(CNN) - According to the first CNN Poll of Polls in this year's battle for control of Congress, likely voters favor Republican candidates over Democrats in the midterm matchup that's just 27 days away.
The CNN Poll of Polls, compiled and released Wednesday, indicates that 50 percent of likely voters would choose a Republican candidate for Congress if the election were held today. Forty-four percent of likely voters say they would choose a Democrat.
The generic ballot question asks respondents if they would vote for a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district, without naming any specific candidates. It's used by many polling organizations, including CNN/Opinion Research Corporation surveys.
The latest CNN Poll of Polls is an average of four national polls conducted from late September to October 3: CNN (September 21-23), Newsweek (September 29-30), Gallup tracking (September 23-26, September 30-October 3), and ABC News/Washington Post (September 30-October 3). The Poll of Polls does not have a sampling error.
The GOP's single digit lead in the CNN Poll of Polls is similar to the three-point advantage that the party held in mid-October polls in 1994. By late October of that year, the GOP margin had grown to ten points, and in November the Republicans grabbed 54 seats back from the Democrats, winning control of the House of Representatives. They also captured the Senate.
In the battle for control of Congress, the generic ballot is arguably the most watched polling indicator. But it should not be considered one-stop shopping.
"The problem with interpreting the generic ballot is that a national poll cannot produce the same results that 435 separate polls in 435 House districts would produce," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That's why analysts tend to look at other measures as well."
Among the other indicators to consider are the favorable ratings of the two parties, questions about which party should control Congress, ratings of the parties on major issues, and the president's approval rating.
"Some academic experts have done a good job forecasting the results of midterm elections with statistical models that pay little or no attention to the generic ballot," Holland says. "But if you're looking for just one number that tries to forecast what will happen in 435 different House races, the generic ballot is usually the one most analysts focus on."
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