May 25th, 2010
06:45 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: Anti-incumbent sentiment remains strong

Anti-incumbent sentiment remains strong, but Americans may not be desperate for change in Congress.
Anti-incumbent sentiment remains strong, but Americans may not be desperate for change in Congress.

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.

Full results (pdf)

"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


Filed under: CNN poll • Congress
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. jm for sc

    People needs to vote according to the efforts the candidate has made. This Anti-incumbent spin might make a good media story, but we will be much worse off with a lot of those people who are running. Rand Paul should make a good example of what we don't need in Washington.

    May 25, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    The time to clean up both The House and 1/3 of the Senate is upon us. Don't vote for the party! It is time the people sent a message to Washington DC we reject politics as usual.
    Fire All incumbents!
    Vote Congress out, “you are fired” if they are in. Vote them out this fall no matter what party they belong to, and in the next election and every election going forward until they become the servants of the people once more.
    This November tell Congress "You Are Fired!"

    May 25, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but

    Ya know, for once in my life, just once, I'd like to see our congress critters pass a law that doesn't result in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. All this talk about reform is just that: talk. Healthcare reform? What a joke. Financial reform? Where's Glass Steagall? Where's breaking up the too big to jail corporations? Man, we are royally screwed. And the sad part is that it's going to take a catastrophic collapse of our entire society to get the "real Americans" to realize that they've been voting against their best interest for a very long time. It's not that taxes are too high, morons. They're lower than they've been for 50 years. It's that your wages haven't gone up in 30 years thanks to deregulation-fueled outsourcing and anti-union "right to work" nonsense. Now bend over for your corporate overlords, consumerbots. Have a nice day!

    May 25, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. Eric

    This is yet another "yeah, but" poll from CNN.

    Are you guys not smelling the storm blowing in?

    The lamestream media is going to end up out in the rain and all soaking wet when voters "change the change" in November, and they'll be asking themselves, "whah-happen?"

    Up next, the day immediately following the election-day trouncing the liberals are going to take, expect to see many many stories about how the voters "threw a temper tantrum." They ran these same stories in 1994, too.

    Apparantly, it's a "temper tamtrum" when voters question and ultimately reject liberals and their grand schemes.

    May 25, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  5. stevegee

    The sentiment nationwide is anti-Obama and anti-Democrat. We The People are fed up with their socialist agenda and we're throwing the liberal bums out!

    In November 2010, vote American, vote Republican!

    May 25, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. katiec

    You see, I have a hard time giving creditibility to CNN polls as do not know if their bias for the right shows in the numbers they report. We all realize that some polls are conducted by agencies owned by the far right and cannot be counted on for accuracy.
    There are many incumbents that need to be elected for continuence of survial of our country, but, those who have tried to obstruct everything, have put party, win at any cost over honesty, integrity and honor, continue to support big business over our survival have to be voted out.
    We can no longer let big business run and control our country and must get rid of politicians that practice this concept.

    May 25, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  7. harold

    I wouldn't worry about it... the Democrat policies support Health Insurance Pro Life and Pro family style while all the Republicans can say about it is that it is Socialistic.. Well they even want to run on a program to Repeal it all this health insurnce.... While they keep their own health insurance of ocurse...As for small govenrment ?..... Well maybe small govenrment can solve the Oil spill and the War against the terrorists.... Think so?

    May 25, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  8. Larry

    Out with the bad, in with the good.

    Goodbye career, corrupt politicians.

    May 25, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  9. Victim of GOP Taliban

    I eagerly look to vote my local Republicans out of state and federal offices. Tough being in Republican-land...at least my 2 Senators are Democrat and Obama is President.

    May 25, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Right, now, reconcile the interpretive blather in this article with the poll results you showed last night during prime time, CNN, which said that 45% of the country wants Dems to run Congress and only 40% wants it to be the GOPers. You're getting as bad as the GOP with the "say anything" strategery...with them it's say anything to criticize and with you it's just say anything to create a controversy to sell. Ridiculous.

    May 25, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  11. Dean

    All incumbents shouldbe replaced. They have all shown their ineptness over their entire careers.

    May 25, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. Mike

    No, the only ones who have to fear the elections are those who voted for the health care bill plus any other big spending/take over of the private sector. Representatives who voted conservative have nothing to fear. One Republican has been sent home and that was because he voted for the stimulus against his voters wishes.

    May 25, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  13. CaliforniaBC

    If you're considering voting Republican in this election ask yourself this question and answer it honestly, "What state would the economy be in now if the Republicans were in charge?" Remember to think about their philosophy of low or no government intervention and what the resulting collapse of major companies/industries would have done.

    THINK about those consequences and where we would be now if those collapses occurred then compare that to the recovery we're in now BECAUSE of the government stepping in a stabilizing the systems.

    Now, for the continued progress of this country, who would you for?

    May 25, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  14. SocialismBad

    It is not "anti-incumbent" as CNN would like you to believe. It is anti-spending, anti-debt, anti-deficit, anti-healthcare-takeover,...

    The American people see what is happening in Greece and can EASILY envision it happening here given the hard-left direction the DemocRATS have taken this country.

    The DemocRATS and their spending are too dangerous to leave in office any longer.

    May 25, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. Orlando R.

    Im sure democrats will retain control of both the house and the senate. i know many republicans will go out in Novembers to vote,hoping to take back congress. I dont see that happening this November. But I wouldnt be surprised either if they do. And im sure Democrats will also go out to vote in numbers because their aware of the sentiment many people have with the Dems in congress. This is a very crucial election,and Im looking forward to it. No matter how u vote,make sure u vote! if u dont,then dont complain!

    May 25, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  16. Doug

    Wish we could vote Obama out!!!

    May 25, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |