A record-high 38% of Americans prefer that the same party control the presidency and Congress, while a record-low 23% say it would be better if the president and Congress were from different parties and 33% say it doesn’t make any difference. While Americans tend to lean toward one-party government over divided government in presidential election years, this year finds the biggest gap in preferences for the former over the latter and is a major shift in views from one year ago.
Opinions on divided government have fluctuated over the years. When one party controlled both Congress and the presidency in 2006 and 2010, Gallup found near-historical lows supporting one-party rule. This suggests Americans may simply tend to prefer what they don’t have or see problems in whatever the current situation is. At least one chamber of Congress changed hands in the subsequent elections, and the increase in support for one-party government in 2008 foreshadowed an election that would give the Democrats sole control of the presidency and both houses of Congress.
Democrats (49%) are now more likely than Republicans (36%) or independents (28%) to favor one-party government. There may be several reasons for this. Democrats currently control the presidency and many Democrats may be frustrated that President Barack Obama cannot enact his legislative agenda without the help of a sympathetic Congress. Also, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to express faith in the federal government’s ability to handle domestic problems. Insofar as politically unified executive and legislative branches ease the passage of laws and the implementation of policies designed to solve national problems, Democrats would view this as a positive development. Republicans also favor one-party control over divided government, but by a smaller margin of 36% to 27%. Independents are split in their preferences between one-party (28%) and divided (30%) government.
Democrats’ preference for unified government rose significantly this year — to 49%, compared with 35% last year. Independents also became more favorable to one-party government this year, up seven percentage points compared with 2011. Republicans did not see a significant change.
It seems to me that the preference for one-party rule kinda depends on which party you think will be on top. If your party is on the outs divided government sounds a lot better. For most of my life Congress and the White house have been split between the parties.
The Democrats controlled both branches from 1961 until 1969 (8 years), 1977 until 1981 (4 years), 1993-1994 (2 years) and 2009-2011 (2 years). That’s 16 years. There was also about four years during the George W. Bush administration where the Republicans controlled both branches. The rest of the time at least one house of Congress was controlled by the party that did not hold the White House.
There were several months during the Obama administration where the Democrats held the White House and held a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The result of that was a massive GOP landslide in the 2010 midterms.