WASHINGTON (CNN) - The 111th Congress is just a few weeks old, but both parties are already planning their fight for the 112th — and a new national poll suggests Democrats may have the upper hand.
Forty-six percent of those questioned in a Diageo/Hotline survey released Wednesday say they would support the generic Democrat in the 2010 elections for the House of Representatives, with 22 percent backing the generic Republican candidate. That's a 24 point lead for Democratic congressional candidates in the so called "generic ballot" question, which asks voters their preference for the U.S. House without naming the candidates running in each district.
These results are in line with a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted two weeks ago that found that 56 percent of those questioned think the country would be better off if Congress was controlled by Democrats. That 25 points higher than the 31 percent who said the nation would be better off if Republicans controlled Congress.
"The GOP hasn't met with much success in the last two election cycles, so it's not surprising that the Democrats start off the new Congress with an advantage," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Historically, however, the president's party loses seats in the House in the midterm election, so the question for the Democrats is whether they can buck that trend and hold onto the edge they currently have."
Forty-nine percent of those questioned in the Diageo/Hotline survey approve of how the Democrats in Congress are performing, with 38 percent disapproving. As for the GOP minority: Disapproval jumps to 62 percent, with 26 percent approving of how congressional Republicans are handling their jobs.
The Democrats currently hold a 255 to 178 advantage in the House, with two seats the Democrats won in November now vacant. The party also holds a 58 to 41 advantage in the Senate, with the Minnesota race still unresolved.
The Diageo/Hotline poll was conducted January 21-24, with 800 people questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.