- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 13, 2004

America’s political divisions run deeper than the well-known chasm between Democrats and Republicans living in the red and blue states. Voters are also evenly split on whether partisan power should be vested in one party controlling the White House and Congress, or if they should share constitutional control. Moreover, male and female voters have significantly different opinions on this question of power sharing.

A plurality of women voters prefer divided government to unified control, but there is a virtual tie between Democrats controlling the Congress and White House or Republicans controlling all the levers of power. Men take a different view. For them, an equal percentage prefers either divided government or Republican control, while unified Democratic control is their least preferred option.

These are some of the results of the recent edition of the American Survey of 800 registered voters conducted in May 2004 (margin of error +/- 3 percent.)

First, on the overall question of divided versus unified government,we askedvoters which they preferred: the presidency and Congress held by the different parties, both controlled by the Democrats or both controlled by the Republicans.

As the first chart indicates, America is nearly divided in thirds on this issue. A plurality (38 percent) say they prefer divided government, 32 percent say they want Republicans to control both the White House and Congress, and 27 percent say they want the Democrats to control all the levers of power.

These questions of power sharing, however, take on a different complexion when we analyze gender differences. Virtually the same percentages of women prefer divided government compared to men (40 percent to 37 percent, within the margin of error).

Yet among male voters, divided government and Republican control are virtually tied as a preference (37 percent versus 38 percent), while Democrats in charge of everything is their least preferred option by a significant amount — only 23 percent of the men prefer Democratic unified control.

Women, on the other hand, clearly prefer a divided government (40 percent), but are split on the outcome if a single party is to control all the levers of power (30 percent versus 28 percent.)

At one level these findings are good news for Republicans, leading among men on the issue of unified Republican control, with Democratic control the least-favored option and polling near even on the same question with women. Yet, these results are also consistent with a host of other findings in the poll regarding women, including support for President Bush, the war in Iraq and most domestic policy questions, where females exhibit more of a pro-Democrat bias compared to men.

America’s long-standing distrust of investing political power in the hands of person, party or institution is still evident in these numbers. But a growing comfort level with partisan power vested in one party or the other — maybe as a perceived antidote to gridlock or out of personal preference — may be emerging as well.

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