Washington (CNN) – Anti-incumbent sentiment is as strong as it was in 1994, when the GOP swept the Democrats from power on Capitol Hill, but according to a new national poll, Americans may not be desperate for change in Congress.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday indicates that 47 percent of the public is more likely to vote for a challenger rather than an incumbent running for re-election at the federal, statewide, or local level, with 30 percent saying they are more likely to back the incumbent.
"Anti-incumbent sentiment is as high in 2010 as it was in 1994," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Back then, incumbents faced a 15-point deficit on that question - just about the same as the 17-point gap we see in the current poll."
That spells trouble for the Democrats as they try to hold on to their large majorities in the House and the Senate in the November's midterm elections, since there are more Democratic than Republican incumbents running for re-election.
The survey also suggests that Republican voters are much more enthusiastic about voting this year than Democrats. Fifty-four percent of Republicans questioned in the poll say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for Congress this year, 22 points higher than the enthusiasm voiced by the Democrats surveyed.
Democrats currently hold a 255 to 177 seat advantage in the House, with three seats vacant. They hold 59 to 41 seat majority in the Senate, thanks to two Independent senators who caucus with the Democrats.
The so-called "generic ballot" question shows a dead heat, with 47 percent saying they would vote for a generic Democratic candidate in their Congressional district, and 46 percent supporting a generic Republican candidate.
"This historically has indicated that the GOP will gains seats in the upcoming congressional elections, but that may not translate into the 40-seat pick-up they need," adds Holland.
But the poll does give the Democrats some hope for holding onto their majorities. Twenty-eight percent say the country would be better off if Republicans controlled Congress, with 27 percent saying it would be better if the Democrats continued to run Capitol Hill. A plurality though, 44 percent of those questioned, say it makes no difference.
"The public seems relatively indifferent about which party controls Congress," adds Holland. "In 2006, the Democrats had a 19-point advantage on that question which boosted their chances of winning control on Capitol Hill. Today, however, GOP is essentially tied with the Democrats on that measure, suggesting that voters won't be motivated by the thought of switching parties in 2010."
Republicans have a 12-point advantage among Independents in the generic ballot question, but six in ten Independents say they don't care whether the Democrats or the GOP control Congress next year.
The Republicans are trying to frame the midterm elections as a referendum on President Barack Obama, his record, and his agenda. The poll indicates that Obama's approval rating as president remains steady at 51 percent.
"But Obama appears to be a mixed blessing for his party's chances in November. 43 percent of registered voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who Obama supports, with an equal amount saying they are likely to vote for a candidate who Obama opposes. The same is true of the Tea Party movement, which looks like it turns off just about as many voters as it turns on," says Holland.
-CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report