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. call me crazy

    More right wing wishful thinking. Not that CNN is right wing. They just make a living on controversy. It is the Tea Party making more noise like a mouse with a megaphone. Keep dreaming. It ain't gonna happen.

    August 12, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. diridi

    I do not give darn hoot what polls say...i vote for any Democrat than GOP thugs....who messed this nation like a "HELL".

    August 12, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Walter

    And regarding the Contract With America and "not one of the promises" being delivered ("not ONE"), I submit to you the following:

    From Wiki:

    "The Contract had promised to bring to floor debate and votes 10 bills that would implement major reform of the Federal Government. When the 104th Congress assembled in January 1995, the Republican majority sought to implement the Contract.

    "In some cases (e.g. The National Security Restoration Act and The Personal Responsibility Act), the proposed bills were accomplished by a single act analogous to that which had been proposed in the Contract; in other cases (e.g. The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act), a proposed bill's provisions were split up across multiple acts. Most of the bills died in the Senate, except as noted below.

    The Taking Back Our Streets Act

    The Personal Responsibility Act (passed in pieces and enacted as "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act" aka welfare reform

    The American Dream Restoration Act

    The National Security Restoration Act

    The "Common Sense" Legal Reform Act

    The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act

    Now, by my count, that's six bills from the Contract With America that passed. Not ONE. Six.

    And any moron could look that up on Wiki. Any moron. Which, I guess, excludes ONE guy. Just ONE.

    August 12, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. Steve

    I don't care who is in office, government will never listen to the public again because Obama and his clowns have proven that you can push whatever you want through Congress whether we want it or not.

    August 12, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Yeah, let's all vote Republican and take the country back another 100 years because that's exactly what "taking our country back" means. If I were a RICH Republican I'd vote Republican and the heck with the middle class and poor.

    August 12, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  6. Orlando Patriot

    How can a rational intelligent individual blame the CURRENT economic condition on the Republicans? The answer is they can't. So who is still blaming the Republicans? It must be the irrational and unintelligent individuals. We can argue the 2007-2008 economy all day long (I still blame the Democrats since THEY were in power in Congress since 2006 but let's forget that part for now) but since January 2009 THIS HAS BEEN OBAMA'S ECONOMY!! With majorities in the House and Senate he passed anything and everything he wanted so we would expect an economic turnaround – right? WRONG!! You CANNOT stimulate an economy with borrowed money that does not go to private sector business!! Giving away $800 BILLION dollars would do no good and we are getting confirmation of that.

    But let's be intellectually honest for a moment....For all you Democrats who (like lemmings) STILL say Obama is the best and greatest and to have an economy two years later WORSE than when he took office I have but one simple question: If McCain had won the election and now, two years later, he had borrowed $3 Trillion AND had unemployment near 10% (with no expectation by ANY professional that would change in the short term) AND the Fed just released a statement saying recovery in our economy is in great concern would you also be saying that McCain was doing a great job and to just give him more time? OF COURSE NOT!! You would be asking for him to resign and buying billboards saying he was the "worst president in history". Then that makes you Democrats irrational and unintelligent hypocrites.

    Obama is a danger to this economy and country and there is nobody with the IQ above a turnip who could say otherwise.....

    August 12, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  7. Lou from CT

    Voters are angry, but they are taking out on the President and that is the wrong thing to do.

    You can take your anger out and vote new people in for the Senate and House, but who says they will be any better? They'll talk a good game and then play politics the way they want and to hell with the people.

    To the party of NO (a/k/a the GOP) – make sure you learn the art of negotiation. It will be the only way you can pass BI-PARTISAN legislation.

    August 12, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  8. Reggie

    Those who don't learn from Republican history are condemned to repeat it: Nixon's Watergate crimes, Reagan selling arms to the contras, Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" followed by skyrocketing deficits and debt from 8+ years of a needless war and failure to get bin Laden, financial deregulation leading to a worldwide economic meltdown, the current demonization of Islam, etc. Americans are masochistic to vote for Republicans but still keep on doing it. Humans are a bizarre species to say the least.

    August 12, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  9. Anne

    It is amazing to me that some people have such short memories. If the last administration led us to the edge of the cliff, why would we want more of the same. These same people will believe anything they see or hear. I am sick and tired of the negativity on every news show out there. If people continue hearing how bad everything is, then everything is going to be bad!! People get your head out of the sand, start living and think positive for a change. Stupid is as stupid does!!

    August 12, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  10. Eric

    And you know it's even worse than this story implies... when an overly-democrat-sampled CNN poll (as ALL CNN polls are) says the dems are in trouble, you KNOW it's far worse than that... The $ocialist$ are looking down the barrel of a very, very, VERY p!$$3d off voting public.

    In fact, if you look at Rasmussen polling, which is far more accurate in that it only samples REGISTERED VOTERS (as they're the only ones who matter in elections), Democrats are actually polling WORSE now than they were in August of 1994 when they lost both houses in an historic landslide.

    This November will make 1994 look like the shift change at Denny's.

    I've been saying since November 2008, "Enjoy it now, because Obama will be a lame duck in 24 months."

    Point blank: although the hippies may be louder and more persistant than anyone else (making you erroneously believe their numbers are large), they are still a minority in the American electorate. Socialism has never sat well with the American public. Period.

    Hopefully, the 2010 midterms will mark the beginning of the end for the leftover, burned out, 1960s radicals, and we can return this nation BACK to what was envisioned by the founders... powerful states and powerful statehouses, with a tiny, neutered federal government with only about enough constitutional authority to deliver the mail (and poorly, at that).

