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. Randy

    Americans would be stupid to heed these polls. Republicans used all kinds of trick and took over Congress and what happened? If Americans are going to be naive into thinking that the Republicans can fix our problems, seeing that they have stood in the way of reform, then I don't know what kind of people we are.

    August 12, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  2. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    I remember 1994 well. Congressman Gingrich presented a well thought out Contract with America that outlined how the Republicans would run things if elected. America believed their promises and within 2 years (the 96 elections) those self-same Republicans elected on those promises pretty much went back on everything they vowed. By the end of the third election cycle, they even renounced term limits for committee heads and for their own seats.

    Now that the soul of the Republican Party is being fought over between the traditional Conservatives (who flip-flop on the issues more than a fish out of water) and the Tea Party Republicans who are hell-bent on nominating folks so far to the right that they make people like JP Morgan and John D Rockefeller look like flaming liberals. Listening to them, they are only concerned with using their 2nd Amendment rights to back up their denial of 1st Amendment rights of anyone who disagrees with them.

    The Republicans currently in office (with limited exceptions) have not offered any constructive support to any legislation brought before either the House or Senate, except to say "accept our version only or we will vote against this bill." Any Republican who works across the aisle with the Democrats are accused of being closet Liberals instead of being the lawmakers they were elected to be.

    The Republicans have accused the Democrats of operating the government without a budget (that they successfully derailed) forgetting that they ran the country on a bogus budget that did not include our biggest ticket expenses (wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). Now that President Obama is trying to run those operations above board he is meeting oposition from the very group that supported the subversive, no-bid, give the jobs to Haliburton/Bechtel/Blackwater without questions way to conduct the war.

    If W (or even worse – Darth Cheney or Grand Moff Rove) had been badmouthed by a General, the Republicans in Congress would have demanded he walk on his knees from Camp Pendleton to Andrews AFB over broken glass before appearing before a joint session wearing sackcloth and ashes to apologize publicly and then fall on his sword.

    If you really want a return to these days, vote for the Republicans!

    August 12, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  3. Nelson, Colorado Springs Co

    If the Democrats are in trouble in November why aren't the Republican also, it there mess that President Obama is trying to clean up. Look like everyone is trying to talk negative about the recovery, jobs, debt. health care insursance. what ever and everything President Obama do the media complains, fox news . He is doing a very good job as President. wake up America the sky isn't falling

    August 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. Jake

    What the article doesn't mention is the fact that the Obama administration's complete alienation ad disdain of progressive democrats has resulted in them sitting on the sidelines waiting for a progressive democrat to eventually be elected. The White House somehow thinks that it is more likely to court republicans than progressives. Great way to get rid of the support that got you elected. What a lost opportunity.

    August 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  5. bobby

    As a Canadian watching your political system at work I marvel at how fickle and the "I want it done now" attitude some americans have. Have you really forgotten how much debt George Bush and the Republicans put you in to over 8 years..2 unpaid wars... tax cuts for the wealthy not paid for ..a drug program..not paid for..wasted expenditures in Defense budgets etc etc..oh yes lets not forget that economic collapse that largely occurred under their rule. For God's sake give Obama a chance he is not Hercules..It's going to take some time to fix!!!!!! It's better..sure, but its not right you really think going back to where you were is going to help....have some patience..Dont forget you elected George W and the boys twice and look where that got you..the worst economic downfall since the Great Depression and you can't continue going to war and mounting up all those expenditures..someone has to pay for it. Obama is a very intelligent president and he has done more for t he average American in his 18 months than George Bush ever did. Health Care.Financial Reform..these are not small accomplishments!!!!!

    August 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. What a bunch of bull!

    I didn't vote back in 1994, but I did in 2000, 2004, and 2008..and I GUARANTEE YOU I REFUSE TO GO BACK TO REPUBLICAN POLITICS! I HAVE NEVER VOTED REPUBLICAN AND I NEVER WILL! their ideologies are give to the rich and take from the poor! i've seen and heard enough of their obstructionism, lies and hate! Guess what repubs? I'm a democrat and i'm "fired up" too!! see you in November!

