Visual Guide: The Balance Of Power Between Congress and The Presidency (1945-2016)

Which party controls Congress? Which, the White House? The answer reveals the “balance of power” in the two branches of government that have elected officials (Congress and the White House).

Americans seem to prefer that the checks-and-balances envisioned by the founders be facilitated by having different parties control Congress and the White House.

Contrary to popular belief, most of the time (in modern political history) Congress and the President are at odds; that is, most of the time the same political party does not control the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

Only 13 times (26 years) since 1945 have both branches of Congress and the Presidency been controlled by the same party; the Democrats have held this advantage more often than Republicans (11 to 2).

Congress has usually been controlled by the same party with the “odd man out” being, literally, the President.

Since 1945, the House and Senate have been controlled by different parties only seven times (14 years). However, three of those have been since the 2000 elections, which makes this “seem” more normal to us than it is, historically. And there have been only two complete turn-overs of Congress since 1949: one in 1995 and the other in 2007.

The average age of members of the current (114th) Congress is slightly younger than in recent history:

  • 114th Congress (2015-2016): 57.0 years for Representatives and 61.0 years for Senators
  • 111th Congress (2009-2010): 57.2 years for Representatives and 63.1 years for Senators

U.S. Representatives must be at least 25 years old when they assume office (January following the November even-year election). Senators must be at least 30 years old. (CRS report)

Updated: 20 October 2016

Year Congress President Senate (100) House (435)
2015 114th D R: 54 R: 247*****
2013 113th D D: 52-46-2 R: 232-200 ****
2011 112th D D: 56-42-2 R: 241-193
2009 – Obama 111th D D – 57*** D – 256
2007 110th R D – 49** D – 233
2005 109th R R – 55 R – 232
2003 108th R R – 51 R – 229
2001 – Bush 107th R D* R – 221
1999 106th D R – 55 R – 223
1997 105th D R – 55 R – 228
1995 104th D R – 52 R – 230
1993 – Clinton 103rd D D – 57 D – 258
1991 102nd R D – 56 D – 267
1989 – Bush 101st R D – 55 D – 260
1987 100th R D – 55 D – 258
1985 99th R R – 53 D – 253
1983 98th R R – 54 D – 269
1981 – Reagan 97th R R – 53 D – 242
1979 96th D D – 58 D – 277
1977 – Carter 95th D D – 61 D – 292
1975 94th R D – 60 D -291
1973 93rd R D – 56 D – 242
1971 92nd R D – 54 D – 255
1969 – Nixon 91st R D – 57 D – 243
1967 90th D D – 64 D – 247
1965 89th D D – 68 D – 295
1963 – Johnson 88th D D – 66 D – 259
1961 – JFK 87th D D – 64 D – 263
1959 86th R D – 65 D -283
1957 85th R D – 49 D – 232
1955 84th R D – 48 D – 232
1953 – Eisenhower 83rd R R – 48 D – 221
1951 82nd D D – 49 D – 235
1949 81st D D – 54 D – 263
1947 80th D R – 51 R – 246
1945 – Truman 79th D D – 57 D – 242

Yellow years mark Presidential inauguration.

Senate, House, Janda

* There were 50 Ds and 50 Rs until May 24, 2001, when Sen. James Jeffords (R-VT) switched to Independent status, effective June 6, 2001; he announced that he would caucus with the Democrats, giving the Democrats a one-seat advantage.

** Two Independents (Lieberman-CT and Sanders-VT). Lieberman was reelected in 2006 as an independent candidate and became an Independent Democrat;  Sanders was elected in 2006 as an Independent.

*** Two Independents (Lieberman-CT and Sanders-VT);  Arlen Specter (PA) was reelected in 2004 as a  Republican and became a Democrat on April 30, 2009.

**** House data (3 vacancies); Senate independents caucus with Democrats

*****As of October 20, 2016, there was one vacancy (only 434 members)

RELATED: Visual Guide : The President v the Senate (Confirmed Nominations)



I created this table (and introductory narrative) while I was the US Politics guide at I left that position in March 2009.








37 thoughts on “Visual Guide: The Balance Of Power Between Congress and The Presidency (1945-2016)

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Craig Ricks

    August 4, 2016 at 11:12am

    Why did you stop at 1945? I would have gone back to at least 1933 when “Social Justice” really began. Then you would have a much more lopsided chart. In my humble opinion Republicans have had very little opportunity to actually affect policy to any great degree since 1933 and the birth of modern Progressivism.

    • Kathy E Gill (@kegill)

      August 4, 2016 at 5:27pm

      Hi, Craig – I don’t remember. :-)
      I’m guessing it had to do with ease of finding the info back when this was originally built, more than 10 years ago.

