A new poll from NBC and The Wall Street Journal shows Hillary Clinton way ahead of Donald Trump, 48 percent to 37 percent. (Seven percent favor Gary Johnson, and two percent back Jill Stein.) But the survey also shows most voters—by an even wider margin—wanting some roadblocks in the winner’s way:
By a 53 percent-to-40 percent margin, the poll also finds registered voters saying they’d be more likely to support a [downballot] Republican candidate who will be a check and balance to Hillary Clinton and congressional Democrats, versus a Democratic candidate who will help Clinton and Democrats pass their agenda.
Even if you assume that all of Johnson’s supporters will agree with that, those voters plus the Trump faction only get you to 44 percent, not 53. So what’s going on here?
Some possible ways to interpret this:
1. Voters may prefer Hillary Clinton to that doofus she’s running against, but that doesn’t mean they support all of her platform.
2. Voters like the idea of a functioning opposition party, especially when the question is put to them is abstract terms rather than with reference to whichever Republicans are actually on the ballot in their districts.
3. Voters think divided government is valuable in itself, because it means grand schemes can’t be passed without compromise.
4. Voters remember their social studies classes well enough to respond favorably to the phrase “a check and balance”; if the poll had asked about “gridlock” instead, they would have said something else.
5. All of the above, to different degrees. Don’t kid yourself that we’re talking about one big bloc with the same views and motives.
If you’ve got another theory of your own to offer, our comment thread awaits your contributions.
(Via Charles C.W. Cooke, who optimistically suggests that a “majority is consciously in favor of gridlock.”)