August 12th, 2010
02:33 PM ET
8 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. Anne P

    Nor have I ever been contacted. Truth is, who's home during the polling hours? I suspect this is the same crowd that watches daytime TV. Sorry, not statistically significant data. Most of us have a memory and will no way vote GOP. They can complain all they want to, but they have no solutions to the mess they had the largest part in creating. Cry me a river. Yes, it was a "contract on America" alright, a bad one!

    August 12, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. Hannah

    Why would people want to go back to the same old failed tactics of the Republicans. Have we forgotten so soon. Give the American people some credit here. We aren't that stupid. And when you look at the people the RNC is bringing forward, it's pathetic; a former lady wrestler, Ben Quail, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Carly Fiornia, Failures all of them Ben doesn't have a brain, Sarah doesn't have a heart or a brain and Newt is a philanderer. Pretty ridiculous I would say. We have some impressive people in the WH right now, solving big problems and getting a lot done too. Let's support them and turn this country back to the middle class.

    August 12, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  3. jim

    The only time that a poll taken by CNN matters is when the results matches the script that they want to put forth.The way to get the results you want is to jockey the sampling group and then tinker with the way the questions that are asked.CNN has this down to a scientific art and they use this to promote the dems who they favor.

    August 12, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  4. Republicans think you're STUPID

    In 1994 the GOP had a MUCH higher favorability than they do in 2010 so the two years are TOTALLY different. In 2010 the GOP has only a 25% favorability, lower than Obama and lower than the Dems.

    The Democratic Party has turned a corner, and meanwhile, the Republican Party - with their crop of INSANE, EXTREMIST candidates - are shooting themselves in the foot over and over again.

    It's going to be a race, that's for sure! Young Dems and Hispanics mean business and they will come out in huge numbers to repudiate the absurd, vile rhetoric spouted by the Republican Tea Party for the Rich.

    August 12, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    feeling an intense amount of anger over the state of the nation – the same motivating force that the GOP relied on in 1994.
    RELIED ON......HMMMM....

    So what you are confirming is the FACT that the GOP has RELIED ON being able to effectively lie to gray-mattered challenged Americans. They are doing today what they did 16 years ago: LIE about the issues. They continue to repeat the LIES until enough dumbass Americans believe them enough to vote them into office.

    Yes. It is likely that they have pulled it off again. The Democraps have sat quietly by and let them get away with lying to the voters with little to no rebuttals or protestations. Their loss.

    It is embarrassing and shameful to realize that when it comes to swallowing the crap that the Rethuglikkklans excrete, many Americans' intelligence level is substandard enough to make them think that they are eating the sweetest of delicacies.

    August 12, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  6. meki mull

    Democrats have not a single chance to get my upcoming vote. Not now, not ever, never.

    August 12, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Terry - Indiana

    I have a poll question for CNN. "Did you lose your job when your company transferred your task offshore?" Or better yet, "Did you work for an auto company that closed your plant, while funding an auto plant offshore?" Republicans support the rich, because the rich make big campaign donations.

    August 12, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Peace

    The times are different now. People are well informed of what is going on from different sources, comparing to 1994. The results of Nov. is going to surprise many!

    August 12, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. ED

    Once the Tea Party R's are expossed for the radical beliefs that that hold, the public will look to candidates representing the center. The R's who won with Tea Party backing, can not run to the middle now in the general election.
    Once the D's get out the message of the beliefs some of R candidates hold, the margin in the poll will vanish.

    August 12, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  10. B

    A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters now think Obama’s policies are to blame for the continuing bad economy, up three points from last month. Forty-seven percent (47%) say the recession that began under Bush is at fault.

    August 12, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  11. Walter

    Na, na, na, na! Hey, hey, goodbye! To the "genius" who claimed that Dems have only been in control for about two years, you do know that Dems retook Congress in 2006, don't you? That's four years by my count during which the economy crashed and unemployment soared to 9.5%. I can see November from my house and it looks beautiful!

