November 3rd, 2009
03:59 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: Americans divided in battle for Congress

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicates that Americans are divided over whether they'd vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in their district.
A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicates that Americans are divided over whether they'd vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in their district.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – With a year to go before midterm congressional elections, a new national poll indicates that Americans are divided over whether they'd vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in their district.

Fifty percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday say they would vote for the Democratic candidate if the election for the House of Represenatives were held today, with 44 percent saying they'd back the Republican candidate. Five percent say they'd vote for neither major party candidate and 2 percent are undecided.

The 6-point advantage for the Democrats is at the edge of the poll's sampling error.

Other organizations' surveys conducted over the past two months also suggest a division among Americans when it comes to the generic ballot question, which asks a respondent if they would vote for a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district, without naming any specific candidates.

Next November, all 435 seats in the House and more than a third of the Senate seats are up for grabs. Democrats currently hold a 79-seat margin in the House of Representatives, with two seats vacant, and a 20 seat margin in the Senate.


According to the poll, Americans are also divided on whether they have made up their minds regarding the 2010 midterm contests, with 49 percent saying their minds are made up and 45 percent saying they could change their choice.

The survey also indicates that 46 percent of Republicans say they're enthusiastic about voting next year, with 39 percent of Democrats saying they're energized.

"When Democratic and Republican candidates for U.S. House square of a year from now, they may face a very different electorate than the one that put Barack Obama in power a year ago," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "In 2008, Democratic voters were generally more enthusiastic about voting than Republicans; now it's the GOP's turn to benefit from an enthusiasm gap."

But President Barack Obama, unlike Bill Clinton in 1994, currently appears to give Democratic candidates an advantage: The survey suggests that most registered voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who supports Obama. Four in 10 are say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes Obama.

"Historically, these tea leaves are very hard to read," adds Holland. Democrats and Republicans had virtually the same numbers a year before the 1994 midterm elections that put the GOP in power, he says, but the two parties also had roughly the same strength a year before the 2006 midterms that put the Democrats back in the saddle on Capitol Hill. "Add to that the fact that nearly half of all voters say they could change their minds between now and election day, 2010, and it's clear that any prediction would be futile," says Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted October 30-November 1, with 952 registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Full results (pdf)

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: CNN poll • Congress
soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. TCM

    what propaganda for the liberal party...on the day of a pivotal race. The dems will be crushed out of congress in 2010...why? Because of their own doing! Calling 952 registered democrats to get their opinions is merely another pathetic ploy by the "CNN Research (?) Corp....

    November 3, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  2. KAREN

    What does this poll even prove? Compare this to last year and Republicans are making there way back. Thats how I see it.
    Don't worry CNN there will be clear choices by 2010.

    November 3, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  3. William

    Whats best for America is never allowing any party to have an unvoidable majority. Things get passed on whims of the majority with out the voice or reason from the other side.

    November 3, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  4. Matthew

    After seeing what damage a Donkey-led Congress can do in a short 3 years, I'll stick to voting for the best candidate.

    Anyone that votes based primarily on political party deserves the bad leaders they get.

    November 3, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    Democrats will prevail in 2010 because all the Republicans have to offer are failed policies and obstruction.

    The majority of Americans (65%) want a public option – Republicans are against it.

    It's this kind of "Party Before Country" mentality that has made the Republican Party a sham – and why people are leaving the GOP in droves!

    November 3, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  6. vette gal

    It should never be a party vote. It should be a vote based on the merits of the candidate. With that said, however, I truly believe it would be in our best interests if the house and senate both had term limits of say 8 years. Since that will probably never occur, we should systematically vote out incumbents after they've been in office for 8 years. That way people that run for office will not be in it for themselves but for the betterment of our country unlike the way it is now. Most politicians are in it for all the perks and freebies they get from lobbyists and obviously could care less about the general populace and are out of touch with the average american's problems because they've been in office way too long!

    November 3, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  7. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    If the story about the Republicans walking out of the Committee meeting after Barbara Boxer ( a known and committed liberal liar) promised that there would be EPA representatives there to answer their questions and then failed to follow through is correct, and if you look at the number of libitards who blasted them for walking out, without reading the full story, then it should be an absolutely rosy year for republicans. The problem will be (as usual) getting their message out through a media controlled by liberals, that have no compuction about lying, cheating and theft (the definition of a liberal).

    November 3, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  8. too bad the republiklans lack ideas

    split the house 55% to 44% and the democrats are still in majority...so the tea baggers vitriol and all the hate mongering by the GOP is NOT working! haha!!

    November 3, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  9. They call me "tater salad"

    You can put me in that 5% that wouldn't vote for either party!!!!

    November 3, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  10. Pete East

    Honestly it is too early to tell.

    November 3, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  11. seebofubar

    2010 will see the political winds change direction faster than they ever have before. All due to the fact that we have the worst president since Carter. No president in 20 years has had an approval rating drop faster than Obama's. Unfortunatly we have elected a little boy to do a man's job.

