Divided Gov't and McCain's Closing Case

One of John McCain’s closing arguments – as reported by George Stephanopoulos last week – has some resonance among swing-voting independents: resistance to Democratic control of the presidency and Congress alike.

Likely voters overall favor Democratic control of Congress by 8 points, and half in principle support single-party control of both branches. But that masks sharp partisan differences, with independents tilted slightly toward McCain’s view.

Independents by 45-37 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll say they’d rather see the Republicans than the Democrats win control of Congress. And by 43-34 percent they're a bit more apt to say divided government is the better way to go.

In addition to independents it’s possible McCain’s argument could hold some appeal to movable voters, who likewise are less rooted in partisanship.

In October 2006, more likely voters – 58 percent overall, including 58 percent of independents – preferred to see the Democrats control Congress, which was the outcome of that election, driven by frustration with the war in Iraq.

Preference for control of Congress         In 2008      In 2006       Dem   Rep    Dem   RepAll    50%   42     58%   38Dems   94     3     96     3Inds   37    45     58    32Reps   10    86     11    87

There’s a sharp gender gap today; women by 56-36 percent prefer Democratic control of Congress while men by 50-43 percent would like to see it go to the Republicans. Whites split evenly; blacks, the Democratic Party’s single most loyal group, almost unanimously favor its continued control.

On the question of whether divided or single-party control is better in general, 50 percent overall side with single-party control – Democrats most, independents least. Thirty percent favor divided government – independents and Republicans most. And 14 percent have no preference either way.

Preference for Congress/presidency        Same   Different  No diff.All     50%      30        14Dems    63       13        16  Inds    34       43        17 Reps    49       37         8
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