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. Roy

    Reading all these LEFT WING BIGOTS makes me laugh. Under Obama's rule you can read about the November elections while standing in the unemployment line. Hope you like the change you all voted for.

    August 12, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. Independent going for Democrats

    Doubt it. If Democrats play this right, it won't be as bad. Republicans are for the rich and corporations. Who are they polling because it's not me or my family or relatives. I don't believe in polls.

    August 12, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Willow

    1994 didn't have the masses reading alternative and mainstream news and information on the internet–24 hour flow.

    1994 Newt hadn't been found out for the lying hypocrite he is now known to be.

    1994 the GOP didn't have to worry about the monster they helped to create, the "teabaggers"...

    Good luck with that seriously flawed poll data, and comparison!

    August 12, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. oklahoma

    Polls can be fixed to anybodys liking and secondly do you know anybody that has been polled i'm sure the next poll will say newt or pallin could be next President sorry rep. the party is dead conseravitive God guns and gay's and fear no longer work slowly but surely people are getting wiser.

    August 12, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. Ed

    The sadness that this scenario invokes is too depressing to contemplate.

    The middle class will never have a chance or opportunity until a third and fourth party emerge. The 2 party system we have now is hoplessly inbred. It cannot or will never benefit the mainstream working class. This "liars club" these malignant narcissists (NPD) have created benefits only them, never us. The only day they care about us is on election day. Just long enough to get a vote. History is destined to repeat itself with that door swinging back and forth every 2, 4 or 6 years.

    August 12, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  6. Jon

    I can't believe the American people would be so quick to return to the Republicans. I for one have not forgotten what George Bush and his party did to this country and will be voting against them in the upcoming election.

    August 12, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. steve

    We all know that the Republicans didn't then and won't now tackle anything difficult, help the common man, or do anything that won't improve they campaign donations. This is the party of my way or no way. It will be the same old echo: cut taxes, cut entitlements, go to war on a whim and a lie.

    August 12, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. The Czech

    You lift wingers crack me up! Just so you know, the last 8 years now includes 2 years of Obama (which by the way have made the last 8 years a TOTAL disaster). Here's to a republican resurgence and a stop to the out of control taxing and spending by the liberals!

    August 12, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  9. gt

    new blood both parties ,, i have never seen so many crooks in one place unless it was a prison or a used cars sales all of the them out ,, clean the swamp....starring with nit wit nancy...

    August 12, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  10. John

    Bottom line.

    All government is corrupt. I vote for smaller government not BIG government. The Democrats are ALL about BIG government and control. Reagan said it best:

    I vote for small government. I vote Republican.

    “Man is not free unless government is limited.” - Ronald Reagan

    August 12, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  11. David

    I really don't know why Americans are unhappy. Sure the unemployment rate has nearly doubled since Obama took office and yes, the defecit has nearly doubled too. Oh sure, attempted terrorist attacks are up exponentially and we are losing ground militarily to the Chinese. And there was that health care bill no one wanted and the lawsuit against Arizona for enforcing the law of the land. But I don't know why Americans are unhappy.

    August 12, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. John

    “We don't have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven't taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much” - Ronald Reagan

    August 12, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  13. rosaadriana

    That is too bad. People have short memories. I guess when the GOP takes over again they will remember how bad things were.

    August 12, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  14. sheppard

    the Newt and his contract with America still makes me laugh – he can't even honor a contract with any of his wives.... sorry, I just realized I used Newt & honor in the same sentence... bad boy bad boy....

    August 12, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  15. John

    "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." - Ronald Reagan

    August 12, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  16. Albert

    What happened to the "Change you can believe in"

    Well here it is:

    Record unemployment
    Record Deficits
    An unprotected border with talk of Amnesty
    Higher taxes on the horizon
    Failed response to the Oil spill
    Record pork spending

    Vote for a Dem if you want to bail out California, so that they can pay city officials $700,000 per year and the police chief $500,000, plus a lifelong pension of over $400,000 per year.

