The most important poll number in 2014?
March 12th, 2014
11:27 AM ET
4 months ago

The most important poll number in 2014?

Washington (CNN) – With the midterm elections less than eight months away, and with Republicans framing the battles for control of the U.S. House and Senate as a referendum on President Barack Obama and his signature health care law, the President's approval rating will increasingly be under the spotlight.

According to a new CNN Poll of Polls that averages four new national surveys that measure the President's approval rating, 44% of Americans say they approve of the job Obama's doing in the White House, with 52% giving him a thumbs down.


The CNN Poll of Polls averages new surveys from NBC News/Wall Street Journal (Obama at 41%), Bloomberg (Obama at 48%), CNN/ORC International (Obama at 43%) and the latest Gallup Daily Tracking Poll (Obama at 45%).

The President's approval rating is slightly higher than where it stood in November and December, when it was hovering at or near all-time lows in most national polls, but it's far lower than where he stood a year ago, when his numbers were generally just below 50%. But Obama's approval ratings steadily declined in the following months as he dealt with one controversy after another, from NSA surveillance and allegations that the IRS targeted conservative groups to the extremely flawed rollout of the new federal health care website in the autumn.

Why it matters

The presidential approval rating is the best measure of a president's standing with the American public and good indicator of his clout with lawmakers here in the nation's capital. And in midterm election years, the approval rating is closely watched to gauge how well members of the president's party will fare.

"Low approval numbers usually spell bad news for the president's party.  George W. Bush's rating was just 36% in March of his sixth year and his party lost control of the House later that year.  Richard Nixon got only a 26% approval rating in March of his sixth year and the GOP got hammered in the 1974 midterms," CNN Polling Director Keating said.

"On the other hand, high approval rating don't always help. Ronald Reagan's approval rating was at 63% in March of 1986 and remained that high throughout the year, but his party still lost seats in the House and lost control of the Senate in the 1986 midterms."

The CNN Poll of Polls was released the day after a major victory by Republicans in what was considered a key congressional election in a swing district.

Republican candidate David Jolly edged out Democrat Alex Sink to win Tuesday's special election in Florida's 13th Congressional District. Jolly will fill out the term of his former boss, longtime Republican Rep. Bill Young, who died in October.

With national Republicans framing the race as a referendum on Obamacare,  a massive infusion of outside ad money into the race to try to influence the outcome of the contest,  and some pundits calling the contest a possible bellwether for November's midterm elections, the race was constantly in the national spotlight.

Balance of Power

With Jolly's win keeping the congressional seat in GOP hands, the Democrats still need win 17 seats in November's midterm elections to regain control of the chamber. Political handicappers consider that a tall order, considering the shrinking number of competitive congressional districts nationwide.

Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party), but are defending 21 of the 36 seats up in November, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states.

By a 33%-24% margin, Americans questioned in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll say their vote in November will be to signal opposition to the President rather than to signal support. But just over four in 10 say their vote has nothing to do the with Obama. Nearly half of those polled say they're less likely to vote for a candidate who's a strong supporter of the Obama administration, with just over a quarter saying they're more likely to vote for such a candidate.

According to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, Republicans hold an insignificant one-point margin (44%-43%) over the Democrats in the generic ballot question, which asks to choose between a Democrat or Republican in respondents' congressional district without identifying the candidates. While the generic ballot question is one of the most commonly used indicators when it comes to the battle for Congress, the poll results are a long way from predicting what will happen in November's midterm elections.

The latest edition of the CNN Poll of Polls is an average of the four non-partisan, live operator, national surveys of the president's approval rating conducted over the last week: Gallup daily tracking poll (March 8-10); Bloomberg National Poll (March 7-10); NBC News/Wall Street Journal (March 5-9) and CNN/ORC International (March 7-9). Since it is an average of multiple surveys, the Poll of Polls does not have a sampling error.


