Poll: 48 Percent of Voters Want Clinton—and 53 Percent Want Republicans to 'Check and Balance' Her

Does the public want divided government?



A new poll from NBC and The Wall Street Journal shows Hillary Clinton way ahead of Donald Trump, 48 percent to 37 percent. (Seven percent favor Gary Johnson, and two percent back Jill Stein.) But the survey also shows most voters—by an even wider margin—wanting some roadblocks in the winner's way:

By a 53 percent-to-40 percent margin, the poll also finds registered voters saying they'd be more likely to support a [downballot] Republican candidate who will be a check and balance to Hillary Clinton and congressional Democrats, versus a Democratic candidate who will help Clinton and Democrats pass their agenda.

Even if you assume that all of Johnson's supporters will agree with that, those voters plus the Trump faction only get you to 44 percent, not 53. So what's going on here?

Some possible ways to interpret this:

1. Voters may prefer Hillary Clinton to that doofus she's running against, but that doesn't mean they support all of her platform.

2. Voters like the idea of a functioning opposition party, especially when the question is put to them in abstract terms rather than with reference to whichever Republicans are actually on the ballot in their districts.

3. Voters think divided government is valuable in itself, because it means grand schemes can't be passed without compromise.

4. Voters remember their social studies classes well enough to respond favorably to the phrase "a check and balance"; if the poll had asked about "gridlock" instead, they would have said something else.

5. All of the above, to different degrees. Don't kid yourself that we're talking about one big bloc with the same views and motives.

If you've got another theory of your own to offer, our comment thread awaits your contributions.

(Via Charles C.W. Cooke, who optimistically suggests that a "majority is consciously in favor of gridlock.")

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  1. If by “check and balance” you mean “try and convict”….

    1. Check means spend spend spend. Balance they never heard of.

  2. #6 The NBC poll seems to be full of shit.

    1. Also, I couldn’t help but click on the link to the comment thread. A little disappointing.

      1. It is our own fault if you find it lacking.

        1. *Sets bong down*

          Whoa. Mind blown.

          1. *Picks bong up, re-packs bowl and lights up*
            You ain’t kiddin’, good stuff btw.

  3. No, the “public” doesn’t really know what it wants.

    1. A good happy hour and for their team to win.

    2. Let me rephrase.

      People want what they want and if they can’t get what they want then they don’t want anyone getting anything.

      1. And they’re willing to give up their freedom if it means they get to take away other peoples.

        1. Obligatory:

          “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” – Bastiat

          1. “Every four years Americans come together to bully their neighbors” – John McAfee

        2. they’re willing to give up their freedom if it means they get to take away other peoples.

          As long as it’s the “right people’s” freedom being taken away. IOW, “people they don’t like.”

  4. OT: Just in time for Halloween


    1. shoppers would no longer be able to buy clown masks at stores or online after the string of clown sightings around the country.

      Because clowns.

    2. Hey, Target had jolly well better stop selling makeup, too!

  5. It’s looking like they’ll get half of what they want. The check and balance stuff though? It’s laughable, congress will fold like a lawn chair.

  6. She still got paid. Something tells me New Yorkers won’t be walking out because of her Trump bashing.


    1. Is it really so hard to just stand up there and tell vagina jokes for an hour?

      1. Vaginas just aren’t funny. Now, a penis… that’s funny.

        1. “I told my BF that I wished I could get a little cock. He said, ‘Me too. Mine’s as big as a house.”

          Yeah, that has more stitches involved than the original.

  7. Voters like the idea of a functioning opposition party

    To my mind, mid-term voters are a better-informed subset of the group that votes in presidential elections. My further guess is that many of the who only vote in presidential elections 1) only vote for president and 2) believe he/she/xe is the entire government. Thanks to the Executive Branch Buildup of the past 20 or so years, those morons are correct about something.

    1. I think it’s cute that they think effective checks and balances still exist.

      1. +1 Phone and Pen

        1. Exactly. The Pres can essentially do whatever he/she wants with EOs and signing statements as long as it isn’t blatantly unconstitutional. If congress can’t override them they carry the force of law. Most people just don’t realize this.

      2. Checks and balances have been replaced with deference.

    2. I think its cute they believe that the Republicans are an opposition party to the Democrats.

  8. 4. Voters remember their social studies classes well enough to respond favorably to the phrase “a check and balance”; if the poll had asked about “gridlock” instead, they would have said something else.

    I’m guessing this is the most significant reason.

