January 15th, 2010
07:05 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: Big dip in enthusiasm among Democratic voters

Washington (CNN) - Democrats face a growing enthusiasm gap in this year's battle for Congress, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday also indicates Americans are split in their choice for Congress in November's midterm elections, with Republicans making gains at the Democrats' expense.

Forty-nine percent of Republicans questioned in the poll say they're extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this year, up 6 points from November. Thirty-one percent of Democrats say they're enthusiastic, down 11 points.

"Democrats face a huge 'enthusiasm gap,' and that gap is growing," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But the poll indicates that roughly half of all registered voters may change their minds between now and Election Day, so there is plenty of time for the playing field to change."


According to the survey, 48 percent of registered voters say they would vote for the Republican candidate for Congress, with 45 percent saying they'd back the Democrat. The 3-point edge for the GOP is within the poll's sampling error - but it's a switch from November, when the Democrats held a 50 to 44 percent advantage. The generic ballot question asked respondents if they would vote for a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district, without naming any specific candidates.

"That 3-point difference doesn't sound too bad for the Democrats, but the party's numbers are boosted by high levels of support in districts that the GOP has no chance of winning this year," says Holland. "In safe Democratic districts, the Dems have a 21-point advantage over the GOP."

The poll paints a different picture in more competitive districts, those where the incumbent won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2008. In those districts, the poll indicates Democrats are currently facing a 27-point deficit, with 59 percent of registered voters in the competitive districts now saying they would vote for the Republican candidate for U.S. House if the election were held tomorrow, and only 32 percent that they would choose the Democratic candidate.

"That suggests big losses for the Democrats this November. But keep in mind that there is a lot of white noise in the data, because it is almost impossible to accurately model individual House districts," adds Holland.

The poll indicates that 2010 is shaping up to be a bad year for incumbents regardless of party. Just a third of all Americans say they would prefer to vote for an incumbent this year than a challenger, with 46 percent saying they would rather vote for the challenger and one in five adding that it makes no difference.

"Those numbers are roughly the same as they were at the start of 1994, when the Democrats lost control of the House. Challengers are seen as more honest than incumbents, more likely to bring change, and more likely to represent the views of the voters," says Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted January 8-10, with 1,021 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Democrats currently hold a 256-178 advantage in the House of Representatives, with one seat formerly held by the Democrats vacant. The GOP needs to win back 40 House seats in November to regain control of the chamber.

Full results (pdf)

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: 2010 • CNN poll • Popular Posts
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Peter s

    Even though this Government has been in power for only a year! how can you be enthusiastic! when you are hopeless, jobless, and bill to pay every month?. The only people who should be enthusiastic are from the far left!! at least this government has been listening to them! Independents and conservative democrates are mad with the establishment period!. Even though I hate loosing!!! a loss in massachusetts will be an indicator of political tsunami in 2010 and 2012 and it will be Sayonara for the democrates!!

    January 15, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  2. Daniel Sacramento

    If they don't vote they get what they disserve.

    January 15, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  3. Michael from Ventura

    THIS Democratic Party activist has all the enthusiasm in the world. I lived under gwb and am not will to EVER go back to that nonsense. I love my country too much. The Democratic Party is the one that REALLY puts country first- because we care more about the American people than the corporations and banks that have raped the Middle Class for far too long!
    Palin, Newt, Romney, Limbaugh, Cheney, Steele, McConnell, Camtor, etc have NOTHING to offert except going backwards.

    January 15, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  4. Matt from UT

    The gap is growing because the Obama administration turned out to be worse than the Bush administration. And Obama turned out to be worse than the man they spent all their time hating.

    Obama has gone back on his promises of bi-partisanship, transparency, a new Washington,... and is spending this country into oblivion. He's also not a moderate as most supposed. Luckily, he still has radical support.

    January 15, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  5. marcus (seattle)

    dem's enthusiasm dips ?? lol.. the entire country's enthusiasm has dipped... this country has spent decades digging itself into this mess, fiscally and internationally... W passed off to Obama the worst condition this country has been in since the Depression.. these problems aren't going to be solved in 10 months.. hold on tight, it's gonna be a bumpy ride, for a LONG time..

    January 15, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. Taxed to death

    What is the difference between Obama and Carter? Carter had a chance at a second term......

    January 15, 2010 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  7. Mark

    They are starting to realize how many lies obama told them and are now seeing how dirty mob style politics works.

    January 15, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. Bxgrrl

    All these threats against the Democrats are senseless – you'll go back to what? the Republicans who are the ones who REALLY ruined this country?

    January 15, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  9. David Smith

    Come on, Democrats. If the political process was worth getting excited about a year ago, it's even more worth getting excited about now. Let's show a little backbone and build on the gains we've made, not cave in to people who think health care is a Nazi plot.

