains support from the political party and makes it easier for voters to figure out what the candidate believes in and where they stand on the issues. At the same time, political parties fight hard to get candidates from their party elected. Party committees at the local, state, and national level work to support their candidates by raising money, campaigning, educating voters, and urging people to vote on election day.

Political Parties Work Inside Government

Candidates who are elected to office work to pass laws and solve problems. While each government official has his or her own views, the laws and solutions they support usually align with their political party’s platform. In the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures, the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats can determine which laws get passed. The majority party – the one with the most elected members—can most easily influence laws by getting all its members to vote the same way on a bill. This isn’t always easy, because members of one political party don’t necessarily agree on all the issues. But in American politics, it’s common for most lawmakers from one party to vote the same way. Meanwhile, the minority party works to promote the views of its supporters by forcing compromise with the majority party. If the minority party is successful, this can create laws that are balanced between the two parties’ viewpoints.

In the executive branch, the president and state governors almost always belong to a political party. Like lawmakers, their views usually align with their political party’s platform. A president or governor works for the people, not a party, but he or she may be very committed to advancing the party’s goals. He or she does not make laws, but is key in developing public policy – the stand the government takes about how issues should be handled. A president or governor’s policies are usually in line with their political party’s platform. A president or governor who belongs to the same party as the minority in the legislature may also disagree with many laws passed by the majority and may veto those laws.


Political Parties and You

You’ve probably already seen political parties in action. During elections, political parties work to influence voters by distributing information about candidates and issues. Next time you see a campaign ad on television, look closely at the fine print at the bottom and you might see that a political party has funded the ad. But beware: All the information a political party distributes is biased toward its own views. That means information from political parties should not be your only source of information about candidates and issues.

When you register or preregister to vote, the application will probably let you check a box to join a political party. Joining a political party isn’t a requirement, and even if you check a box you can still vote for anyone you want. During a presidential election, in many states party membership lets you participate in that state’s primary election or caucus to help decide who your party’s presidential candidate will be. Some states let you participate even if you don’t belong to a party.

Resources provided by iCivics.


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics in 2009 to transform the field through innovative, free educational video games and lessons that teach students to be knowledgeable, curious, and engaged in civic life. Today, iCivics is the nation’s largest provider of civic education curriculum, with their resources used by over 100,000 educators and more than 6.25 million students each year nationwide. 

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