Filed under: 2014 • CNN Poll of polls • President Obama
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Ron L

    As I have written before there is too much emphasis put on polls and the news media attempting to make them newsworthy. In the first half of this article you say the MOST important statistic is the Presidents approval and then just a short time later you explain Reagan had a 68% approval and his party still loss the House. Why isn't this clear enough to everyone, POLLS are just a snap shot in time and nothing more.
    In regards to the race in Florida I would like to know three statistics. How many registered voters are there in the area? How many people are eligible to vote but not registered? And how many of the registered voters did vote? I also would like to say there is a little bit too much hype about the outcome. The seat was held by a Republican, it was won by a Republican, this seems kind of normal to me. If the Democrat would have won in spite of the extremely poor launch of the ACA and the non-stop hammering the Obama administration has been experiencing. In closing, the ONLY people who will benefit from all of this hype is both political parties as they go to donors pleading for more and more money....it's pretty sad.

    March 12, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. Ron L

    As I have written before there is too much emphasis put on polls and the news media attempting to make them newsworthy. In the first half of this article you say the MOST important statistic is the Presidents approval and then just a short time later you explain Reagan had a 68% approval and his party still loss the House. Why isn't this clear enough to everyone, POLLS are just a snap shot in time and nothing more.
    In regards to the race in Florida I would like to know three statistics. How many registered voters are there in the area? How many people are eligible to vote but not registered? And how many of the registered voters did vote? I also would like to say there is a little bit too much hype about the outcome. The seat was held by a Republican, it was won by a Republican, this seems kind of normal to me. If the Democrat would have won in spite of the extremely poor launch of the ACA and the non-stop hammering the Obama administration has been experiencing. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN NEWS!! In closing, the ONLY people who will benefit from all of this hype is both political parties as they go to donors pleading for more and more money....it's pretty sad.

    March 12, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    HILARIOUS watching Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts walk the plank toward another November. As clueless as they were in 2012 when they were SHOCKED.

    March 12, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. Fr33th1nk3r

    No, the most important number right now (and I voted for Obama), is:

    $17,485,034,750,872 and counting upwards steadily.

    March 12, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  5. jinx9to88

    What gets me is that part of the reason Obama polls are down is he has a Congress with a lower approval rating then Herpes. How can Obama do what he promised when he won reelection by 5 million votes when he has a do nothing Congress? Hey CNN why don't you note that big fact?

    March 12, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    I have four words of advice. "Tear down that wall."

    Some of you talk like you live in alternate realities and walled cities. You have no idea what actually occurs outside of the city's wall. Worst of all, some folks sound like they paint pictures on the inside of the wall depicting what they think that the outside world looks like.

    March 12, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  7. jinx9to88

    The GOP races that are running on repealing Obamacare is flat out lying cause there is no way Obamacare can be replaced while Obama is in office and when Clinton wins in 2016. They will just veto any bill that makes it thru Congress and Senate. So good luck!

    March 12, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  8. just saying

    jinx9to88
    What gets me is that part of the reason Obama polls are down is he has a Congress with a lower approval rating then Herpes. How can Obama do what he promised when he won reelection by 5 million votes when he has a do nothing Congress? Hey CNN why don't you note that big fact?
    -–

    and what has obama and the democrats compromised with the republicans on to get done? nothing. obama refuses to negotiate or compromise. it is how obama, reid and pelosi jammed obamacare down our throats.

    but obama can't get his own signature legislation to work! obamacare has been changed so many times, illeglly, that nobody knows what the law really is anymore. and by every measure put forward by obama and the democrats, it is a total failure.

    the american people are sick and tired of the demorcats lies, deceit, excuses and blaming others. it is clear obama was a major mistake for this country. he doesn't have a clue about how to do the job. all he does is campaign and fund raise, attend parties, golf, etc. he just doesn't seem interested in doing the real work that needs to get done.