    January 15, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  10. donewithit

    Hope brown wins. Always have voted democrat till 08. Have changed my party from dem to independent on my voter registration card because of what these idiots in washington are trying to do to this country. This deal with the unions is outright corruption, just as not trying to get the taxpayer money back from GM and Chrysler because the unions own so much of these companies now is corruption.But they will tax the banks who did not even take any of the bail out money to try to get more money to give away..Something very wrong with this picture. Can you spell Puppets?

    January 15, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  11. Vote them out.

    Please take away the super majority, no democratic nation should have only one side pushing legislation. It is the path to tyranny. If I was a democrat I would vote republican if it was a close race in my state just to upset this blatant imbalance.

    I have said this before, but the Bush Administration is not responsible for the current economic predicament. It was Greenspan that pushed the derivatives during the Clinton administration. End the Fed, thats where your problem is. That entity is running your country into the ground because it has no oversight and is privately owned by the elite.

    Good luck America, I think a revolution is coming; I hope you end up with a strong constitutional foundation again.

    January 15, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  12. sara

    I'm a Democrat, and my neighborhoods and co-workers.....WE WILL vote also. We understand that Change doesn't happen over night, and We know Why the Country is in this Fix......get the Mops. I not LESS inenthusiastic as I WAS Last November. America better Wake Up

    January 15, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  13. DOBBS RETURNS

    It looks as if all Obama cares about is politics, not we the people.
    I can't believe he's still calling for tax increases! This is what happens
    when you spend too much time in the Beltway.

    January 15, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  14. Mr. Moderate

    By next fall, the health care hysteria will have died down and the economy will be growing again (just part of the natural cycle). We'll see how these numbers look then.

    January 15, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. Mr Joshua

    What do you expect? Hope and Change turned into fear and anxeity.

    January 15, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  16. manny

    so long as dems leaders refuse to rally the base by attacking repubs at every turn, investigating, humiliating and demonizing repubs for the last 8yrs, like repubs are doing and will surely do were they to get power. nobody, i mean nobody should ask me to vote or donate to dems again.
    we don't even see our DNC chairman, he is MIA, this shows how tone deaf they are. they only listen to cons needs and cries while the base are left with speeches and nothing to entertain us.
    cons are easy to move by hate and fear but dems don't have hateful fearmongers like cons.
    investigate, expose, humiliate and demonize repubs and the base will come back to life just like repubs are doing now.
    why are dems leaders being academic with attacking repubs?

    January 15, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  17. Rick McDaniel

    When the results aren't forthcoming, then it's time to change leadership.

    January 15, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  18. Jill-IN

    I am not sure who they connect with when doing these polls. I work with many people in a large workplace and have have many relatives and good neighbors and we are all asking the same question – WHO gets called in these polls? No one we know. We will not forget the recent Republican years that led us to an unncessary Iraq war and unregulated Wall Street that nearly led to world wide depression. Why would anyone vote to go backward to that!

    January 15, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  19. Jill-IN

    By the way, we are all VOTING, and we are Democrat!

    January 15, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. cjr

    all I can tell you is that I will never vote for any republican – no matter what.! the republican party is full of racists and has no interest in making this country a better place to live. Look what GWB did to this country – chaney et. all. the mess his admdinistration left us in. bush cheney and others should be tried as war criminals. the party of lincoln is dead!

    January 15, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  21. Dennis

    The democrats blew their chance with this RADICAL redistribution of wealth that they are trying to ram through with everything they do. Like it or not people like their money and do not want to hand it out to people who refuse to help themselves. Welfare = helping people who vote by stealing from people who work. This does not work. The liberal agenda is frightening to me. I used to donate alot of money to charity but this year that number is a big fat "0". I can see all the new taxes coming from a mile away.

    The other thing for democrats that doesn't help is OBAMA IS A LIAR.

    January 15, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  22. dan

    Yeah, ya' think? U.S. soldiers still murdering people in 2 wars; big corporations still control U.S. energy and environmental policy; minorities still being jailed at an extraordinary rate for crimes whose white-collar version (e.g. burglary and corporate theft) carries a mere wrist-slap; **need I really go on?!?** I wonder why Progressives are a little disheartened these days?????

    January 15, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  23. Vote for GOP based on their ideas, which are.......?????

    Yup, I trust polls, like all of the ones that said McCain and Obama were in a dead heat for the Presidency.

    And then the results came.......

    January 15, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  24. Iowa

    Of the top 100 most educated counties in the U.S., 77 went to Obama/Biden. Of the 100 least educated counties in the U.S., 88 went to McCain/Palin

    January 15, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  25. Joan

    I do not and cannot understand the mentality of the American people.

    The Republican party has done NOTHING this past year and they have NO ideas whatsoever. On top of all that they are the ones who began the mess people found themselves in when the Democrates took hold in 2009.

    The people who are running for election in the Republican party are mainly people who do not seem to have too much common sense and only sit back and make stupid remarks.

    If the people of America end up having the Republican's back in power they deserve what they get.

    January 15, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
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