    1. The fact that bipartisan isn’t considered a swear word reflects poorly on our country.

      1. But I understand the popular sentiment. It’s painfully obvious that the country is pretty divided. I personally think there are still more similarities than we appreciate, but that’s not what gets the focus. And unless you’re a hardcore partisan you probably want to get the warm fuzzy feeling of everyone getting along for the “common good”. Bipartisan means compromise and cooperation and healing divisions. All good stuff, right?

        That the “truth” is found in the middle and not on the wings has also become axiomatic in many circles.

        1. And the left are, predictably, starting to turn violent. This is not going to turn out well.

          1. I also saw, though, that Democrats are raising money to repair the RNC place that got fire bombed.

            I think the violent minority will be suppressed.

            1. A violent minority will be suppressed.

              Whether its the one attacking Republicans remains to be seen.

        2. That the “truth” is found in the middle and not on the wings has also become axiomatic in many circles.

          To some extent, that’s true. Unfortunately, right now halfway between Republicans and Democrats is no longer anywhere near “the middle” of politics. They both want to regulate the hell out of everything.

        3. That the “truth” is found in the middle and not on the wings has also become axiomatic in many circles.

          Let me just offer my semi-regular, and virtually obligatory, “fuck you” to Richard Hofstader.

          1. No kidding. The truth is no more, and perhaps less, likely to be found in the middle.

            The middle is where the compromise is. If truth and compromise happen to coincide, its an accident.

    2. Despite what the poll says, I find it really hard to believe that a lot of people are going to walk into the voting booth and say, “Right, I want Hillary to be president but I want her checked and balanced so let m vote Republican down ticket.” If you’re voting Hillary, you’re almost certainly voting Team.

  9. “But the survey also shows most voters?by an even wider margin?wanting some roadblocks in the winner’s way”

    The people who vote for Hillary do not want any road blocks for anything. They want someone who will give them all their proggie wishes without any involvement from Congress.

    Here you have a person who is openly saying they will bypass Congress and do whatever they want to by executive fiat, and we need to question if that’s what her voters want?

    1. I just want a president and a Congress that reflects the democratic will with some measure of accuracy. I suspect that if Democrats were the ones cheating to win you’d find it problematic.

      1. On what planet are the Democrats not cheating to win? That’s been a party tradition since 1872.

        1. You’re mistaken, they started before then.

      2. I just want a president and a Congress that reflects the democratic will with some measure of accuracy.

        Immediate repeal of PPACA (Obamacare)? Didn’t think so…

        1. Immediate repeal of PPACA (Obamacare)? Didn’t think so…

          Hardly the democratic will. And rather dumb as a governing policy.

          1) Most Americans want it fixed or replaced, not repealed. Even a public option is more popular than repeal.

          2) The Bush GOP “paid for” Medicare prescriptions by looting the general fund, not the Trust Fund. They needed Democrat votes so, as always, the Democrats snookered them BADLY. Up to 45% of all Medicare spending can be taken from the Income tax. MUCH more than the Prescriptions cost. In 2014 it was a $250 billion — which would have immediately wipe out the Trust Fund (then $258 B) Medicare spending is growing faster than GDP and/or Income ax revenues, so 45% of Medicare will take an ever-growing share of the income tax — then 19% of the entire personal income tax.

          Medicare is a double train wreck, the program itself and what it sucks out of the income tax revenues. For Medicare alone, NOBODY has a reform. Cato and Ryan talk Medicare vouchers, but that’s the wrong martket! Insurance is not health care and, technically, vouchers add a useless and costly middle-man since government still pays it all. Selling across state lines, in the insurance segment is also the wrong market.

          Do you know of ANY solution? Didn’t think so.

  10. Not to pick nits, but “likely voters” and “the public” aren’t necessarily the same group.

  11. The fact that bipartisan isn’t considered a swear word reflects poorly on our country.

    Every time I hear the term “bipartisan consensus” I feel an intense stabbing pain in my ass.

    1. That’s why I don’t use a wallet. When we go cashless you won’t even feel the anal raping.

  12. Postal worker bragging online about destroying voter ballots

    This is the left in action. Tell us again about what they want?

    1. I suspected right!

    2. Postal worker bragging online about destroying voter ballots

      Did you know the word “gullible” isn’t in the dictionary?

    3. Yeah, dunno how he can tell which are the Trump ballots.

      Color me skeptical, but I also wonder if this is being investigated. Because it should be.

  13. I’m sure the GOP will recover very quickly from Trump’s absolute destruction of the party and form a well-organized opposition just like they have under Obama

    1. good one!

