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. geecee

    So, what is this poll result supposed to suggest? Ignorant voters will get their revenge on incumbents (but only if they are Democrats) and replace them with Republican Party of NO politicians who will then proceed to further destroy our Country? That makes a lot of sense! How about we keep the Congress that is trying to dig us out of the mess left behind by the previous Republican Administration and vote in more capable, competent Democrats who will at least help out our President so he can get the job done instead of obstructing him every step of the way? There isn't one member of the Republican Party in Congress whom I respect – other than the two Senators from Maine, who seem to at least try to be bipartisan. The others just want Obama to fail at all costs – even if it means our Country's recovery from this awful recession will fail. Fine Patriots those Rethugs!!

    August 12, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. Roy

    I think this poll clearly shows the American people are fed up with the direction Hussein is taking this country. It's time for common sense to prevail and put this country back on track. It's time for real change in this country. Obama has used his Shovel ready projects to dig us a debt hole that we will not recover from for years. His administration is inexperience on parade. Come on Novemeber – and come on 2012! Let's take this country back from this goober!

    August 12, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  3. Jeff from Chicago

    People who only believe what they are told continually talk about how bad it was for 8 years under Bush.
    Well if they could read and think they would realize that things were pretty good for 6 years under Bush and bad for the last 2 when democrats took control of congress and it has gotten progressively worse for the two since they have held the white house and congress.

    Question is really this, Why in the world would we want to keep control with the democrats when we see what a mess they make of everything?

    August 12, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. ErinWFof AL

    Polls are stupid. Most statistics are made up or are made to represent what one wants. I've asked around several questions to my perdomidently Republican Co-Workers and they can't answer one question about the Economy, Wars or the Oil Spill. The most answers I get envolve something to do with President Obama being Black. My dad, a white man from Alabama, was kicked out of a barber shop because he got tired of hearing the barber fussing about President Obama. He did't raise his voice he just turned to him and asked him to please stop that he voted for him. And all the Barber could say but you are white he's black and told him to get out "N**** Lover!" Have we really digressed back to this. People act like Obama blew the oil well up himself. Yes the oil spill will hurt us a bunch but quit pointing fingers and help correct the problem. Atleast he didn't let two planes hit the trade center and one hit the Pentagon.

    I hope Obama runs again I'll vote for him again. Better than any Republican or Tea Party.

    August 12, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  5. BigB

    The conservative Rasmussen poll indicates that the Dems are underpolling. I would not put too much faith in polls that indicate 2010 is like 1994. Especially since the GOP has no platform to run on and the Tea Party is going to split the GOP vote.

    August 12, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  6. American-American

    We need to take back control of our country. Socialism is un-American. Redistribution of wealth from Whites to Blacks is un-American. Illegal immigration is un-American.

    August 12, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. Rich

    There is a much greater divide between the haves and have nots this time, Also there is a greater divide when polling. Telephone polling involves landlines which tend to skew older conservative voters, many young adults do not have landlines thus are not polled, again changing the results. If you look closely at the ages of those being polled there is an NA for 18-34. They were not counted!!!

    August 12, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  8. American-American

    We need to take back control of our country. Socialism is un-American. Redistribution of wealth is un-American. Illegal immigration is un-American.

    August 12, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  9. Alan

    I was mad in 2006 and 2008 and made the worst mistake of my life voting for Democrats! In 2006 the Democrats took control of Congress and proceeded to tank our economy. Things started downhill in 2007, accelerated in 2008 and we still have not hit bottom. Obama, Pelosi and Reid and the other idiots think as long as they put things on the country's credit card they never run out of credit with the American people. Sorry but this bank is being closed. We deem your era of big government solutions over and it is not too big to fail.

    Kick the Dems out of power and in two years if the Republicans have not listened we vote them out of power. As for Obama, I will pay for his continuous vacation along with his family if he promises just to keep quiet.

    August 12, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. Drake

    I see a takeover by the Republicans as a means to getting nothing done. How on Earth will anything get accomplished with absolute division?

    August 12, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  11. Troubled Independent

    Gee, I , for one, would like the Bush years back. Low unemployment, great portfolio, etc.

    August 12, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  12. bill

    if the american people are dumb enough to vote for party of no.then they deserve what they get.i dont and caint imagine.WHO THESE SOOO CALLED POLSTERS.ARE CALLING.I THINK I GOT MORE FAITH IN AMERICAN VOTERS THAN THAT. OBAMA IS TRYING.BUT EVERYTINE HE GETS A WIN.THE PARTY OF NO.AND NATIONAL MEDIA CALL IT A LOSS.

    August 12, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  13. fiscal responsibility

    We can only hope that the party of UNSUSTAINABILITY (democrats) are voted out of office. Republicans have done there part of purging their party in the primaries....

    Democrats have held on to their crooks and cheats.... including those that voted for higher spending, more debt and more federal control of our lives.

    Vote out the progressives and liberals. Democrats have been screwing up the economy for the past 4 years.

