Out: checks and balances; In: meh, it doesn’t matter
According to a recent Gallup poll, D. C. gridlock and “do nothing Congress” accusations seem to have taken its toll on Americans’ preference for divided government. Just 20% of Americans now prefer the presidency and Congress to be controlled by different parties…the lowest it’s been in 15 years.
One in five Americans believe it is best for the president to be from one political party and for Congress to be controlled by another, the lowest level of public support for divided government in Gallup’s 15-year trend. The remainder are evenly divided between those who favor one party controlling both the presidency and Congress (36%) and those saying it makes no difference how political power is allocated (36%).
Americans’ current preference for one party controlling both the presidency and Congress is near the record high of 38% from four years ago. That fits with a pattern of heightened support for single-party control seen in the past two presidential election years. In 2004, the preferences were more evenly divided. These results are based on Gallup’s annual Governance poll, conducted Sept. 7-11.
Gallup includes results regarding the partisan preference on divided government, finding Independents most likely to say it doesn’t make any difference.
Party groups’ preference for single-party control of the presidency and Congress during the past few presidential election years depends on the party in control of the presidency. In 2004, when Republican George W. Bush was in the White House, 44% of GOP voters said they wanted the same party to control Congress and the presidency, compared with 26% of Democrats who expressed a similar sentiment. Eight years later, when Democrat Barack Obama was seeking re-election, party views were flipped — 49% of Democrats said they wanted the same party to control Congress and the presidency, versus 36% of Republicans. This year, however, there is little difference in these views among the two groups.
The percentage of Democrats who want the same party to control government is now 40%, down from 49% in 2012. However, Democrats’ preference for divided government is essentially unchanged; it is now 14%, versus 13% in 2012. In the four most recent presidential election years, the percentage of Democrats who have said the division of power in Washington “makes no difference” has stayed relatively consistent, between 32% and 39%.
Independents tend to be indifferent on retaining divided government, at 38% “makes no difference.” Unlike views of Democrats or Republicans, independents’ views on this issue have not fluctuated much in the four most recent presidential election years. Independents notably are much less likely than both major parties in 2016 to say they want the same party to control the political branches of government.
In recent past election years, those who supported the party of the president in office tended to want the same party to control both political branches of the U.S. government. For example, in 2004, more Republicans than Democrats wanted same-party rule, and the opposite occurred when a Democrat was in the White House in 2012.
This year, relatively few Democrats or Republicans wish for divided government. In addition to each group possibly feeling optimistic about their party’s chances in the election, another reason so few support divided government could be a desire to overcome political gridlock and pass legislation. In any case, Americans have no clear preference for whether the same party should control both political branches or whether it makes no difference.
One might add, that executive “pens and phones” may play a role here. The accumulation of power in the Executive branch in recent decades may also contribute to American apathy to divided government: what once was seen as a strong means of checks and balances may now seem moot to many.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.