The most important poll number in 2014?
March 12th, 2014
11:27 AM ET
5 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. 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.

    March 12, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  2. Gurgyl

    GOP will lose in next November elections–because of awareness. Nothing wrong with ACA Law, 5 million signed in already. Numbers will increase–not decrease. O.k. Well, you can not take Retired community to old coots as example.

    March 12, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    "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."
    ------------------------------------
    The only pundits calling the Sink/Jolly contest a possible bellwether for the midterm elections are also saying that midterm elections will be a referendum on "Obamacare." Conservatives. The real news would have been Republicans losing, instead they held onto the seat by the slimmest of margins. This should have been a teachable moment for Republicans to sober up, but it won't be.

    March 12, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  4. Wake up People!

    More meaningless polls. Give it a rest Fox-lite.. The POTUS will not be seeking that coveted 3rd term!

    March 12, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. king

    the repubs have thrown all but the kitchen sink at this president, obstruct everything he ask them to do, and demagog him at every turn with fake scandals left and right. fox news, which i think should be investigated for treason have daily meeting with cnbc, fox business news, and a host of right winged radio station, on how they should coordinate their attack that brings every attacker on point. fox news still want to take the coward way out by not hiring a single dem host to shine a light on the other side of their coordinated lies they spew on a daily basis. msnbc who had to stand up to fox news and her corporate news programs friends, still hire repub morning Joe for a whopping 3 hours every weekday morning, and a bunch of host that put the news right down the middle. yet fox news are such cowards to get one dem host on their program for a measly half an hour its shameful, especially when they fool the american people telling them this is a viable news program.

    March 12, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  6. somebody

    The most important 'poll' number is the number of dollars available for advertising. The party that can spend the most to sway opinion is the one that wins. There are many ads being aired already. It doesn't matter if the ads are full of lies. There are people who will believe the lies because they want to believe them. There are others (lots of them) who are too lazy to bother to find the truth. It's sad, but propaganda is effective.

    March 12, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  7. rs

    The only "important" one is the one that rolls out the day after elections. Everything else is just a place marker in time- use or ignore at your own risk.

    March 12, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  8. SamT

    The most important number I'll remember in 2014 is $17 Trillion

    March 12, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. hammerhead

    most important no. is the very few jobs that are out there

    March 12, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. 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 |
  11. Gunderson

    EH, WELL,
    Old Gunderson think real poll already taken. Obama Care on the Ropes. Obama Care fly like Lead Balloon. True, nothing wrong with Obama Care. Just who will pay for it.

    March 12, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  12. Silence DoGood

    @Gunderson
    EH, WELL,
    Old Gunderson think real poll already taken. Obama Care on the Ropes. Obama Care fly like Lead Balloon. True, nothing wrong with Obama Care. Just who will pay for it.
    -------------
    "just who will pay for it" – If we can overcome the conservative overt sabotage and mis-information campaign of the young people (Koch campus beer program) signing-up, that would pay for it. Bonus question: why do they need to sabotage something that is failing "on its own"? I think the Koch's are pretty savvy – they know it is not failing by itself.

    March 12, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. sly

    President Obama has succeeded in getting almost every policy he proposes into law, and his success will likely result in our next President being Hillary Clinton.

    Simply put, there are no qualified Republicans, and their party is hovering around 20%.

    These are very very good times for America. Thank you Mr. President – history will view you as one of the best.

    March 12, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. cynic

    Is POTUS running for the third term??

    March 12, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  15. Gurgyl

    -–that 17 trillion from Bush 2wars, Reagan trickle-down, ding,ding..

    March 12, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. ja

    How could lawmakers in the richest, God fearing, country in the world be against the Affordable Care Act, Jesus healed the sick, and they were not kings and queens,

    March 12, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  17. 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.

    March 12, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    sly

    President Obama has succeeded in getting almost every policy he proposes into law, and his success will likely result in our next President being Hillary Clinton.
    -----------------------–
    Pres. Obama has not succeeded in enacting his agenda since 2009, back when the Democrats had a near filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Even that wasn't as good as it sounds. Republicans delayed Al Franken's debut unitl June, and Ted Kennedy passed in August during the summer recess. With the swearing in of Scott Brown in January 2010, the Democratic strength was broken.

    Republicans and conservatives would like to tell you that Democrats had a filibuster proof majority for two years. With the empty seats, Democrats were short of 60 votes for all but two months in 2009.

    March 12, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Dutch: "The President isn't up for re-election."

    Shh. It is a GOP fundraising secret Reince Preibus would rather keep under wrap.

    March 12, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. 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.

    March 12, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  21. Martoon77

    Wrong the perfect number is 73.

    March 12, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. Silence DoGood

    @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.
    -----------
    Rick, CNN sited the sources. Which numbers were inflated? Surely you checked it out prior to diving into conspiracy land.
    Oh right. You think the REAL numbers are locked away in Area 51 guarded by BigFoot.

    March 12, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    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.
    --------------------–
    Close to 90% of radio, TV, and print media is owned by conservatives. I mean seriously, folks. If you believe the conservative narrative about "liberal controlled media", then how do you explain the "liberal controlled media" allowing so many hateful, right wing pundits on AM radio stations all across America? They're on the air because they stations are owned by conservatives. It's the same way with so many of the local TV stations and newspapers across the country, too.

    March 12, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. critical thinking

    Congress: is comprised of two houses, The House of Representatives controlled by Republicans and will probably maintain control of the House of Representatives after the 2014 elections. The other House called the Senate is controlled by Democrats and will probably lose some seats but uncertain at this point if they will lose control. So when you talk about how low rated Congress is, you are talking about BOTH PARTIES.

    March 12, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  25. Georgia

    He is probably handier with guns than with words, so that makes sense :)

    March 12, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
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