Government Reform

Survey Says…Two Cheers for Divided Government!

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From a new NPR poll showing that Barack Obama can take the rest of the election off (a.k.a. an 11-point lead in swing states):

There is one question in the poll where Republicans did better than Democrats, who probably will still control Congress after the election. Voters were asked whether it would be better to have a Democratic president working with the Democratic-controlled Congress to get things done, or to have a Republican president keeping Congress in check. Forty percent of those surveyed said a Republican president would be better; 32 percent chose a Democratic president.

But every silver lining carries a dark cloud for the Republicans this time (and rightly so):

But the results were different when the question about divided government was posed another way. When voters were asked whether they preferred for Obama to be president and work with a Democratic Congress or for McCain to be a check on the Democratic Congress, Obama narrowly won, 49 percent to 44 percent.

More, including gratuitous and annoying overuse of the term "game changer," here.

Back in 2007, just as the Dems took control of the Congress (hey, how's that going?…never mind), reason looked at the virtues of and hopes for divided government here.

NEXT: Alan Shrugged

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  1. So much for “Barack Obama is underperforming the Democrats.”

  2. When voters were asked whether they preferred for Obama to be president and work with a Democratic Congress or for McCain to be a check on the Democratic Congress, Obama narrowly won, 49 percent to 44 percent

    Clearly the results are different because the question is a false one: everybody knows McCain wouldn’t be a check on a Democratic Congress

  3. Ron Paul would beat Obama. He would be a check on the democrats.

  4. Given that Reason has all but endorsed Obama and appears to be attracting more socialists than libertarians, I vote the motto be changed from “Free Markets, Free Minds” to “Free Lunch, Free Healthcare” so as to better represent its new editorial philosophy.

  5. It’s not even 10 AM EST! Cant’ you save that sort of thing until 11?

  6. Whassamatter joe – don’t like beer with your breakfast?

  7. I’d say the Obama with a Republican Congress is the least evil out of things that can actually happen. But that depends on what it meant by “can actually happen.”

    One party has always been the party of big government: The Incumbent Party.

  8. Whassamatter joe – don’t like beer with your breakfast?

    Yeah, but if you don’t happen to have any beer on hand, and you’re stuck with a bottle of Vodka at 10am…

    Different story, is all I’m saying.

  9. The last Dem controlled Exec & Legislature branches in recent times: Gray Davis and California.

    We are in for a fiscal disaster next term. As bad as Bush was with the budget, BOPelosi will be much worse, even when we’re out of Iraq.

  10. In his defense, he hasn’t slept in days.

  11. Turtles,

    California’s a financial disaster no matter who’s in charge (Ahnold’s nearly bankrupted the state).

    You may be right about the budget, it’s tough to tell. I’m not happy about a unified Democratic congress any more than you are, but let’s not underestimate the financial strain Iraq’s been.

  12. The last Dem controlled Exec & Legislature branches in recent times: Gray Davis and California.

    WTF?

    Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey – just off the top of my head – have Democratic executives and legislatures right now. Michigan. Pennsylvania.

  13. New York

    Not yet. You’ll have to wait until after these elections.

  14. North Carolina has a unified Democratic government.

  15. Iowa, Wisconsin, and Montana also have unified Dem governments (wkiki).

  16. BOPelosi will be much worse,

    Not much doubt of that. Aside from going on the record that they will crank up the spending, they’ve been practicing.

  17. Congressional approval is 12%. Does Obama go against his own party or does he go along and get along with Pelosi and send his approval ratings down with them. It is difficult imagine how it doesn’t all end in a continued orgy of looting. The difference of course is that when Republicans steal, they steal for this or that project, defense stuff we don’t need, bridges to nowhere and such. When Democrats steal they do it progromaticlly by creating giveaway programs to favored constuency. As a result, Democratic theft is the theft that keeps on giving long after they have disgraced themselves and been run from power.

  18. John, like you said before, how much to the center Obama can move depends on how insane Republican partisans get to give him cover.

  19. Congressional approval is 12%.

    And Democrats are set to capture between 20 and 30 seats in the House and 6-9 in the Senate.

    Democrats lead by almost ten points on the generic Congressional ballot.

    People who think Congressional Democrats, and their agenda, is unpopular are kidding themselves. Congress is unpopular because it has been unable to pass much of the immensely popular Democratic agenda, and the public is eager to give them more power.

  20. We had the perfect system. It could fail, and people would ask for more. Because its failure created ever more people who felt that they not only needed benefits from the government but deserved because they got screwed over before. But it got loose, and wrought havoc. Now it’s everywhere, and yet no one recognizes until it’s too late.

  21. Is there any poll that shows the approval rating of Generic Congressional Democrat, instead of Congress as a whole or Pelosi?

  22. BDB,

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/generic_congressional_vote-901.html

    It’s in the Congressional section, if you scroll down on the main page.

    PollingReport.com carries generic Congressional polls, too.

  23. Congress is unpopular because it has been unable to pass much of the immensely popular Democratic agenda, and the public is eager to give them more power.

    I confidently predict that an unrestrained Dem Congress will see no appreciably increase in their popularity by the end of their first session, and will sustain losses in 2010.