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

    With the internet all the good Americans can see first hand how evil, mean and dishonest every single Democrat is, I mean read the ticker, you can see thousands of lib sheep hate, not one who is honest and thoughtful. Most Americans are good people, almost every Democrat is not, people need to vote what really matters and then the Democrat party will be history.

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

    Oh those laughable libs. In the first place, the left has been in charge of Congress for more than 3 1/2 years. Blame Bush all you want, but your guys (and gals) have held the purse strings since 2007. Secondly, of course the left is dubious of polling data – every poll shows they're going to take a bath in November.

    August 12, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  13. Ray E. (Georgia)

    The problem is jobs. This Poll cuts accross party lines. George Bush had an unemployment rate of about 4.5 percent before the Democrats regained the Congress. It is now it is at least 9.5 percent. Today 2000 more people were added to the unemployment rolls. Face the facts. It is jobs and the Democrats are taking the blame.

    August 12, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  14. MZhou

    I don’t think many people understand that independent voters are the ones who decide elections. The rest of the 80% of the electorate sees elections as a game and they “vote” for their team. You may love the Democrats or the Republicans and hate the other side, but your vote, unless impartial will actually mean very little. Independents voted the republicans out because they were corrupt and incompetent. They voted Obama in because he promised change.
    Now the bad news for the Dems – They have not done anything worth voters leaving them in office, and independents correctly hold these people accountable for doing nothing of merit. Yes the Republicans are terrible and have no good ideas, but basically a voter has only two choices – vote for the same or try something else. Independent voters will throw the Democrats out and if the Republicans don’t deliver they will throw them out the next time around. It’s the only real choice voters have.

    August 12, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  15. Jim

    Amazing how people on the left hate. Yes the right does as well but I no where near the left. They hate anything that doesn't agree with them. I am independent. Vote left and vote right. Don't like either. But right now the left is a disaster. Bigger than any right disaster I can remember save for the wars. YOU DO NOT KNOW BETTER THEN OTHERS.

    There is no diversity on the left if it doesn't agree with them. The rest of us are quote "Stupid". Racist party of the KKK still exists but it's the left. I have ears & eyes.

    Too much money being spent. First by the right and now by the left only the left makes the right look like school children. Too many restrictions being placed on everything. Too much good old boy support of teachers, unions, governmen workers, other congressman – you name it.

    The democrats are going down big time. Please bring back the democrats of old. This current group are not democrats but something far different. The party has been hijacked.

    August 12, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. Grundoon

    Oh, Puh-lease!! Not even 1000 people polled and by telephone? When they can get poll responses from cell phones then I may pay attention to poll. I hardly know anyone with a land line anymore and those that do don't answer if the caller ID doesn't show a known number. Tha vast majority have dumped their land lines and the whole family has cell phones. We at least know what those with the lamest available techonology think and they are likely white, old folks. Get some real numbers CNN!

    August 12, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  17. ABM

    This registered republican will be voting Democrat all the way in November.

    Lesson for the Repulbicans: Show that you can lead, work well with others across the aisle, work FOR the people and not the party agenda, give details on your plans and ideas, & STOP crticizing/crying/whining/bashing/obstructing. Once this happens MAYBE you may get my vote.

    August 12, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  18. Liz the First

    If people didn't learn anything from 1994, shame on us!!! the American people need to wake up to the fact that the republicans are not willing or able to govern. if you turn government over to people who hate it and want to destroy it, you get bad government and a devastated country. how many times do the repubs have to demonstrate they can't govern before we stop voting for them???

    Abraham Lincoln, one of the last good republicans, said, 'the purpose of government is to do for the individual what the individual cannot do for himself.' this is the best statement of the function of government i've ever heard. modern day republicans' idea of government is to fight wars and let big corporations run amok and that's about it, oh, except for crawling into your bedroom or your doctor's office or your church. if we elect even one more of these incompetent people, our country will go down the drain. Obama and the Democrats are making major progress fixing the mess yet another repub. 'administration' left us. give them the time to finish the job!

    August 12, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. Rick CT

    Obama's hoping the GOP takes Congress. Then he can spread the blame. If the Dems keep Congress, Obama is history in 2012.

    By the way, with the latest jobless report, Obama's "Summer of Recovery" ranks right up there with Bush's "Mission Accomplished"

    August 12, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. Loretta

    To all you idiots who are still saying that it is President Bush's fault that the country is in bad shape--–open your stupid eyes, take a look at the Obama's white house, and see what Obama HAS NOT DONE. He is still a liar, and is killing our country....The smart people will get out and vote in Nov...and try to clean up the Obama mess....the idiots on WELFARE will of course vote for the democrates..and they have no clue of what is going on in this country today....they just want their WELFARE checks...

    August 12, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. anagram_kid

    The difference between now and 1994 is that we now know what happened between 2000 and 2008.

    August 12, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  22. dave

    make your news and make is exciting cnn, but you know when the real election comes the real voters, not the talkers and haters, but the real voters will stampede the polls again. a promise

    August 12, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. FLEXX

    yeah so the rebublicans can take over again, & put us in a worse position all over again....people never learn.

    August 12, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    BTW, let's put that 17% chance of Republicans taking over the Senate into relative perspective:

    The same analysis gives the Dems a 7% chance of getting back to 60.

    Yes, that's right, the GOP has a slightly better chance of taking over than the Dems do of regaining a filibuster proof majority...both of which are small SMALL chances.

    What we're looking at is likely 55 Dems & 45 GOPers or something close to that.

    August 12, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  25. dave

    make your news and make is exciting , but you know when the real election comes the real voters, not the talkers and haters, but the real voters will stampede the polls again. a promise

    August 12, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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