    August 12, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  17. Will

    How can you blame someone for destroying something that was already destroyed? If there is blame to be cast, it is upon the collective known as the American public – those who, in the aggregate, want immediate solutions to complex problems brought about by power-hungry, wealth-hungry, out-of-control buffoons like your beloved (thought wildly unintelligent) George Dubya. Your way, right away, eh? Fine. Abandon any reason you may have once had, yield to your media-pundit-fueled emotions (thanks Glenn Beck), and vote the buffoons back in. See what you get. See how well the country fairs by reverting back to an unregulated mess of narcissism with the Right's rapidly evolving Nazi-style nationalism added in. Unbelievable. No one to blame but ourselves.

    August 12, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  18. Ohioan with no Job


    August 12, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  19. Jack

    And this 63 year old Independent conservative will not be voting for any republican nationally!

    From everything that I read and seen far too many Republicans are in bed with Rush Limbaugh and the Religous Right

    August 12, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  20. Gwen

    The GOP cry about the deficit, but refuse to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy( $250,000+), which would instantly cut the deficit by 30%!!! They are such hyprocrites, who in there right mind would vote for them. They try to say they don't want the tax cuts to expire for the wealthy because most small "job creating" businesses fall in that range – that is a bold face lie and they know it – only 3% of small businesses make more then $250,000 and of the 3% half are "non-hiring" businesses , like a two man law office or a two man CPA office – so once again the GOP is trying to scare people into helping the rich, bankrupting the country or as Reagan called it "starving the beast" and then they'll turn around and say "Oh sorry we can't pay your social security or medicare!! The GOP is evil, thank God Obama is president!!! Please don't vote these guys back in they've already done enough damage!!

    August 12, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  21. Obama is Carter

    I get a huge laugh out of the "doesn't anyone what the Republicans did" comments. Yeah, we do, and Obama has been worse. Unemployment has been at 9.5% or higher for a year now. The deficit under Obama makes Bush look positively frugal. But the best when people call Bush a warmonger even though pretty much every Democrat voted for the war in Iraq and Obama sent more troops to Afghanistan. I guess calling the idiots here hypocrites would be pointless.
    And the notion that the poll is of a Republican area is absolutely hilarious. Seriously, I laughed out loud when I read that comment. Funny how the people commenting here were telling us how awesome Obama was a year ago when his polling numbers were in the sixties and seventies. Now they are whistling a different tune. Kiss your majorities goodbye come November, losers.

    The Obama Record: Record deficits, record long-term unemployment.

    August 12, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. Jim

    16 yrs later and John 'Pinhead' Beohner still hasn't done anything but get stewed at the local bars, go shopping for the latest pink ties and work on his infamous tan. Contract with America yeah right you mean Corporate America not working class America.

    August 12, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. Me

    Another poll? really?
    (sigh) your polls mean nothing.
    I think you should know the rest by now.
    Even other people are repeating it.
    Your polls mean nothing
    I'll say it any way
    I have NEVER been polled.
    Have you EVER been polled?
    Has any one you've known EVER been polled.
    Polls, ALL POLLS
    including, the polls that make me feel good
    AND the polls that make me feel bad
    have absolutely no worth.
    Who is doing the polling?
    Who is paying for the poll?
    What questions are they asking?
    Have you ever heard of Frank Luntz?
    The only poll that matters is the one we all participate in and that's in November.

    August 12, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  24. Buster

    A fresh wind of change is coming and that wind will blow demorats out of DC this November and probably again in 2012. I hear the liberals crying and peeing in their diapers and that is refreshing also. The really stupid liberals are denying the change is coming but I guess they will get a rude wake up call in November.

    August 12, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  25. cajr

    actually the loons have had congress since 2006 and what did we get for it? free healthcare for the poor, no immigration reform, no border fence, more gay rights, and then some. all of which being a white middle class american does not help me or my family at all. its all for the minority vote for obama and the loons.

    August 12, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
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