August 12th, 2010
02:33 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll shows big similarities between 2010, 1994

 Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich led House Republicans to a stunning victory in 1994 with his 'Contract with America.'
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich led House Republicans to a stunning victory in 1994 with his 'Contract with America.'

(CNN) - When it comes to the political landscape three months before the midterm elections take place, is everything that's old new again?

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey paints a picture that is markedly similar to that of August, 1994, when few people predicted that in only three short months the Republican Party would snatch 54 seats from the Democrats and wrestle control of the House from the beleaguered party.

Sixteen years later, Republican candidates for Congress have a three-point advantage in the "generic ballot" question - virtually the same position they held at the same time in 1994. President Obama has an all-time high disapproval rating almost on par with that of Bill Clinton's 16 years ago. And Republican voters are feeling an intense amount of anger over the state of the nation - the same motivating force that the GOP relied on in 1994.

Full poll results [PDF]

But Republicans may not want to pop the champagne just yet. Unlike 1994, the new survey shows the public dislikes GOP members of Congress about as much as they dislike Democrats, and a majority think most Democrats in Congress are ethical, despite the controversies surrounding Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters.

Add to that the fact Democrats insist they won't get caught flat-footed like they did in 1994 and things perhaps begin to look a little less ominous for the party than it did back then.

"While it's clear that the Democrats will lose a lot of seats in Congress this November, it may be too early for the GOP to start measuring for drapes in the Speaker's office," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland says.

Still, Democrats have plenty to worry about. In a "generic ballot" question that asks voters whether they would vote for an unnamed Democrat or an unnamed Republican in their congressional district, 48 percent of registered voters say they would vote for the GOP candidate while 45 percent pick the Democrat. That's nearly identical to the 46-44 margin the GOP had in August of 1994. (It is, however, much lower than the nine-point lead the Democrats had in August of 2006, when they took control of the chamber back from the Republicans.)

Battle lines are also being drawn much earlier this year – 55 percent of registered voters now say their minds are made up, compared to the last midterm election, when less than half the voters in August felt that way. Polarization is almost complete – 93 percent of Democrats say they will vote for the Democratic candidate and 97 percent of Republicans say they will vote for the GOPer. That leaves the independents in the middle - tending toward the Republicans by a 46-38 percent margin, but with one in six saying they are unsure who they will vote for or planning to pick a third-party alternative.

And President Obama? His approval rating is now at 47 percent, with 51 percent saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job. (That ties the record he set in March, when 51 percent also gave him a thumbs-down.) Moreover, fifty percent of all voters say they are likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the president – almost identical to the 51 percent who said they planned to vote against a congressional candidate who opposed Bill Clinton in 1994.

Still, Obama's approval rating is a bit higher than the 44 percent approval Clinton scored in August of 1994 and it's also higher than the 42 percent Ronald Reagan got in August, 1982 and the 42 percent George W. Bush got in August, 2006.

"Those differences may mean nothing, but they may give the Dems just enough to hold onto the House, at least by their fingernails," Holland said.

But nearly seven in ten Americans say things are going badly in the country, and a similar number are angry about that state of the nation. Over 30 percent of voters overall describe themselves as "very angry" while half of all Republicans do.

While the Tea Party movement has perhaps best encapsulated the anger felt in some conservative circles, voters appear poised to take out their anger on both parties – 60 percent of registered voters say that most Democrats in Congress do not deserve re-election while 56 percent feel that way about most Republican members of Congress.

"That four-point difference is insignificant, particularly in comparison to the 15-point advantage Democrats had on that question in 2006," said Holland.

And in a mid term election season that has already proven fatal for a series of incumbents, a bare majority (51 percent) say that their own member of congress deserves re-election – a number that is an all-time low dating back to 1991 when Gallup first asked the question. (For comparison's sake, 60 percent of voters said their representative deserved reelection in 1994.)

So, will all of that add up to a GOP takeover on Capitol Hill this fall?

Americans are as unsure as the pundits. Forty-seven percent of all Americans predict that the Republicans will win control of Congress this November while 45 percent say the Democrats will hold on.

The poll, conducted on August 6-10, surveyed 1,009 Americans, including 935 registered voters. Questions involving the full sample carry a sampling error of plus/minus 3 percent, while questions of registered voters carry a sampling error of plus/minus 4.5 percent.


Filed under: 2010 • CNN Polls • Congress • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. Future expat

    Same people (Gingrich) pushing the same ideas (tax cuts for the wealthy, wars, cutting social services) that drove us off a cliff. Why anyone would vote for the GOP is beyond me.

    August 12, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  2. jbNYC

    Yea but last time it took them 40 years to destroy the Country.. This time less than 4 years (Jan 2007)

    August 12, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Fair is Fair

    This November is going to make 1994 look tame in comparison. So in that respect, I technically disagree.

    August 12, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Larry

    CNN, I believe your polls as much as I believe polls from FOX. Either you're slanting your results or you have no idea how to interpret poll results.

    August 12, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  5. Steve in Denver

    We should realize, however, that not one of the promises offered in the contract ON America was delivered. Not one.

    And, look at the lying weasel holding the card. Still influential in the "family values" party, even after revelations of disgraceful infidelity.

    THere would seem to be a huge difference, however, between 1994 and 2010. The neocon's ideas have been tried and failed. Tax cuts for the wealthy, Reagan's voodoo economics – utter failure. Deregulation – led us to the wall street meltdown, the gulf oil spill, the two coal mine disasters over the last two years. Pre-emptive war against a country that did not attack us – failure. Torture – failure (both in delivering any information and in defining us as the moral equals of the al queada scum who attack us).