    August 12, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  12. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    Wrong! Americans are need to stop buying into this Democrat vs. Republican fight for power in congress. The mess we are in today is in fact both of these two parties faults and to continue the finger pointing and blame game needs to stop before it is too late.
    What "We the People" need to do is sweep them all out of office.

    Guess what Congress "You Are Fired!"

    This fall vote "No to incumbents"

    Fire All incumbents!

    August 12, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  13. Bubba

    Don't believe polls. I'm sitting here in conservative Georgia watching a Dem about to be Governor and a Dem congressman laughing off his amateur challenger. Most people are moderates, no matter what they tell you, and prefer not to vote for radicals.

    August 12, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. Walter

    Republicans stringing together lies? Well, maybe. But that's only because we learned from the Party of Lies, the Democrats! You know how to tell a Democrat is lying? His lips are moving!

    August 12, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. Bob in SC

    I don't belive the poll either: Deficit spending is less than Bush, a trillion dollar stimulus bill has kept unemployment below 8%, the Dems passed a medical bill that provides free medical care for everyone but the rich. Can I say anymore.

    August 12, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. Fair is Fair

    "So glad we went with the smart one in 2008"

    I must have missed something... I thought Obama was elected in 2008.

    August 12, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. JIlli

    The republicans approval is at 22% – that's no barnburner either. I wouldn't count on massive wins for the gop just yet – the current crop of new candidates are loons.

    Haven't the republicans done enough damage to the middle class? Do they deserve another opportunity to complete the fiscal destruction of this country?

    Recycling the same old failed policies isn't a winning strategy.

    August 12, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  18. coy4one

    I voted Republican back in 1994, mainly due to the Contract with America . . . only to find out later that it was mainly a contract with Wall Street. Who cares if the polls and political atmosphere today is simuliar with 1994. Both the Democrats and the Republicans have shown that they are incapable of working on behalf of the American people and any mere majority from the next election is not going to solve the issues of the day. Republicans had a major majority during the Bush years and where did it get us? A contract with gloom and doom. The Democrats hold a minor majority now and still bend to special interest groups, so they are doing nothing. This country needs a strong 3-party system with term limits on all House and Senate seats. It works for the Presidency, and will work for Congress. I do not believe the bull about Congressmen developing relationships that make them more productive in the long run. What I see is middle-class Congressmen who are millionaires by the time they retire. Instead of a Contract with America, we need a Contract with Americans!

    August 12, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  19. Randy

    Again keep in mind that Congress has been in Democrat control for the last 4 years, white house for the last two. All you folks out there saying the last 8 years were a disaster, need to remember this. Half of that time was all yours. And up until that time, things were moving along pretty smoothly.

    August 12, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. aatami

    Actually, trouble for the Democrats means trouble for the entire country. The GOP has nothing to offer but ignorance and lies.

    August 12, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  21. Bobby

    Its funny because I have NEVER been contacted for a survey or poll, and I'm as political as they come. if anything I think democrats are getting motivated to come out and vote because everyone keeps talking about how many seats the republiklans are going to win.

    August 12, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. Jonah

    One thing is true and that is Americans are very divided. Where I live its like an open rebellion against anything Obama. I hear people complain about him daily and none of it is pleasant. Either way and whether the GOP takes over the House or not henceforth due to his own inadequacy Obama will not be defining the national agenda. Newt’s secular socialist label for Obama definitively rings true to many.

    August 12, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. Willy Brown

    It will be grand to put the dumbocrats back on the side lines

    August 12, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. J.Crobuzon

    Only old people with landlines are contacted for these polls. So what if Granny votes for Dubya again? No one ever calls ME up for a poll, and I bet everyone commenting can say the same.

    August 12, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. Rickster

    The American people are finally, finally waking up to the disastrous effects of democrat policies. Democrat party love affair with social entitlement programs are unsustainable and bankrupting the country, democrat policies on immigration are bankrupting and destroying the country, democrat policies regarding the economy(including their beloved Keynesian economics) have now been proven, beyond doubt, to be utter failures, everything democrats have been preaching for decades has now been proven false. No wonder the polls are showing conservative ideas gaining in popularity.

    August 12, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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