    August 12, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. jae

    Please lets vote republicans in. then we will have gas prices @ $4.00 per gallon (87) just because the cost are higher. and no, the CEO of these companies did not make record profits, their expenses went up like they had to by another plane because the old one was well old and the boat is no longer good because buying another one helped the economy. Also, we have more countries to conquer, I mean destroy, I mean help. do they have oil? also, you democrates have no values, how dare you mention that Newt left his wife while she was fighting cancer. you all know how women are normally, can you imagine how they are with cancer. he needed the break.
    Its just funny how our country is in ruins when a few thousand people gather to say how much President Obama is ruining our country, but hundreds of thousand of people who demonstrated against bush and his KKK members about invading other countries, we were called unpariotic. Racism at its best. All of the Repub gov. saying Obama, do your Job. where were they all when we were asking Bush, what job are you doing? for those who are middle class saying How Dare Obama raise my taxes for others. Take your gross amount, multiply it by .04 and see how much that is. and then ask yourselves, what kind of Christian am I to send this much money to make sure that kids, all kids get health care. forget that, they should go to work huh.

    August 12, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  15. jay

    The GOP has no plans or decent ideas to move the Country forward, all I hear from them is tax cuts for the rich and greedy.

    August 12, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  16. RICK FROM PA

    My ancestors came to this country in 1709 when it was still an English Colony and if John Boehner (and his alikes) becomes the Speaker of the House, I am strongly considering going back to my European Roots.

    August 12, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  17. cajr

    you can't keep taxing the rich to give to the lazy and poor, it just doesn't work. the rich are the ones creating jobs which is why you do not see the economy picking up. they are cautious of the new taxes starting next year with the expiring of the tax cuts and the healthcare fiasco coming soon from obama.

    August 12, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  18. SW in Gig Harbor, WA

    The Dems and Obama can still turn this thing around. They just need to apologize and say that they had accidentally been operating under a "spend-go" instead of a "pay-go" philosophy. So you see, it was just a misunderstanding. Obama should hold a "two word" press conference today, and read the teleprompter that says “My Bad".

    August 12, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  19. Ali

    Oh please, there is a big difference between 1994 and 2010. Our course is unsustainable. He took our debt to the trillion dollar mark in no time flat.

    The trillion dollar mark....can you peeps immediately tell me how many zeros there are in a trillion dollars? I mean wow. Just wow.

    No, I'm voting those goons out. I think it's going to be a bloodbath come November.

    August 12, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  20. 2pacolypse Now

    How do you have both sides of the House from 1994-2007 and before Obama, the White House 20 outta 28 years and not think those policies for the wealthy hasn't gotten us here today. Those policies, led by one Mr. Ronald Reagan and adopted by George H.W. and later George W. has been mainly responsible for killing off the middle class by design. No, I don't like all of Obama's policies but any idiot with a brain can see that one term, or even two terms won't erase over two decades of GOP policy influence on this nation. Again, who destroys a surplus and puts us in a 3 trillion dollar hole to China and in trillions of dollars in debt before Obama even raised his hand to take office? Nobody even mentions the Bush spending spree his final three months in office before leaving which by the way, went on Obama's tab taking office. This is nothing like 1994 in any way shape or form and it's the Tea Party the GOP has swallowed wholely, along with alienating Latinos and alienating their clear thinking moderates, that will be their undoing in November. Democrats don't deserve re-election because as a party, they've become spineless cowards afraid to stand up the the bully GOP and this includes the President on down, but Rethuglicans can't bring, haven't brung, and haven't even proposed any new ideas on how to clean up the mess they made, so why even consider voting them back into power.

    August 12, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  21. Gregoire

    Oh man... that's my favorite.... "argh.. well I'm 60 years old and I'VE never been called for a poll... therefore, because I disagree with THIS poll's results I'm going to entirely dismiss the scientific process of statistical sampling and claim the whole thing is bogus"! Good for you for reaching the age of 58 with such a keen sense of reality!

    August 12, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Newt broke his marital contract with his wife ( the party of "family values?"), so what makes America think he can keep another "contract with America?" Say "NO" to the party of "NO" in NOvember.

    August 12, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. p

    Newt's so-called "Contract for America" included term limits.
    Right after the retardlicans came to power, they quickly jettisoned that pesky proposition.

    August 12, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  24. T'SAH from Virginia

    AND President Clinton went on to be one of the greatest presidents of all time – if you truly want to make a similarity!!!

    The ginGRINCH will NEVER steal an election – He will NEVER be president!!

    People should also keep in mind – since they are POLL SEARCHING – the RepubliCAN'Ts still have a LOWER favorability rate than the DEMS!!!

    August 12, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  25. Duane Bernard, Tucson, Az

    The Republican Party is a virus. They pray on the poor and middle class for their bosses "big business / big money". Some how the PR guys working for the Republicans twist the true so average US citizen think that the poor, minorities and the government are the problems. That way the rich get just what they what ..... no regulations or laws to control the rape and pillage of America!

    August 12, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
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