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. ruty

    The GOP sucks.

    August 12, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  2. Lynnwood

    we seem to have "tax and spend" Dems on one side that everyone hates and "tax cut and spend" Reps on the other that everyone seems to love. All you can say at the end is that at least one side appearently knows how to keep a balanced budget. We spent the entire '90's digging ourselves out the hole that Reagan/Bush I put us in. Then no sooner than we claw our way out then along comes Bush II and kicks us right back in....and throws in a shovel. I'm still waiting to see how this one plays out, but 13T in the hole is a the start of a very long climb.

    August 12, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  3. mikey

    Many of the posts blame Republicans for the current economic mess. It's disingenuous to blame a sub-prime mortgage meltdown caused by loans to people who couldn't afford homes. FNMA & Freddy Mac, both controlled by congress cost the country over eight TRILLION DOLLARS. This is the underpinning of what's happening today. BUSH didn't cause this problem. However, Bush, still over spent which is not a Republican value. He and others who overspent were tossed out last election and rightfully so. The new Republican regime will not make the mistakes of the past. American's know this, they aren't stupid. They are also realizing this country is not being run by a community organizer grossly under qualified for the Presidency.

    August 12, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. Mike NYC

    Both parties have show extreme fiscal irresponsibility. It should be noted, contrary to what JonDie states, the Democrats have controlled Congress since 2006. If one looks at the time of the financial crisis they will see that it starts at that time. Remember, Congress is responsible for submitting a budget to the president. Bush failed to veto (among many other things) them.

    August 12, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  5. Wake up

    How anyone in their right mind would vote to go BACKWARDS, especially in such short time, beyond me. This is one primary reason why nothing gets done in this country....The pres has to get support in congress to get things actually done and as we've seen in the past, when people have such short term memory they would vote in those that have caused the mess we've gotten in back into power, we continue to loose ground. The definition of stupid is to keep doing the same thing expecting a diferent result. So I say, wake up America! Also, the fact that jobs are avail, but companies aren't hiring, and that banks have money but are not lending, says awhole lot of things (which no one seems to want to address) and is too much to mention here. It's not because of what this admin is doing, which is what the other side wants to portray...Again, wake up, America!

    A.C. from Houston

    August 12, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  6. ruty

    Whine all you want to but just remember ONE thing. The truth hurts-George W Bush is the reason we are in this mess.

    August 12, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. JOhn

    Of course it looks lik e14 years ago to the right. They still push the same failed policies and agenda they did 14 years ago. WHen you never have an origional thought, everyday looks the same.

    The GOP is betting and counting on the stupidity of the American people. That may work in the short run but everyday more people see them for what they really are.

    Just in case the do take over, Make sure you children are registered with selective service! Who do you think they are going to get to fight thier next oil war?

    August 12, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. fed up

    you guys who do these polls are idiots...your like weathermen -right 50 percent of the time and just as wrong the other 50 percent. Why don't you spend your time reporting something worthwhile – like why wall street and big banks can screw us over and get away with it?

    August 12, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. Ted

    Polls schmolls.

    I would like CNN or any other outfit do a poll of wealthy people to ask them if they got further tax breaks from the Republicans, what would they do with the new found riches? Would they invest in more jobs, like the Republicans say they would? OR would they just save the money or buy another yacht or another mansion or what?

    The GOP lead by Gingrich, Boner, Limbarf, Palin, Angle and the rest would have you believe the wealthy would take the money from the tax cuts and hire people. I doubt it highly.

    August 12, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  10. Micky

    History repeats itself, go Republicans!

    August 12, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  11. Bruce

    You people keep drinking that Oblamo Kool aid.

    If anyone is driving us off a cliff it's the people in power right now.
    Wake up!!
    And they haven't been in power for 2 yrs,it's 4 year since the Demwits took power. and the country has been going down even since these idiots like Pjguski,Ried and Oblamo took power. such sheeple.

    August 12, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  12. republicans hate america

    the real bad news here is the american public is just a short sighted no memory group of retards.

    August 12, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  13. Thinker

    To vote for a republican is a vote for the continued destruction of the country. As a former republican, I wouldn't vote for any republican. they sit on their asses in washington and say no. A trained monkey could do that.

    August 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  14. R Low

    These polls are so ridiculous. Not everyone waits with bated breath to vote on CNN's poll or any of the other ones. They have jobs, children, and other more pressing issues to concern themselves with. I did not vote on this poll, but I, like so many millions of other Americans, think President Obama is doing a wonderful job and would gladly vote for him again.

    August 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  15. Dem in WI

    Please NO! This world will go to hell again with repubs in office!