    August 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. George Synan

    Let's assume this poll is accurate... so we would hand congressional 'power' back to the same party that got us into this mess in the first place, a meager 2 years later? Every justification for the Iraq war was a lie; nothing that was predicted about the war came true, and $400B later and still counting we are still there and we have not come close to capturing the real 9/11 perpetrator. Bank failures and homeowner bailouts to the tune of $700B under Bush's watch.

    You can gripe about the $1T deficit under Obama's watch and you should, but please do not forget the monumental failures under the republican congress... $2.4T in debt over Bush's term, $400B for the Iraq war etc.

    C'mon people... use your heads...

    August 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. teena

    I am hoping that a Democrat somewhere will craft a message that TRUTHFULLY outlines the bad shape of this country this President inherited from his predecessors and gain momentum with a TRUE message. It would also be realistic of the American public to realize that we are unable to fix this financial meltdown and mess in just 2 years especially with obstruction at every turn from the Party of NO. But, most people want INSTANT gratification and can not be patient at all. So, I am losing hope that this country will not fall victim to the republican right. Soon, the tactics employed by rpubs will become focused on working women taking jobs from men who should be (according to their limited view of the Bible) the head of the household. And, then the focus will shift from the immigrants. Of course, the repubs will not focus on companies who hire illegals or shift jobs overseas. Of course, those policies are just capitalism at its best!

    August 12, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. TTommy

    I love these comments. The dems are scrambling to convince an America that has already made up its mind. Me thinks these people are whistling past the graveyard,

    August 12, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  10. Sherry

    Will the person who keeps making predictions about the Democrats' demise, please send me the winning Mega Millions and Powerball Numbers. You seem to have the crystal ball that can predict the future. Thank you!

    August 12, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  11. Steve

    Well duh........... We have a congress that does not listen to the people they are supposed to be governing. Almost 70% of americans opposed the health care reform this administration came up with, (take half a trillion dollars away from senior citizens, and give it to people who need it less) the same amount of people opposed the stimulus, the same amount of people opposed the GM unions bailout. Why is GM considered american but Ford is not? Seeing as how you have a whopping 13 people who disagree with your poll, I think CNN has hit the nail on the head. I will never vote democrat again, as long as I live.

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

    Typical CNN headline spin, then the article headline totally different! But, funny thing about polls, in that another poll this week said that voters hold the lowest esteme for the GOP than any other group. In fact their lowest polling in history. So believe that voters are angry with Congress, the media and the President – they don't trust anyone! Marlene in Mich

    August 12, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. Cindy, PA

    The economy was booming and jobs were available until the Democratic party took over in January 2007, since then it’s been down hill. Very few will be voting for those in the Democratic Party. If the national election were today, the community organizer / social worker president would not win. The Republicans can hang the economy and the health care reform disaster on the Democrats and we can vote them out of office. In 1994 historians say the Democrat loses was a slaughter; the 2010 and 2012 election cycle is going to be a massacre.

    Let’s review
    higher unemployment
    higher taxes
    higher home foreclosure rate
    tax evading Democratic Party
    tax evading Obama administration
    the “Porkulus” Spending bill
    out of control budget / no budget
    health care reform disaster
    4 terrorist attacks in the USA since Obama took office
    Oil spill disaster in the Gulf

    August 12, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. GSMS

    Vote 100% Republican in 2010 and 2012. President Bush was a great President when it its about the Economy. When the Democrats took control in 2007, that is when the Economy went down hill. Low taxes, less spending and less government is the way to bring the Economy back to prosperity. President Obama is just doing the opposite that is why we have high unemployment..

    August 12, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. What a bunch of bull!

    Also..let me tell you how republicans tax cut "trickle down" affects work for businesses...

    I just had a friend who told me their co worker was laid off and not because things were rough due to the economy...they used that as an excuse, and then dumped ALLLLL the work on she's doing the work of 2-3 is that trickled down economics?

