WASHINGTON (CNN) – Call it the overlooked election. An intense battle is going on right now for control of Congress, but it's overshadowed in the media by a historic race for the White House.
So which party has the upper hand in the fight for Capitol Hill?
The answer, according to a new national poll, appears to be the Democrats. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Tuesday, 56 percent of those questioned are backing the Democratic candidate for Congress, while 42 percent support the Republicans.
That's a change from immediately after the GOP convention, when the Democrats had only a 3-point lead lead over the Republicans, 49 percent to 46 percent.
"The change may simply be due to the convention bounce fading for local Republicans," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "We've seen evidence that the bounce for John McCain and Sarah Palin was not a permanent change in the horse race. Since the Dems have had a double-digit lead in the so-called 'generic ballot' question throughout the year, it's possible that the current numbers are just reverting back to normal levels for 2008."
The "generic ballot" question asked voters to choose between an unnamed Democratic candidate versus an unnamed Republican in the House race in their district. In reality, people vote for specific candidates in the 435 separate district elections for the House of Representatives.
The poll also indicates that most people don't think Congress is doing a good job at all. Only 22 percent approve of how Congress is handling its job, with 78 percent disapproving. The Democrats who currently control both houses of Congress fare better. Forty-four percent of those polled approve of how Democratic congressional leaders are doing their job, up 8 percentage points from July. Fifty-four percent of those polled disapprove.
The Democrats currently control 235 seats in the House to the Republicans 199, with one seat vacant. The Senate is split 49 to 49, with two independents. But both of those independent senators caucus with the Democrats, giving the party the majority in the Senate.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll was taken Friday through sunday, with 1,020 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The poll's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall sample, and plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for the questions on how Congress and its leaders are
handling their jobs.