- 49% prefer that Democrats in Congress have more influence over U.S. direction
- 43% say the same about President Trump
- Preferences for presidents to prevail tend to mirror presidential approval
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are closely divided on whether they would rather see President Donald Trump or the Democrats in Congress have more influence over the direction the country takes in the coming year. However, the slight edge goes to the Democrats, 49% to 43%. This differs from sentiment on Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in the first half of their reelection years, when the public tilted toward wanting the president to have the greater influence.
|President||Opposition party in Congress||Same/Neither (vol.)||Presidential job approval|
|D. Trump/Democrats, 2020 Jan 2-15||43||49||6||44|
|B. Obama/Republicans, 2012 Jan 5-8||46||42||7||46|
|G.W. Bush/Democrats, 2006 Nov 9-12||31||61||6||33|
|G.W. Bush/Democrats, 2002 Jan 11-14||59||36||2||83|
|B. Clinton/Republicans, 1996 May 9-12||54||41||4||55|
|Selected trend; vol. = volunteered response|
The latest results are from Gallup's Jan. 2-15 poll. A subsequent Jan. 16-29 Gallup survey found Trump with a higher job approval rating, perhaps indicating that preferences for Congress or the president to have more influence may now be narrower than the Jan. 2-15 poll indicated.
In addition to asking Americans about Clinton, Obama and Trump during their reelection years, Gallup has asked this question about George W. Bush, but not in 2004 when he was running for reelection. Instead, Gallup asked about Bush in 2002, when Democrats held the Senate, and after the 2006 elections. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2002, most Americans wanted to see Bush have more influence than his rivals in Congress over the course of events in the country. This period coincided with a broad expansion of the authority of the executive branch, as the Patriot Act as well as several executive orders significantly increased the influence of the presidency in unique ways.
However, by late 2006, as the Iraq War was dragging on and Americans voted to give control of both houses of Congress to the Democrats, they wanted to see the Democrats in Congress have more influence over the direction of the country than the president. When the war began in 2003, 23% of Americans said it was a mistake for the U.S. to send troops to Iraq; but by November 2006, 55% shared that view.
Preference Shadows Presidential Approval
For Trump and his three immediate predecessors, Americans' preference for whether they want the president or the opposing party in Congress to wield more influence over the direction of the country seems to shadow that president's job approval rating. Presidents with relatively high approval ratings tended to win out over their legislative rivals in Americans' preference for who should be dominant.
In fact, except for George W. Bush in 2002, each president's approval rating is within two points of the percentage of Americans who would like to see that president have the greater influence.
As would be expected, Americans are most divided along party lines when asked whom they would like to see wield more influence in the coming year. While most Democrats (89%) want congressional Democrats to have greater influence over the course of the nation, Republicans are just as likely to want Trump to do so (89%). Independents prefer to see the Democrats in Congress have the upper hand in influence over the course of the nation.
Given the party leanings of racial and religious subgroups, the data show wide differences between whites and nonwhites, as well as Christians and non-Christians (including those who identify with no religion). While 54% of whites would like to see the president have more influence, 71% of nonwhites prefer the Democrats in Congress. When it comes to religious identification, 49% of those describing themselves as Christians want the president to have more influence, while 67% of non-Christians prefer the Democrats in Congress.
|Trump||Democrats in Congress|
|Not college graduate||46||47|
|Gallup, Jan. 2-15, 2020|
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