Most U.S. Voters OK With Split-Party Control of Congress

Most U.S. Voters OK With Split-Party Control of Congress

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Just as many favor divided control as one-party control

PRINCETON, NJ -- Roughly as many U.S. registered voters say it is better for the country to have divided-party control of Congress as say it is better to have one party in control of both the House and Senate. The remainder say it makes no difference or have no opinion.

Registered Voters' Preference for One-Party or Divided-Party Control of Congress

The major story line in the 2014 midterm elections seems to be whether the Republicans can win enough seats in the Senate to have full-party control of Congress. Political experts generally do not believe Democrats will win enough seats in the House to take control of that chamber.

Republicans have held majority control in the House since 2011, but with Democrats controlling the Senate, Congress has had difficulty passing legislation on some of the major issues facing the country. The split control has contributed to a dearth of legislation this session. The current 113th Congress is on pace to be one of the least productive in history, based on the number of bills passed into law.

Also, Congress' approval ratings have been historically low in recent years, as is trust in the legislative branch of the federal government. Americans who are critical of Congress commonly mention "gridlock," "partisanship," or lack of action as reasons why they disapprove. Also, "dissatisfaction with government" has ranked among the top issues in recent years when Gallup has asked Americans to name the most important problem facing the country.

Nevertheless, Americans do not appear to see one-party control of Congress as a solution to those ills or a desirable situation in general.

Americans' views on the matter do not appear to be based on strategic responses by partisan voters. It is possible Republicans will say they prefer one-party control of Congress because it appears there is a reasonable chance that Republicans could win control of both houses after this year's elections. And, in turn, Democrats might say they prefer divided control as that appears it may be the best-case scenario for their party this election year. However, both Democrats and Republicans are about evenly split on the desirability of one-party versus divided-party control of Congress. True to their more anti-partisan outlook, independents show a clearer preference for divided control of Congress.

Preference for One-Party or Divided-Party Control of Congress, by Party Identification, Registered Voters

Younger and older voters have different views on whether it is better to have one party controlling both houses of Congress. Those aged 18 to 29, who are more likely to be politically independent, believe it is better to have divided control, while older voters are much more likely to endorse the idea of one party controlling both houses.

Preference for One-Party or Divided-Party Control of Congress, by Age, Registered Voters


If Republicans can maintain their majority in the House and win a majority of Senate seats after the 2014 midterm elections, it could mean that Congress would have an easier time passing legislation than it has in the last few years. However, that would not necessarily solve the issue of government gridlock in the short term, given that President Barack Obama would have to sign any legislation a Republican House and Senate pass.

Passing new legislation and getting it signed into law is easiest when one party is in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, as was the case from 1992-1993, 2003-2006, and 2009-2010. But each of those recent reigns of one-party control were short-lived as Americans, likely uncomfortable with U.S. policy going too far to the left or too far to the right, gave control of one or both houses of Congress to the other party in the next midterm election.

Thus, it appears Americans' reluctance to back one-party control of Congress, despite their obvious frustration with the work Congress is doing, may stem from their desire for moderation in U.S. policy over a Congress that can more easily pass legislation and get things done.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 24-30, 2014, with a random sample of 1,336 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of registered voters, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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