Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Stunning Gallup Poll Finds Voter Preference For Divided Government Slipping vs. Council Of Elrond

Gallup runs this poll every election cycle and every time the Dividist must explain why there is far less than meets the eye in any conclusion based on this poll. The headline conclusion in the 2016 edition of this Gallup Poll is "In U.S., Preference for Divided Government Lowest in 15 Years":
  • 20% of Americans say they want divided government
  • Fewer Republicans want divided government now than four years ago
  • Fewer Democrats want the same party to control Congress than four years ago
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- 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%)."
I am sympathetic to their plight. Gallup's clear intent is to use the same poll question year after year in order to divine trends over many election cycles. To do that, they must ask the identical question every time. The problem is that the question they've asked every year since 2002 is deeply flawed as it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual choice American voters make when they go to the polls.

Here is the offending poll question asked by Gallup:
"Do you think it is better for the country to have a president from the same political party that controls Congress does it make no difference either way or do you think it is better to have a president from one political party and Congress controlled by another?"
And here is how I responded last time:
The problem is that the question poses a non-existent, non-partisan apolitical alternative to divided government. They are asking respondents which they prefer: 
     A) Divided Government
     B) Unified Apolitical One Party Government
     C) No Preference 
This question does not reflect an actual political choice that Americans ever face when they enter the polling station to cast their vote. "Unified Apolitical One Party Government" is never on the ballot. The divided government alternative choice is always for "Unified Democratic Party Government" or "Unified Republican Party Government." Asking whether Americans prefer "Unified Apolitical One Party Government" is like asking if they prefer divided government or a fantasy alternative: 
A) Divided Government
B) The Council of Elrond
C) No Preference
As explained elsewhere on this blog (and confirmed by recent polling), in 2016 the House majority is a lock for the GOP, while the Senate is a coin flip.  That means that in 2016 the only choice for voters is between divided government and Unified One Party Republican Government.

Either A, B, or C below will be our 2017 federal government:

A) Divided Government 1: D President, R Senate, R House

B) Divided Government 2: D President, D Senate, R House

C) Unified Republican Rule: R President, R Senate, R House

D) Not On The Ballot: Gandalf POTUS, Elrond Senate Maj. Leader, Frodo House Speaker

"D" is not an option. There are no other realistic possibilities than A, B, or C. Choose wisely.

In 2016, we would expect independent dividists (those who prefer divided government) to side with partisan Democrats in opposition to Unified One Party Republican Rule. And we would expect partisan Republicans to hypocritically show less enthusiasm for divided government than they did in 2010 or 2012, in the hope of restoring One Party Republican Rule.

Art Smith almost arrives at the right conclusion in his post on the Gallup poll:
"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... 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."
The last sentence is, of course, nonsense. A clear plurality of Americans have a preference for divided government over One Party Republican Rule, and a different plurality of Americans have a clear preference for divided government over One Party Democratic Rules. But those questions are not asked in this poll.

Essentially we are seeing a small independent dividist minority vote that swings elections on a consistent basis to maintain a divided government state. Asking the question correctly would always show a large plurality preferring divided government to either unified republican or unified democratic party government in every election. That explains why Americans have voted so consistently for divided government in the modern era despite their frustration with the accompanying partisan wrangling and gridlock.

Whether or not that independent dividist voting block is making the divided government choice consciously is a separate question.  Making the case they should, is the raison d'ĂȘtre for this blog.

You're welcome.

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