  14. Very few actually want Hillary. They don’t want Trump. Once again, thanks GOP primary voters, you dumb-as-fuck dumbfucks.

  15. Semi-OT: David Post on Volokh misses the point. He hates Trump, probably hates Hillary too, but has worked himself up into a paranoid lather about Trump and nuclear war. So he’s “reached out” to “Trump supporters” to “try and understand” why they support him. It’s not a question of supporting either one, but more a matter of thinking Trump is too volatile and unfocused to do nearly as much damage as Hillary.

    The linked article basically comes down to annoyance that everyone is comparing Trump to Hillary instead of actually picking a candidate they like, as if the election is taking place in a vacuum. He comes across as a petulant little whiner. Even lists people he simply could never vote for as President, as if to show he too can do relativity, but it’s such a useless list that it’s not even good sarcasm.

    I doubt even most Trump supporters actually like the guy to the point of voluntarily following him if they didn’t have to; Trump supporters are pissed at the establishment. Anyone who thinks the system isn’t rigged is part of the problem. It’s not rigged for Hillary; it’s rigged to perpetuate itself. The only difference between the ordinary people who say it’s rigged and the elitists who deny it is which one is lying.

  16. Unless there is a huge zombie wave following team blue’s orders to vote straight D against Trump-it looks like divided government will continue for another 2 years at least.

    1. Likely through 2020. Republicans have been pretty dominant in off-year elections over the last two decades, and I don’t think the Senate cycle in ’18 is in the Democrats’ favor.

      2020 is a huge election for the Democratic party – in addition to the presidential election, their Progressive dreams are DOA for another decade if they get blown out at the state level anywhere near how they were in 2010. I wouldn’t be surprised if they punt on the 2018 election with that in mind.

      1. Unless the Republicans screw up again with their nominee (which cannot be discounted) I think they’ll win in 2020. If Hillary performs in office how she has performed in the past she’ll only rack up more scandals, Obamacare will be causing even more damage, the world may be even more unstable, we’re due for another economic downturn, and it is very rare for the same political party in the US to win four elections in a row. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the party will decide on a Goldwater/Reagan style candidate instead of the moderates or centrist populist they’ve gone for recently.

  17. Hillary has decades of experience manipulating people in Washington, is surrounded by insiders, is strongly supported by Facebook/Google, is adored by the media, knows the most important people in DC, knows the dirt on a lot of people, is married to an ex-president, has accessed FBI files on members of Congress, has connections to powerful regimes around the globe, is worth $120 million, and controls a multi-billion dollar foundation-slush-fund. Anybody who thinks that Congress can keep Hillary Clinton in check is a bloody fool.

    If you want someone who Congress can keep in check, Trump is the better choice: he is politically incompetent, knows nothing, doesn’t have much of a political agenda, and everybody hates him, from Congress to the media.

  18. Then there’s the obvious, Many Clinton voters don’t like her at all, but are even more terrified of Trump. Same with many Trump voters hating Hillary more. That’s why the hatred will keep escalating, an escalating threat of violence if Trump loses. Some Trumpsters are even calling for an armed revolt. Milwaukee County Sheriff Clark, an always scowling favorite on Fox, says “it’s pitchforks and torches time.” The “stolen election,” eh?

    This is getting scary and Trump gets three more weeks of inciting violence.

    1. Once again, the spectre of political violence is perpetually descending on the Repubs, but seems to land on the Dems with regularity.

      1. Yeah, it’s progressives attacking Trump supporters, Republican offices being firebombed, and Democratic controlled cities rioting, but somehow Republicans are the cause of political violence in this country.

        1. but somehow Republicans are the cause of political violence in this country

          Only the Trumpsters. I have yet to see Clinton drones calling for armed revolution and/or assassination if Trump wins. Have you? Where? Have a link?

          Sheriff Clarke, the ever scowling fixture on Fox says “it’s pitchforks and torches time.” But he’s NOT inciting violence? WS Journal Online visited a rally in Ohio, Guy in a Trump face mask said Hillary needs to be “taken out” if she’s elected, because he’s a “patriot.” When pressed if he meant assassination, he just grinned and said he’s a patriot. The militant self-righteous “True Believers” have been terrorizing humanity for all of recorded history.

          Trump’s primary percentage was 37% until he was last man standing, roughly the same percentage as his Birthers. He’s now playing to their conspiracy fixations, inflaming them with black voters casting 15 votes for Hillary. They’re already talking revolution and he gets three more weeks to feed hysteria.

