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Divided Government? Depends Partly On The Partisan Picture

From the CBS News election and survey unit: While John McCain has argued lately that his election would help serve as a check on a Democratic-controlled Congress, registered voters are divided on the subject, a deeper look at the most recent CBS News/New York Times poll reveals. Forty-one percent of voters say it is better to have the president and congress represented by different parties but 36 percent say it's better if the same party is in control of both.

It may have more to do with partisan advantage than principle, however. Overall, Democrats today (45 percent) support the idea of having the two branches controlled by the same party, while more Republicans (48 percent) oppose the idea. In February 2007 – after the Democrats had taken control of the House of Representatives with a Republican administration in power – more Democrats (48 percent) favored different parties controlling each branch of government. For Republicans this trend is reversed (41 percent said one-party rule was preferable in 2007), while independents have consistently been in support of a divided control of government.

Democrats are leading Republicans by 12 points among likely voters in a generic question about voter preference in the upcoming elections in the House of Representatives. Perhaps taking this into account, Obama voters want the President and Congress to be from the same party (45 percent), while McCain voters disagree (55 percent say it's better to have divided government).

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