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Poll: Independents Prefer Divided Government in Washington

by Wes Messamore, published

According to a new Gallup poll Thursday, independents prefer divided government in Washington, with the president belonging to a different party than the one that controls Congress.

The poll shouldn't be interpreted as a desire for partisan gridlock, which independent voters, along with voters in both of the nation's two largest political parties, overwhelmingly oppose, and which has left voters across the spectrum increasingly frustrated.

In fact, as noted last month by Bianca Ciotti at IVN, an overwhelming 90% of voters, in a recent poll result that held consistently high across the spectrum of affiliations, considered partisan gridlock the number one cause of Washington lawmakers' inability to solve problems.

The most recent Gallup poll on divided government did reveal a marked increase among Democrats, Republicans, and independents in support of one-party government over divided government. Gallup concluded:

"This suggests many Americans are experiencing divided-government fatigue."

In 2011, 35% of Democrats, 35% of Republicans, and 21% of independents supported same-party control over the White House and Congress.

Last week's poll saw the most dramatic surge in support of same-party government and a record high preference for it over divided government, with 49% of Democrats, 36% of Republicans, and 28% of independents supporting same-party control over the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.

But even with a seven point jump among independent voters, independents still significantly lag behind voters in either of the two largest parties when it comes to preferring same-party control, just as they did in 2011.

This is an interesting phenomenon. While independents are known for criticizing a lack of bipartisanship and willingness among lawmakers to cross party lines to find working solutions to problems with government, it also seems that independents prefer divided government in Washington, with the caveat that it is a cooperative, bipartisan divided government.

Because they are unaffiliated with either of the two largest political parties in Washington, it's not hard to see why independents see divided government as a hedge against either party becoming too powerful or swinging public policy too far in its direction. If that was something an independent voter saw as good for policy, depending on the party, the voter would likely be a member of that party instead of unaffiliated.

However, while independents show a clear preference over Republicans and Democrats for divided government in Washington, all three voter affiliation groups agree: lawmakers need to set aside their distrust and antagonism for colleagues across the aisle and work toward solutions that matter to voters.

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