          And Trump did NOT brag of committing sexual aggression, because the women were so enamored of his celebrity. That was George Soros dubbing in a voice that SOUNDS LIKE Trump.

    2. Then there’s the obvious, Many Clinton voters don’t like her at all, but are even more terrified of Trump. Same with many Trump voters hating Hillary more.

      And they both have a point. Clinton voters see a competent, calm, experienced politician in Clinton, and a scary, out of control nutcase in Trump. And their impression is correct.

      Trump voters see an inexperienced outsider who brags a lot and talks a lot of trash, while they see a duplicitous, corrupt hate monger in Clinton; but what really scares them about Clinton is that she seems to that all her emotions seem to be scripted: people are creeped out by a constant barrage of fake smiles and fake laughs.

      My own reading is that Clinton is hiding seething anger behind a well-practiced facade of calm; I think she’s going to take that out on people if she becomes president. In addition, I think her competency in policy is largely a charade, based on carefully rehearsed startegies for evasion and changing the topic. Where she is competent is in exercising power over people and shaping messages, but that amplifies her other flaws: even worse than an angry would-be dictator with hubris is one who has political and propaganda skills.

      1. Where do Clinton voters see competence?

        1. Where do Clinton voters see competence?

          Same place Trump voters see it. Delusions.
          He or she does believe that her competence is a charade. Also like Trump.
          At least Hillary isn’t promoting a 65% tax cut FOR HERSELF

      2. Right on, Rational Exhuberance.

  19. The last 3 presidents began their first term in the White House with their party also in control of Congress. In all 3 cases, voters snatched those majorities away in the next mid-term election (1994, 2002, 2010). Maybe it’s gridlock we like, or “checks and balances,” or every 8 years we get amnesia on how debt spirals out of control in these brief 2-years of “fun time”, especially compared to GDP.

    It looks like Hillary will not be getting her 2 years of “fun time”. That’s the only silver lining we can pull out of our nominating Trump.

  20. Yeah, dunno how he can tell which are the Trump ballots.

    They come from the houses with pulling tractors on blocks in the driveway.

  21. Most voters want check and balances or divided government when “the other” party is firmly in control. When “the right people” run the show, quasi-dictatorship is just fine. The last time we had one party rule, we got Obumahcare; yeah if you’re team blue, ohcrap if you’re team red. The time before that, we got the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (aka the pension destruction act of 2006). If you can’t get at least 2/3 of both of the major parties to agree on something, then I’d argue the government shouldn’t be jamming it down the throat of the rest of the country.

    1. Agree. 80%+ of the electorate vote as pure partisans in all federal elections. If they split roughly evenly, 40% of the electorate are voting against the party in power (generally whoever is president or likely to be elected president). That means you only need a small percentage of the electorate voting in concert around the organizing principle of maintaining divided government to keep it divided in concert with the partisan opposition. I’m not saying that people consciously voting this way are the reason why the government is usually divided. I’m saying that some of us should always vote this way to keep it divided.

      How to vote for divided government.

  22. First, thanks for the credit on the graphic. I’ve ripped so many Reason graphics over the years, it’s good to offer a little payback.

    Second, I hacked that graphic in 2006 when I started my blog. The sentiment expressed on the button should be updated. Lately I’ve favored a more complete syllogism:

    Divided government is limited government.
    Limited government is better government.
    Divided government is better government.

    Third, to return to Jesse Walker’s original question: “Does the public want divided government?”

    I took a crack at the question in the context of the binannual Gallup poll asking the wrong question about American’s preference for divided government: “Stunning Gallup Poll Finds Voter Preference For Divided Government Slipping vs. Council Of Elrond”

  23. I too agree that we should pay attention to Congress. If our representatives or Senators have done nothing to help the American people, they should be voted out.

    The Republicans have controlled the House for the past 6 years. They have controlled the Senate for the past 2 years. Check your memory – what improvements to the lives of Americans have they proposed or implemented?

    If you indeed check the records, you’ll find that the Congresses of the past 6 years have been the least productive in history. Republicans have convinced themselves that government, in any form, is detrimental to the lives of Americans. But that is emphatically not true.

    Infrastructure spending is a key example – our infrastructure (bridges, roads, airports, etc.) are deteriorating. The improvement of infrastructure is critical to all states, and no one state can individually coordinate the massive fixes across multiple states that is required. What actions has Congress proposed to fix that problem? None, although President Obama has requested infrastructure funds in each of his proposed budgets. Congress ignored the President’s requests and provided no alternative solutions. They did nothing.

    Vote ’em out.

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