    The neocons have no platform other than to say no to the democratic agenda.

    So glad we went with the smart one in 2008

    August 12, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  6. katiec

    Well, CNN, hate to burst your bubble, but the American people are beginning to realize what destruction the republicans are doing to us and our country.
    They obstructed finance reform, campaign reform, aid to small business, funds to keep teachers employed, extension of unemployment, yet are pushing the continuation, perks, benefits, tax cuts for Wall St and the rich, which, by the way is unfunded.
    They have deserted the American people, have goals to destroy our president regardless of consequences, win at any cost, spread propaganda, lies, fear mongering and have become a dangerous disgrace to us and our country.

    August 12, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  7. Alicia

    VOTE them all out!!!

    August 12, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  8. Rush Goebbels

    Newt still believes in the tooth fairy too.hahaha

    August 12, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  9. katiec

    CNN knows how to read polls. What they do is manipulate to support their bias, support for the right.
    Am not much impressed with any polls, but totally ignore figures from CNN.

    August 12, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  10. witch56

    Did people forget so soon the last 8 years? They must have because WHY would they want them back? I will not vote for any thing GOP or Tea party, because what little they are offering doesn't make sense!

    August 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  11. Lori in St Pete

    I'm leary of polls regardless of the outcome. Telephone polling is conducted to get the result the polling company wants. This poll was conducted in a heavily rethugliban area. if you were to conduct the same poll in a heavily Democratic area, the result would be markedly different.

    August 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. JonDie

    There are actually almost NO similarities between 1994, when the Democrats had controlled Congress for decades, and 2010, when the Democrats have only been in control for two years after eight years of DISASTROUS REPUBLICAN RULE.

    What is the same is how well Republicans can string together lies and misinformation, with the help of the mainstream media. to create fear and once again fool many Americans.

    And it is also true that the GOP plan to dumb down Americans and make the federal government work so poorly that Americans hate the government is also working.

    August 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Bill Taylor

    I am a 58 year old male and I have never been contacted for a poll. I am one and I am sure there are others out there. Let wait and see what happen in November. Who iun their right mind want to go back to the past. See you in November!!!!!

    August 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. Rush is a giant birthbag.

    But they wont get the same result,thanks to the internet.

    August 12, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. vic

    1994 failed health care bill

    2010 Health care bill passed

    Its makes difference

    August 12, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. Lucullus

    How can anyone in their right mind vote for the GOP? They offer very little and what they do offer is the same unworkable crap that has brought this nation to it's knees. It's this sort of thinking by the American people that give democracy a bad name. Why bother to have a vote if the people who are voting are a bunch of uneducated, politically illiterates who can't remember even the most recent of history.

    August 12, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. sally

    American voters are like grasshoppers: first, they jump one way and then another. Anybody who would put the Republicans back in power certainly has a problem with memory. This party drove the economy into the dust with tax cuts favoring the rich and starting an insane war in Iraq, spending our treasure like drunken soldiers.

    August 12, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. C Smith

    My. Sad how soon the American public forgets who got us into this mess in the first place. It took 8 years to get us where we are, won't take just 2 to fix it.

    August 12, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. paul

    Is the American public that dumb that they think the Republican party is the savior? The two wars that are a total waste of time and lives and money was started with the Republican party. Did we forget George W. Bush? The war were going to be paid back with the oil revenues we were told, did that happen? The financial disaster we are in was started with the Republican party, George W Bush. The American people need to realize that these Republican disasters we are living now take a short time to happen and years to fix.
    It's like a credit card, fast to ring up charges..........Years to pay off.

    August 12, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. Darko

    No need for polls. Reality shows that dems are in big trouble.

    August 12, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. The Dude

    What's astonishing about this is the short memories of the electorate. What the heck is wrong with everyone? Why in the world would you put Republicans back in charge of anything? Just look at the damage they did already! And you want more of this debunked tax breaking war mongering idiocracy?

    August 12, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Riley

    I gave the Dems a chance, but all they did was blame Bush. So, I have no faith in them anylonger.

    August 12, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Hopefully America will wake up to what happened after 1994 and give this group time to correct the problems.
    Conservatives will always hate Democracts and change. Independents however, need to figure out why they voted the way they did in 2008.
    Where they happy with all the tax breaks helping the wealthy or corporations?
    Where they happy with deregulation that helped cause the banking mess and the oil spill and put billions of profits in the corporate coffers?
    Where they happy that healthcare cost rose over 400% with no relief for the average person
    How about two wars- happy about those?
    If you answered yes- then first, your a Republican and second vote for change way too soon becuase most of the laws voted in by this Congress have not gone into affect yet.

    August 12, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. Bennie Greene

    PRO PET Supplements are killing our dogs !!! There is a major recall and it has not been on the National News. It has not been published. We did not know about it until our dog got sick. Later found out about the recall from a Wal Mart stock clerk. These supplements causes Renal failure in addition to other problems due to Salmonella poison. You can check it out on the internet. Please make the public aware of this poison being sold as vitamins.

    August 12, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. Terry - Indiana

    Well, I bought into the 1994 Contract with America, and it helped to create the Bush Tax Cuts, two wars, lies about WMD's that cost Saddam his life, created the nuclear arms race with Iran and North Korea, and the loss of 14 million jobs that were shipped offshore with the help of the Republicans. General Motors received over $40 Billion, and GM promptly sent $1.5 Billion to Germany to save a German Auto Plant. That same week, GM closed Saturn. Sorry, I am not interested in another Contract with America, I am interested in a fair tax plan that will help to clean-up the mess created over the last ten years.

    August 12, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
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