    November 3, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  12. Lou - Manchester, CT

    One must vote for the candidates one believes in. One must keep this in mind, however. How realistic is the expectation of economic recovery in less than 1 year when there has been 8 years of economic disaster.

    It will be a long, slow, painful process.

    We have to stay the current course or we will back in the same quagmire that got us to where we are today.

    November 3, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. G SMITH

    I am proud to be a Republican, I wouldn't lower myself to be a hateful, raciist blame everyone Democrat. Big win in 2010 and 2012 for Republicans. HELP is on the way.

    November 3, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. Mojo

    The Democrats and Obama, are about to pass a health bill totaling 1.2 trillion dollars over 10 years, including many giveaways to the insurance/drug industry.

    The Republicans and Bush, when in power, passed a 1.2 trillion dollar health care bill over 10 years (that we're paying for now btw, 2006-2015).

    It never ends...

    November 3, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  15. www.twitter.com/whybs

    Unless the GOP shows a GOOD NEW Leader, there is no way a sane mind can / will vote for Republicans!!!

    I will not.

    Let's face it – don't fool around with this moderates/conservatives etc, if it is is Rush Limbaugh , then it is him ... let us vote for him.

    All this government , the spending etc etc is all JUST a theory that needs to be followed. What did you mudhapakkah's do when you crashed the economy – gave BILLIONS to corporates and Pakistan and the like WITH NO conditions / terms!!!! UGLY ARSEHOLES...

    Atleast it is good to see another idiot who gives the SAME billions but asks for governance, accountability, responsibility ....

    November 3, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. John D.

    Are there any other people other than the same people writing the same crap over and over again in here. You people need to do something like maybe get a job. Oh wait, thats why you are called LIBERALS. THAT IS YOUR WHOLE MINUTE MENTALITY. I can poll a bunch of liberals and get the same results. Get a job.

    November 3, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  17. DaveM

    After 8 plus years of disastrous Republican rule, I don't think this country can AFFORD to have Republicans in charge again. We've only just began to recover from the economic debacle that marks the Bush legacy. And, while Republicans tout fiscal responsibility, the simple fact is that they don't know the definition of the term. Putting Republicans back in charge would be the final nail in our economy and we could watch this country bow to the emerging superpowers.

    November 3, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  18. E

    Candidates are supposed to represent their constituents, NOT their national party. This pathetic party of no is the one refusing to follow even the most basic principles of Democracy. They spout lies about personal freedom while working every day to take away women's healthcare choices. Pathetic.

    November 3, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  19. Bren

    Republicans and the majority of Independents will be going to the polls like never before in 2010 and 2012---to vote out Obama, Pelosi, and Reid policies-- and the direction that they are taking our economy and country.

    The Democrats are going to get clobbered in 2010 and 2012.

    November 3, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  20. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    If at all possible I would vote for none of the above. Both of the major parties are owned by the special interests, lobbyists, unions, Wall Street, Banking and PACs. Neither party wants to follow the constitution they only want to do is line their pockets with gifts, vacations and money and look out for themselves.
    If this is NOT true then prove it and make campaign contributions legal for individuals only within the current guide lines, along with no money coming from outside the district the representative is running to represent.

    November 3, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  21. CG

    Unless the GOP can learn that the emerging radical conservative views do not readily appeal to moderates and some of the independent voters, the party will continue to remain in the wilderness.

    Tim Pawlenty should understand this message, it has been the moderate voter that has kept him elected in the heavily Democratic Minnesota.

    November 3, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  22. obummer, 1 and done

    obummer will add more to the deficit than all presidents combined before him.

    For 6 of the 8 years we prospered under republican rule. Only after the democrats took control of congress did the economy tank. Thanks to democratic thinking, banks crashed, (clintons doing with fannie mae), and led to what we now see. Anytime govenrnment gets involved, things go south.

    so I guess the question is do you want more government control of your life, then vote democratic. If you believe in yourself and want less government control of your life, vote republican.

    November 3, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  23. I am like a God to You and My Name is Rush

    In a related development, over 80 per cent of people interviewed said
    that generic congressional polling a year from an election is worth squat.

    November 3, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  24. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    Not bad numbers.

    50% would vote for a Dem and 44 for a repub.

    The 2008 numbers were 53 for President Obama to 46 and what's his name..

    Dems drop 3, repubs down 2. Basically both parties are keeping the folks that voted for them in '08 happy.

    Still no worries, 2010 or 2012 for the Dems regardless of what the neo-cons so loudly proclaim to the contrary.

    Although, I do personally encourage the far-right to keep up the routing of all the RINO's out of the republican party.

    November 3, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. single mom

    CNN says the Republicans are divided vis-a-vis the race in NY's 23rd. I would say, given the events of the past ten months since Obama's inauguration, that the Democrats are also facing divisions within their own party. Or have they forgotten about the town-hall meetings and moderate Democrats resisting outside pressure to vote for Pelosi and Reed's bills?

    The extremes have taken over the two primary parties. Time for Americans to first retake their parties or create newer, more moderate ones. And it looks like it has started.

    November 3, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
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