    Repubs give fat kats their tax cuts, don't pay for them, and then the middle class has to work 10 times harder just to make ends meet! I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS MENTALITY FROM "CONSERVATIVES"!! JUST PLAIN SICK OF IT!

    and their smearing of our constitution is just absolutely sickening

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

    It will be interesting to see how many people vote independant, versus Democrat or Republican, this time around. Personally, I don't think either party is going to have a very good voter turn out, because no one believes that either side is doing anything for the people that got them into office in the first place. Our voices are no longer being heard, and people are starting to look outside of the box. We don't need our elected officials acting like elementary level school children, we need people who are willing to do what's right.

    August 12, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  17. Ben

    So you didn't poll anyone under 35? Nice job.

    August 12, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  18. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I bet this poll was taken in Mitch McConnell's district. There's no chance in he11 the GOBP is taking back Congress. I find it amazing that when Bonehead Boehner was asked "do tax cuts pay for themselves," he dodged that question like he was bobbing and weaving. I could see the frustraton in his face because he doesn't have a clue. This NOvember, I'll be voting NO for the Party of NO.

    August 12, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. Liberals are poison

    How soon the liberal slugs forget that it was the Democrats who've controlled Congressional spending since 2006. Forced the banks to
    offer mortgages to people who couldn't afford them. Increased social
    service spending for those too lazy to work. Bought off unions which made our manufacturing base too expensive to compete worldwide.
    Mass hysteria in an Atlanta suburb for Section 8 housing assistance; just like when the Fed's were offering some other freebee in Detroit.
    Overweight welfare slugs with their hands out wanting their owed piece of the American pie. Did that lady get her "free gas" and "free mortgage payments" yet from Obama?

    August 12, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. sickofit

    Okay first off, for you liberals on this site here are some facts for you. First off the democrats have controlled the purse of this country for four years, yes, since 2007, okay secondly, the hate and racial remarks seem to always come from the left, take Harry Reid's latest racist gaft, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK,” he said. “Do I need to say more?” Basically calling hispanic Republicans stupid. It was only after Republicans took over the purse strings 1994 that the budget got balanced, they had to put Clinton in check, just like Obama. Fourth look at the damage done by a Democrat President and Democrat Congress under JImmy Carter, need I say more

    August 12, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. Ann

    Obama and his kind of Democrats need a lesson about politics. Obama and Axelrod adopted the show business style during the primaries and they fooled the American people. Hillary, not Obama was the right choice, because this guy is good at campaigning not governing. A loss in November for Democrats would get him out of the office and would allow Hillary back in 2012. She would be more capable to reach out to Republicans because she has a pragmatic approach of politics.

    August 12, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  22. alex

    Only GOP,Yes,yes,yes. I vote for Obama. What he done? Nothing.

    August 12, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. Tom in Delaware

    Cue the Lefties whistling past the graveyard.

    82 days and counting...

    I can see November from my house.

    August 12, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. Brad Cox

    I love it when you Dumbocrats accuse Republicans of dumbing down the American public. The reason we have to do that is so all you lefties will understand what needs to get done to make a civilized nation.

    August 12, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  25. Angie

    Fact: The last 5 months of Clinton's presidency in 2000 the Unemployment was at 3.9%, and our government had a surplus.

    However according to the Labor Department Statistics on unemployment, since the Bush Tax Cuts began in 2001 Unemployment began rising, hitting a high of 5.4% the first year and in the 5.% to 6.% in the other years reaching a high of 7.4% in December of 2008 with the fluctuating economic Roller Coaster downswing happening during the most of the Bush years before the economic crises.

    So I ask this question after reviewing government data and remembering CNN and other news stations money reports for the last decade since 2001: "Since the Bush Tax Cuts has not done a thing to stop or reduce unemployment for a decade now, nor did it help stop the economic Roller Coaster downswing for the entire decade before the economic crises, how can we as a nation continue with the failed policy of the Republican Bush Tax Cuts trickled down economy?"

    August 12, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
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