Washington (CNN) –Two days before the midterm elections, a new national poll indicates that Republicans have a 10-point lead over the Democrats in a crucial indicator in the battle for control of Congress.
The GOP's 10 point advantage in the "generic ballot" question in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey released Sunday is slightly larger than the seven point advantage Republican candidates had on the eve of the 1994 midterms, when the party last took control of Congress from the Democrats.
"But unlike 1994, when polls indicated the public had a positive view of the Republican party, a majority of Americans now do not have a favorable view of the GOP," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Full results (pdf)
According to the poll, 52 percent of likely voters say they will vote for the generic Republican in their congressional district, with 42 percent saying they will vote for the generic Democrat, four percent saying neither and two percent undecided. The GOP's 10-point lead is up from a seven-point advantage in a CNN poll conducted in early October.
The overwhelming majority of Democrats questioned in the survey say they'll vote for the Democrat in their district, with the overwhelming majority of Republicans saying they'll cast a ballot for the GOP candidate. Fifty-five percent of independents say they'll vote for the Republican candidate, with 32 percent saying they'll cast a ballot for the Democrat. The support of independent voters was a crucial factor in the strong showing by Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
"Six in ten suburban voters say they plan to vote for the Republican candidate for the U.S. House on Tuesday,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “That's not good news for the Democrats since most of the seats in play are in suburban districts."
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 is used by many polling organizations, including CNN/Opinion Research Corporation surveys. In the battle for control of Congress, the generic ballot is arguably the most watched polling indicator, but it should not be considered a one-for-all.
The survey indicates that 44 percent have a favorable view of the GOP, with 43 percent saying they hold an unfavorable view. Forty-six percent of the country has a favorable view of the Democratic Party compared to 47 percent with an unfavorable view.
The public is split on the limited-government Tea Party movement, with 37 percent seeing it in a favorable light and an equal amount viewing it in a negative way, and just over one in four undecided.
According to the poll, Americans like some Democrats and others, well, not so much. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's favorable rating has dropped to a new low, just 26 percent, while a majority have a negative view of her. House Minority Leader John Boehner, the Republican who would most likely succeed Pelosi as House Speaker if the GOP wins back the chamber, is still an unknown quantity to most Americans. Nearly half questioned don't know him, and those who do are evenly divided.
President Barack Obama's favorable rating is 48 percent, down from 53 percent in September and 57 percent in April.
But not all Democrats are facing falling favorables. More than six in ten like the Clintons: Former President Bill Clinton gets a 63 percent favorable rating and Hillary Clinton is essentially tied with him at 62 percent.
A favorable rating is not a job approval rating. It's a measure of a person's personal popularity rather than an indicator of how that person is handling their duties in office.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted October 27-30, with 1,006 adult Americans, including 921 registered voters and 542 likely voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percent, with a sampling error of plus or minus four percent for likely voters.
Check out CNN's new Polling Center, which provides the most comprehensive polling data covering national questions and the top 2010 election races of any news organization in the political landscape.
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report