Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Jacobson. 1990. The electoral origins of divided government.
It is an argument against the notion, popular with Republicans, that the persistence of the divided government, with the Dems in Congress and Reps in the White House, is the result of a persistent incumbency advantage (in House elections) preventing an increasingly conservative electorate from being represented. It argues that the divided government is in fact, political. Republicans as a party are more suited for the Presidency and the Democrats are more suited for Congress.
In Congressional elections, Republican challengers are generally of a lower quality (i.e. less politically experienced) than Democratic challengers. Three points:
Democrats win more Congressional races than Republicans do. As the previous section shows, this is partly because Democrats field better candidates than Republicans do. But Jacobson also takes time to dismiss other arguments about why Democrats might fare better than Republicans:
Divided government occurs because voters have conflicting ideas about the two parties. These conflicting ideas lead them to prefer having Democrats in Congress but Republicans in the White House.
The logic is straightforward. Voters want budget cuts, but they don't want the cuts to affect their favorite government programs. Thus, they elect Republicans to the White House; the Republican reputation for fiscal conservatism means that GOP presidents can push national policy toward austerity. But voters simultaneously elect Democrats to the Congress; since Congress is in charge of the district's narrow interests, this helps ensure that the district's favorite programs won't be hurt by budget cuts.
Thus, voters want divided government, as it suits their actual policy preferences.
"A Democratic Presidency is also the only scenario offering Republicans much hope of making substantial gains, let alone winning majorities, in Congress during the remainder of the century."
But does this prediction entail the possibility of divided government between a Democratic President and a Republican Congress, as happened in 1994
Research by the same authors
Research on similar subjects