Divided government in the United States

Divided government in the United States

In the United States, divided government describes a situation in which one party controls the White House and another party controls one or both houses of the United States Congress. Divided government is suggested by some to be an undesirable product of the separation of powers in the United States' political system. Early in the 20th century, divided government was rare, but since the 1970s, it has become increasingly common.

Some conservative and libertarian groups see divided government as beneficial, since it may encourage more policing of those in power by the opposition, as well as limiting spending[1] and the expansion of undesirable laws.[2]

In a parliamentary system like Canada's and the United Kingdom's, the executive relies on support of Parliament for its continued existence. In the United States, however, the Constitution provides for the separation of powers among three branches of government.


  • Party control of legislative and executive branches since 1901 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4

Party control of legislative and executive branches since 1901

Graphical representation of party divisions in U.S. Congress, 1933-2009

D denotes the Democratic Party and R denotes the Republican Party

Year President Senate House
1901–1903 R R R
1903–1905 R R R
1905–1907 R R R
1907–1909 R R R
1909–1911 R R R
1911-1913 R R D
1913–1915 D D D
1915–1917 D D D
1917–1919 D D D
1919-1921 D R R
1921–1923 R R R
1923–1925 R R R
1925–1927 R R R
1927–1929 R R R
1929–1931 R R R
1931-1933 R R D
1933–1935 D D D
1935–1937 D D D
1937–1939 D D D
1939–1941 D D D
1941–1943 D D D
1943–1945 D D D
1945–1947 D D D
1947-1949 D R R
1949–1951 D D D
1951–1953 D D D
1953–1955 R R R
1955-1957 R D D
1957-1959 R D D
1959-1961 R D D
1961–1963 D D D
1963–1965 D D D
1965–1967 D D D
1967–1969 D D D
1969-1971 R D D
1971-1973 R D D
1973-1975 R D D
1975-1977 R D D
1977–1979 D D D
1979–1981 D D D
1981-1983 R R D
1983-1985 R R D
1985-1987 R R D
1987-1989 R D D
1989-1991 R D D
1991-1993 R D D
1993–1995 D D D
1995-1997 D R R
1997-1999 D R R
1999-2001 D R R
2001-2003 R D* R
2003–2005 R R R
2005–2007 R R R
2007-2009 R D D
2009–2011 D D D
2011-2013 D D R
2013-2015 D D R
2015-2017 D R R

*The 2000 election resulted in a 50-50 tie in the Senate, and the Constitution gives tie-breaking power to the Vice President. The Vice President was Democrat Al Gore from January 3, 2001 until the inauguration of Republican Richard Cheney on January 20. Then on May 24, Republican Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party to caucus with the Democrats as an independent, resulting in another shift of control.

See also


  1. ^ "Would Divided Government Be Better?". Cato Institute. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Government Gridlock". facebook.com. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 

Further reading