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Jerry Verlinger

    February 14, 2016 at 12:00pm

    @Old Fogey. Are you now or were you ever a member of the Newsvine subsidiary of NBC News? I recall knowing someone that went by that user name when I was more active on that site. As a matter of fact he was on my “Friends List” until they abolished them.

    • Kathy E. Gill

      February 14, 2016 at 1:51pm

      That be me, Jerry. How the heck are you??

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Jerry Verlinger

    February 14, 2016 at 11:50am

    The “chart” you designed for this presentation is very confusing and difficult to follow or understand. I was trying to find out who had control of the Senate during the last year of Reagan and Eisenhowers’ last year in office, but I had to go elsewhere. .

    • Kathy E. Gill

      February 14, 2016 at 7:50pm

      Hi, Jerry — I’m sorry! Can you please share the link for a visualization that worked better for you?

      Here’s the “line” on this chart for the session of Congress (two years) during Reagan’s last year in office:

      When it was built — 10-12 years ago, this table format was all we had as an option. I’ve not fiddled with its presentation, just try to remember to keep adding each new Congress. Which I don’t always remember to do!

    • Kathy E. Gill

      September 6, 2015 at 4:21pm

      Hello, Peter — I have not “characterized” the parties.

      This chart documents the balance of power between the two houses of Congress and the White House. It does not attempt – in any shape/form/or/fashion – to characterize political party ideology.

      And the ideology has certainly changed over time. Today’s Republican Party bears little resemblance to the Party of Lincoln, for example. For example:

      During the 1860s, Republicans, who dominated northern states, orchestrated an ambitious expansion of federal power, helping to fund the transcontinental railroad, the state university system and the settlement of the West by homesteaders, and instating a national currency and protective tariff. Democrats, who dominated the South, opposed these measures. After the Civil War, Republicans passed laws that granted protections for African Americans and advanced social justice; again, Democrats largely opposed these expansions of power.

      Not surprisingly, the overlap of the region known as the Confederate States of America and modern electoral college votes is quite telling.

      This Washington Post analysis from 2012 shows the Republican Party shift from “moderate” to “conservative” orientation — much (most?) can be traced to Reagan’s influence:

      Finally, your links (above) are to the same page, the Republican Party Platform of 1960.

      This is the Democratic Party Platform of 1960:

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    October 17, 2012 at 6:21am

    Great and informative chart. Thanks. Shouldn’t the complete turnover of congress dates be 1995 and 2007?

    • mattrich731

      August 15, 2015 at 10:19pm

      No its correct, 2010(11) was the year the Repubs won back the house and thats what the chart says. I think its accurate :)

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    September 30, 2012 at 8:40am

    it would be interesting to add a column highlighting major events/laws/act/bills passed by year to get a picture of how the relationship between these government positions shapes our nation.

    • mattrich731

      August 15, 2015 at 10:20pm

      I think that would be an amazing idea! It could give the average voter something to take into account!

    • Kathy E. Gill

      September 6, 2015 at 4:22pm

      Thanks, Sarah – very good idea.

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Name witheld by request

    July 29, 2012 at 7:14am

    Lee Bacott’s comment “the overwhelming cover of “blue” areas indicate how the left has dominated and failed the people, and where our rights have been undermined”, gives me pause. Are you wealthy? If not, you should consider examining who has proposed the majority of legislation eroding the rights and financial stability of the poor and middle class. If you really investigate objectively, I think you’ll be surprised at what you find. Both parties are equally to blame. All of the headline worthy topics; guns, abortion, social security… are just devices used to distract the public from seeing the larger picture. These people are legislating for their own gain. They want to maintain wealth and power, nothing more, nothing less. How “We the people…” fare is not their concern.

    • mattrich731

      August 15, 2015 at 10:24pm

      you realize before LBJ the parties were switched and democrats of those days believe in similar things Republicans do now and vice versa, so yeah just wanted to make sure you have all your facts straight :)

  7. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    June 26, 2012 at 3:14am

    It would be helpful if you listed the President’s name beside each term. My memory can’t associate them.
    — Old Fogey

    • Kathy E. Gill

      September 6, 2015 at 4:25pm

      I don’t remember when, but I did make this addition. :-)

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Lee Bacott

    March 3, 2012 at 9:22pm

    this is a nice visual chart that shows just how we got to this point in our nations history…the overwhelming cover of “blue” areas indicate how the left has dominated and failed the people, and where our rights have been undermined….enjoy!

    • Kathy E. Gill

      September 6, 2015 at 4:23pm

      As others have pointed out — as I just did — the policy positions of the parties have flipped in my lifetime.

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 4, 2011 at 12:20pm

    thanks for this chart, needed it for an argument with my Aunt! :-)

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