    August 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Bill, NY

    People with the most to lose will be again convinced to work against their own best interets and vote republican. The party of no ideas, no solutions that cater to the rich and big corporations that have left millions of US citizens without jobs or hope. At least the current president has tried (while being totally obstructed by the republicans) to bring this great country back to where it should be.

    August 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  17. Mike

    For all of you who think it was so bad during the bush years, all I have to say is this.........just look at your W2 statements from the bush years and look at them now if your lucky enough to even have one. Enough said.

    August 12, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. Pat

    Again with the same song and dance...democrats want to blame the previous adminstration. Face it, both parties have ruined this country. They have spent us and over governed us. Pelosi, over a year ago said they weren't going to make the same mistake and be too liberal – they have.

    If the democrats would be just a bit more moderate and less of the party of blame...they would not have worry about losing control. BTW, the party of NO fits both parties. Look at the voting records of both parties over the past 30 + years. 90% with their party, so that label works for both parties, just depends on which is in charge.

    August 12, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  19. Chaco

    Ridiculous comparison. You cannot leave out of the analysis the destructive result of Repulican policies from 2000 to 2008. The GOP may be making headway with ignorant Americans who exepct the Democrats to miraculously reverse the situation in two years, but that is what you get when people listen to AM radio/Fox nonsense. Don't expect voters with any knowledge of history to bring back the GOP "me-first" agenda.

    August 12, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  20. Victim of GOP Taliban

    I'm so excited...I can't wait to go back to the days of pre-emptive wars to make lobbyists and corporations that elected officials ran prior to taking office a ton of $$$! Who needs unemployment benefits when the weathiest 2% get to keep getting tax breaks.

    August 12, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. nitellub

    The results of the poll are hardly surprising. Given the all out war on president Obama mounted by the conservative right to discredit anything he does, and the constant complaints from the far left that "the administration has come short' on some issues, is it surprising that the republicans are gaining? In reality, the president and his administration have accomplished a lot .... much more than any other administration within the same time span, given the recession they have inherited and the behavior of big and small business who are playing politics with our country. If these self-rightous businessmen were really interested in helping ordinary people get out of the morass of the recession, and if they were really interested in a debt-free future of all our children, not just theirs, they would rally around the president and do their best to get us from this protracted recession. But, NO! They have their own agenda which seems to consist of: 1. Discredit president Obama; 2. Discredit the Democrats; and 3. Continue milking our country for their own profit. And what is really sad about all this is that ordinary people have swallowed all the mud slung at the administration, without stopping to remember that all the problems we are facing now were caused by the very same corporations, greedy financial institutions, unscrupolous mortgage lenders, and, yes, the republican political machinations. The hope that I felt when presidnet Obama was elected is gone; not because he and his administration have not stayed true to their promises [many have already been tackled and even accomplished] but because the hope and the unity I say on so many tear-stained faces on the night president Obama was elected is gone .... demolished by cynics, political hacks, and profiteers. This is the real loss, and as long as we allow this kind of destructive behavior to continue, the cynics [and worse] will win. November may asure in a republicans rennaissance; but it will not solve our problems. They were the ones who, over the past two or three decades, have guided our Nation to the economic abbys we now find ourselves on the bring of.

    August 12, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. Moooohamed Meatspin

    You liberals can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? We'll see if the country chooses the liberal agenda or the conservative agenda in November.

    CNN and a right leaning bias? HA!! ROFLMAO!!!!

    August 12, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. Jim - Michigan

    What is all this talk about not wanting to return to the past? Like the problems we face today were one party driven. How quickly we forget that Clinton signed the NAFTA agreement as well as bank deregulation. How about the fact that the democrats have held both houses of congress for the past four years and that it is congress that spends money.

    I do not like the partisanship in Washington and I like to think of myself as an independent, but I have to say that I am happy that the republicans are blocking as much spending as possible. We cannot sustain this spending spree, regardless of the noble purposes. Nearly half this country does not pay any federal taxes and we expect the other half to foot the bill.

    I admit I voted for Obama, but when he took office and the spending began like a teenager that discovered that she had a full book of blank checks I became upset to discover that congress was approving the spending without ever reading the bills. I don’t care who the president is or which party is ruling, congress should not be a rubber stamp.

    August 12, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  24. Carlos

    Hahahaha... oh yeah, the "Republican Revolution" of 1994... boy, that sure did away with corrupt politics. 2000 – 2008 was a total cake walk.

    bwaaahahahahahahaa.... oh jeez... sorry... hahahahahahaaha

    "things will be different now".


    August 12, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  25. Peter

    The usual ping pong match between two incompetent parties, taking advantage of the American public's short-term memory.

    August 12, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
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