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. James Michael Roberson

    It i s a shame that actions taken by a government cannot cause change the instant they are made. It just does not happen that way. Actions like what the Democrats are trying to do now will not have any results until far into the future, just as the policies of the republicans are now affecting us in the form of a depressed economy and high unemployment and never ending wars. We need to keep the Democrats in control of our government so that they can guide us back to prosperity and growth. I hope the majority of the electorate see this and vote accordingly

    November 3, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  2. Billy J..Texas..

    I typically hold my nose and vote for the Democrat in most races (not all). But to be honest, if both parties were on fire today, neither would be worth spitting on, to put it out.

    The majority of Democrats and Republicans have proven to be completely clueless, spineless and without a smidgen of loyalty to the country or it's regular citizenry. Take the wall street bailouts, war profiteering, and cowtowing to health insurance interests as prime examples of their disregard for the facts, the solutions, or the people.

    God Bless wackos like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, at least they pay attention (even if their answers ARE too far off the reservation for most of us)

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

    Congress will be a much better place with less libs in it. And the country will be much, much better off.

    And no ThinkAgain, a majority of Americans DO NOT want a public option. A bunch of idiots maybe, but not a bunch of Americans.

    November 3, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. Jobless Recovery

    Both poltical parties are awful. Both parties do not care about them. Incumbents must be voted out until we get a congress that:
    - Returns power to the states
    - Commits to cutting the deficit
    - NO MORE BAILOUTS
    This won't happen, because all the parties want is power.

    November 3, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  5. Right Leaning Independent

    I am voting for the Conservative candidate in my state! We can not afford more big spending Liberals in Washington!! They are spending us to death...

    November 3, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. Gerry

    As a independent I am going to look very careful at the incumbent. I am ready to vote against all of them no matter what party they are. Nothing is getting done correctly to fix the mess we are in. You can blame Bush all you want but if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

    November 3, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  7. Facts are facts

    GOPs on this page show their usual "strategy" - if the facts don't say what you want, whine about bias rather than acknowledging & dealing with your own shortcomings. That's why we Dems are going to win in 2010 & 2012. Get used to it elephants.

    November 3, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  8. CRob

    This poll shows everything wrong. We continually complain that we can stand the party politics, but then we get polls like this in which people blindly state they will vote for a party. Whatever happened to voting for the most qualified person? The farther and farther we go down the line of party politics and away from the true people, we only lose ourselves. I tend to vote Republicans, but that doesnt mean any of them have my guaranteed vote, especially when I dont even know whos running yet.

    November 3, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. http://twitter.com/whybs

    Ideology supplants bipartisanship!

    Why do you you think Mitt Romney got 90% of the votes in the Utah primary?

    The GOP has been complaining about the health care reform (lengthy, socialist, etc.)! Where is their bill/proposal?

    The GOP are thugs! We need to sock it to them hard.

    – from someone who voted for Reagan & I'm not black

    November 3, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  10. jay

    50% + 44% + 5% + 2% = 101%

    hmmmm....

    November 3, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. Wake Up

    Less debt, more local power, and no more ridiculous government spending programs. No more bailouts.
    Congress should have to read the constitution once per week to understand what their goals are.

    November 3, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. Sam Bass

    I will vote Republican, because the agenda of Democrats is of a more Socialistic nature, to much entitlement, and spend it all..
    Republican...

    November 3, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. Lola

    A Democratic president is best when coupled with a conservative/republican Congress (Clinton, for example). But any President, especially a Republican will be a disaster under a liberal/democrat Congress (Bush II). Clinton was smart and made all the rigth moves especially with regards to the economy because he learned to work with the conservatives and together were able to pass legislation which helped the economy. Now, if the American people have common sense, they will vote out the democrats in Congress the next 2 election cycles. This folks, will force Obama to work with the conservatives instead of trying to advance his leftist agenda....get rid of the likes of Pelosi and Reid and America will be great again! I didn't vote for Obama but I'm still hopeful that he will do the right thing. The key here is to govern from the center as Clinton did and he'll be fine.

    November 3, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  14. Zago

    CNN needs to review its calculations. The math does not add up (50 dem + 44% rep +5% neither+2% undecided=101% which means fraud. Are we in Aghanistan?

    November 3, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  15. NC

    I used to be a moderate republican, I am now an Independent. The disgusting way the republicans have acted since President Obama took office is not acceptable. I would not get out of the Electric Chair to vote for any republican.

    November 3, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  16. demsrulz

    What have republicans ever given to the middle class?

    November 3, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  17. Laura, Boston MA

    I think the Dems should keep the Senate but lose the house...why? Because with them in complete power nothing is getting done. This would force them and the white house to work with both political parties not just his own.

    Then maybe the POTUS will get some of his promises fulfilled.

    November 3, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  18. Brian from NJ

    It's all about jobs... and the way things are going, that is very bad news for the Democrats. They assigned blame to the other party and said they would fix it by spending $800B... promised to keep unemployment at 8%... didn't happen and most Americans see that only as a failure. The American voter no longer shows patience of any kind and Obama and the Dems did not deliver this year, and it doesn't look like they will next year either... unless they just make stuff up like the stimulus created or saved 650K jobs so far... unless a miracle happens between now and next Nov, the Democrats are going to take a major beating and Obama will need to hire Republicans to fix the mess, just like when Clinton brought in Dick Morris and David Gergen.

    November 3, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. Steve D

    I really can't see why people love Republicans! Must have short memories. Republicans continue to believe in unregulated capitalism...in short, they favor "rich getting richer". And the worse thing that results from that is EXACTLY what we face now, and that we've faced so many times before...Recession/Depression. I don't mind capitalism, but it's the "unregulated" part that is the problem. They love money more than this country...

    November 3, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  20. ICARE

    Republican does not stand for less government control. It stands for letting the rich spoil brats run around. IT allows the SCROOGES to have anything they want in America without oversights.

    Less government is a corrupt government (we saw that for the past 8 years)

    More government is insane..

    What we need is a smart common sense government that knows when to regulate and when to allow for free enterprise.

    November 3, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. CG

    It is time to vote all of them out. Let's start by in-acting strict campaign finance reform to eliminate the corporate and special interests from owning the debate and the policy that destroys the democratic process in this country. Neither party is well suited to hold a strong voice in our country and is only interested who's handing them the money.

    November 3, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  22. charlie in Maine

    The Democrats fate is in their own hands. If they pass meaningful healthcare reform they will have generational majority like they did when the idiot Republicans of the day voted against Social Security. If they squabble amonst themselves and don't get it passed they will be out quiocker than you can say "Contract on America". Believe me Dems nothing would make the GOP happier than your failure to act. Put the thing out to the floor and dare them to fillibuster it. Show some backbone. As Ben Frankilin said "We must hang together or most assuradly we shall hang seperately"

    November 3, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. John Tiller in Dallas Texas

    What get me is that it took the Republicans 8 years to screw us. Not even a year after a new President has taken over people want what was "promised" to them.

    Helllo Rome wasn't built in a day. Do people think you just wake up and the World changes. How stupid are people?

    November 3, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  24. shmeckel

    50%, 44%, 5%, and 2%. They managed to survey 101% of the participants, that is a pretty good turn out.

    November 3, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  25. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    If you are a rich spoiled brat join the Republican Party and you will be in the 1% of the rich. But if you are poor, they have made it clear they don't want anything from you but your vote and from there make it on your own, it's not their fault you are poor.

    November 3, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
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