    March 12, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. stingerhp

    A poll is a way for the pollster to get people to say what he wants them to say.. Polls are a total waste of time and are a dishonest showing of what is really happening in the real world.. Skewing a poll is as simple as changing a single word in a question or asking slanted questions of someone who will answer the way you intend.. Such a waste of time....

    March 12, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. BC

    @Nathan....I can't wait to see you cry after you lose the election this time around. The Socialist experiment is over. Most Americans can see the Dems are done.

    March 12, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  11. Bubba Ray

    Why can't Obama just compromise with the Republicans and give them everything they want? That is the Republican definition of "compromise" isn't it?

    March 12, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  12. DENNA

    @ never to vote republican again –
    The important thing to remember is the GOP has done NOTHING for the middle class! They need to go!
    March 12, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
    .....................................................................................................................................................................................
    Thank you. The GOP promised to create jobs in 2010 if the voters would only give them the House. Well, they got it and have not created a single job. Not only that, these charlatans have forced President Obama to do an end-run around them and go straight to the business community and other partnerships to began the process of putting America back to work. This is all a game to the GOP and Americans have paid enough!

    March 12, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. Big_D

    I think the President has history on his side. ACA is not the answer but it is a start on the right path. Koch brothers lying is sick and wrong and the GOP will pay for trying to deceive voters about the ACA.

    March 12, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. Big_D

    Let's just say when GOP voters start realizing they are being dictated to instead of having anything they want count they might start questioning why the GOP has very few individual donors.

    March 12, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  15. just someone

    jinx9to88
    The GOP races that are running on repealing Obamacare is flat out lying cause there is no way Obamacare can be replaced while Obama is in office and when Clinton wins in 2016. They will just veto any bill that makes it thru Congress and Senate. So good luck!
    I guess no one told you that congress can override a presidential veto.

    March 12, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    just asking
    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House
    The poll number to watch is Congress' approval rating. The President isn't up for re-election.
    -–

    you do realize that democrats are a part of congress as well and share in those rating? or do you just think they apply to republicans? of course you do. that is the non-reaility bubble you seem to live in.

    and while obama is not up for re-election, his policies and direction for the next two years is up for decision by the american people. in 2010 they stopped him by removing the house from democrat control and giving it to the republcans. and now the same will happen to the senate because obama and harry reid refuse to allow the repeal of obamacare. democrats need to realize, either that obamanation of a law goes, or they go.
    -------------------------------------
    Bubble? Don't make me laugh. The obstruction, debt ceiling hostage taking, 50 repeal votes & government shutdown are all of republicans doing. Congress' low poll numbers are due to the republicans in Congress. Divided government doesn't mean sit on your but for 2 years and do nothing. Whoops! I forgot. This is the Do Nothing Congress.

    March 12, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  17. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    Fr33th1nk3r
    No, the most important number right now (and I voted for Obama), is:

    $17,485,034,750,872 and counting upwards steadily.
    ------------------------------------
    You do realize the deficits are falling their fastest since WWII right? As far as that 17 trillion goes, account for the unpaid for spending from 2000-2008.

    March 12, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  18. tom l

    "The real news would have been Republicans losing, "

    ====

    Except that pundits predicted that Jolly would lose. President Romney thanks you for pointing that out.

    March 12, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  19. Ol' Yeller

    @Rick McDaniel
    "The Dem media, like CNN will report his numbers at an inflated level to try and convince the voters, to support him.
    Those of us, who have the ability to discern the deceptions, lies, and corruption, will NOT believe those reports, because we KNOW they are untrue."

    Yes, yes... I remember this well. They reported the numbers at inflated level to try and get voters to support him; that part is 100% true. The part you have wrong is it wasn't "The Dem media, like CNN", it was the republicant's dim media, like FAUX news.
    And it wasn't Obama, it was mitt romney.
    And you apparently DO NOT have the ability to discern the deceptions, lies, and corruption, and will NOT believe FACTS, because you don't want to know the truth.
    rick... you can't handle the truth.

    March 12, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
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