  24. But that’s who you would vote for, not approval rating. IOW they could be switching to Democrats by default from anger at Republicans, not because they like their agenda.

  25. I see, BDB.

    There are also issues polls on PollingReport.com.

  26. I confidently predict that an unrestrained Dem Congress will see no appreciably increase in their popularity by the end of their first session, and will sustain losses in 2010.

    The Democrats are hard-wired to pick up Senate seats in 2010. I think that’s a given, even if they lose seats in the House.

    As for their popularity, Congressional Democrats had a 70% approval rating when they took over in January 07, which dropped below 20% when they didn’t end the Iraq War. It is exactly their inability to act in an unrestrained manner that cost them.

  27. Personally my beef with the Pelosi Congress is 1)violating the 1990s-style paygo rules they said they would re-instate, and 2) failing to force Bush out of Iraq.

    Also, FISA.

  28. I don’t think that most sensible and moderately political people would argue with the idea of divided government.

    But as a statistical matter, I have my doubts about the validity of the poll.

    Assuming that the sample is drawn using appropriate random probability sampling methods, I take major issue with the way the questions were framed.

    Saying “to get things done” and “keeping Congress in check” and “provide some balance”, is highly inappropriate and shows that bias has crept into the survey, not to mention that corresponding reciprocal questions were not asked.

    Furthermore, there were too many questions asked which can also lead to bias.

    I would reject this survey entirely because NPR clearly did not hire good statisticians to conduct it.

  29. Congressional Democrats had a 70% approval rating when they took over in January 07,

    Proving that people were willing to give them a shot.

    which dropped below 20% when they didn’t end the Iraq War.

    They were prevented from doing so by, who, exactly? Who has been “restraining” the Dem Congress? Not President Bush, that’s for sure.

    I’m not so sure that their abrupt loss of popularity was solely because they didn’t “end the Iraq war” (which they couldn’t do even if they teleported every American out of Iraq tomorrow).

    The lefty Dem agenda is nearly so universally popular as you imagine, joe. And neither is the current crop of incompetents and megalomananiacs populating Congress.

  30. Try again, without the typo:

    The lefty Dem agenda isn’t nearly so universally popular. . . .

  31. They were prevented from doing so by, who, exactly? Who has been “restraining” the Dem Congress? Not President Bush, that’s for sure.

    Um, you might have forgotten, a bill mandating a timeline for withdrawal passed both houses of Congress and was vetoed by the president. President Bush.

    The lefty Dem agenda is nearly so universally popular as you imagine, joe.

    You can read the polls, or not. Up to you. PollingReport.com is a good place to start. The lefty Democratic agenda is very popular – moreso than the actual Democrats.

    Barack Obama now has a double-digit lead over John McCain on the issue of taxes. Before Joe the Plumber, they were even.

    Barack Obama should take a bunch of those Obama tire gauges, arrange them to spell “Spread the Wealth,” take a picture, and mail them out to every voter in every swing state in America.

  32. When has there been a divided government where nothing is legislated and no government action is taken in the favor monied interests?

    Anyone?

    Bueller?

    3 words regarding divided government which takes no action.

    Not gonna happen.

  33. You can read the polls, or not.

    As can you, joe. What we’re really arguing about is what lies behind poll numbers on Congressional popularity.

    Um, you might have forgotten, a bill mandating a timeline for withdrawal passed both houses of Congress and was vetoed by the president. President Bush.

    So the Dem Congress is unpopular because it passed a popular bill that was vetoed by an unpopular President? Sorry, I just don’t see it.

    I tend to think that a party with both a hugely popular agenda and majorities of both houses of Congress would bep assing that popular agenda and reaping the public accolades, regardless of whether a deeply unpopular president was thwarting them.

    I also think that much of the unhappiness with the Pelosi-Reid Congress stems from their utter incompetence and inability to get a damn thing done, mostly because they know their agenda isn’t all that popular and won’t do anything without Republican cover.

  34. As can you, joe. What we’re really arguing about is what lies behind poll numbers on Congressional popularity.

    Actually, I wrote that in response to your statement about the public not supporting the “lefty Democrat agenda,” and followed it up by observing that said agenda is more popular than the Democrats themselves. I was referring to issue polling, such as that on Pollingreport.com. It’s quite impressive how dominant the Democrats are on the issues, even on such Republican mainstays as taxes.

    I tend to think that a party with both a hugely popular agenda and majorities of both houses of Congress would bep assing that popular agenda and reaping the public accolades, regardless of whether a deeply unpopular president was thwarting them.

    You know how the Senate works as well as I do, RC. Stop being coy.

    So the Dem Congress is unpopular because it passed a popular bill that was vetoed by an unpopular President?

    Yes, they’re seen as ineffective.

  35. Yes, they’re seen as ineffective.

    Well, I’m on record as agreeing with that.

    We’ll just have to see, I suppose. I maintain a high degree of confidence that a Dem Congress vomiting out lefty standards like card check, massive spending increases, tax hikes, socialized medicine, and the like is going to be crashingly unpopular. Time will tell.

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