Measuring Preferences for Divided Government: Some Americans Want Divided Government and Vote to Create It

Abstract

Tests of theories of the electoral origins of divided government hinge on the proper measurement of voter preferences for divided government. Deriving preferences for divided government from voters’ ideological positions or responses to the standard American National Election Studies question inflates estimates of the proportion of people who prefer divided government. We present two alternative survey measures of preferences for divided government and evaluate the measures across multiple surveys. We find that the percentage of voters who prefer divided government is smaller than previous studies suggest. Voters who prefer divided government according to the new measures are significantly more likely than other voters to vote in ways that create divided government in both presidential year and midterm congressional elections.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    “We hear a lot of talk these days about liberals and conservatives. Here is a seven-point scale on which the political views that people might hold are arranged from extremely liberal to extremely conservative. Where would you place yourself on this scale?”

  2. 2.

    Incumbency is a set of dummy variables. A Republican delegation has Republican incumbents for House and Senate, a Democratic delegation has Democratic incumbents for House and Senate, and a divided delegation is one Republican incumbent and one Democratic incumbent. The baseline is all other cases: an open seat for one office or open seats for both offices.

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Correspondence to Dean Lacy.

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Lacy, D., Niou, E.M.S., Paolino, P. et al. Measuring Preferences for Divided Government: Some Americans Want Divided Government and Vote to Create It. Polit Behav 41, 79–103 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-017-9442-4

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Keywords

  • Elections
  • Split-ticket voting
  • Divided government
  • Nonseparable preferences