Few people have ever accused Americans of being consistent politically. And two new Gallup Polls confirm just that.
It seems that come the end of the ninth month of 2017 and the close of the 2017 fiscal year, despite growing grumbling Americans much prefer to have Congress and the White House controlled by the same party, as it is now and was during Barack Obama’s first two years.
But — wait for it — they also feel a growing need for a third party.
Public sentiment for a divided or united government by party has shifted back and forth this century. From 2004 to 2007 the country preferred one party checking the other by each controlling one branch. Preferences jumped around a bit until 2013.
Then, after three years of gridlock with Republican House control and a Democrat in the White House, Americans settled back to wanting one party in charge of the whole swamp.
In last November’s election, they got it, though barely. And now despite few signs of super productivity from a GOP House and Senate and an ostensibly Republican president, the country is sticking with single party preference.
No preference has ever gained majority support. A third of the country now says it prefers single-party government while a quarter claims to want divided government. You’ll never guess which party’s members are currently most happy with one-party control. Yes, it’s the GOP, which currently controls both Capitol Hill and the Oval Office.
It may not surprise you then, that during Obama’s endless two terms, Democrats were most happy with one-party control, although they lost it in 2010 after ObamaCare was rammed through.
Trump is the fourth consecutive president to take office with his party in control of both houses of Congress. The previous three presidents all left office with Congress controlled by the opposing party, following midterm election losses. No president since 1980 has had a Congress controlled by his own party for a full term of office.
But for the past 37 years no president has had a Congress controlled by his own party for a full term of office. This augurs ill for Republicans come the midterm elections of Nov. 6, 2018. Which may help explain President Trump’s recent expressed willingness to work with Democrats.
Now at the same time, a whopping six-out-of-ten Americans see a compelling need for a third national political party. History suggests that’s not going to happen given the enduring propensity of one of the existing two major parties to co-opt and absorb would-be third party issues and members. The 61% is the highest favoring a third party in Gallup history.
“In your view, do the Republican and Democratic parties do an adequate job of representing the American peop0le, or do they do such a poor job that a third major party is needed?”
Among Republicans, 49% see a need for another party, while 46% say the existing pair is adequate. Democrats split 52% for a new party while 45% are good with the status quo.
The big break comes among independents where 77% want a new choice and only 17% are happy with two. Independents tend to be more centrist in their thinking, which would fill a gap between Democrats drifting left and Republicans moving right. But the center needs a compelling — and wealthy — political figure.
Existing third parties like the Greens and Libertarians have not shown an ability to attract the mass support needed for electoral success beyond splitting one of the other two parties. That’s what Ross Perot’s Reform Party USA accomplished in 1992, dividing GOP voters and handing the White House to Bill Clinton for eight years.