CNN Poll: GOP advantage in midterms
May 5th, 2014
04:02 PM ET
4 months ago

CNN Poll: GOP advantage in midterms

Washington (CNN) – A small edge right now in a key indicator of the midterm elections could lead to a big advantage for the Republicans over the Democrats come November.

That's the suggestion from a new CNN/ORC International poll, that also indicates that President Barack Obama's lackluster approval ratings and pessimistic perceptions about the economy could also make 2014 a good year for the GOP at the ballot box.

Read full CNN/ORC International poll results

But according to the survey, which was released Monday, Americans are divided on whether they want Republicans to regain control of the Senate if they also retain their majority in the House of Representatives.

Complete coverage: 2014 midterms

Six months before Election Day, the GOP has a one point edge over the Democrats (46%-45%) among registered voters nationwide in the generic ballot. The question asks respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. While that margin is well within the survey's sampling error, any advantage is noteworthy, since Republicans normally perform better among the smaller pool of those who vote in midterm elections than the wider group of registered voters.

The GOP's margin grows 48%-45% when looking just at those who say they voted in the last midterm elections, in 2010.

"The results among 2010 voters is not a likely voter model because it is still too early to get a valid estimate on who is likely to vote this year. But looking at the 2010 electorate does help adjust for the fact that midterm voters are quite different from the general public or from voters who only vote in presidential years," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"That three-point margin may not sound like much, but it's pretty much where the GOP was in the spring of 2010 before the party went on to take control of the U.S. House in November thanks to a 63-seat pick up, and made a major dent in the Democrat's majority in the Senate," Holland added.

One caveat: While the generic ballot question is one of the most commonly used indicators when it comes to the battle for Congress, the poll results often are a long way from predicting what will happen in November, since there are 435 separate House races rather than one national race. Analysts often look other polling indicators.

But many of those other indicators also seem to favor the Republicans right now.

President a drag on his party

According to the poll, 43% of Americans say they approve of the job Obama is doing as president, with 55% giving him a thumbs down. The President's approval rating is unchanged from CNN's most recent survey, which was conducted in early March.

The President's approval ratings are hovering in the low to mid 40's in most non partisan national polling this year, slightly above where he stood in November and December, when he hit or matched his all-time low in many surveys.

Obama's approval rating is slightly better at this time in his presidency than his most recent predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, who was in the low to mid 30's in April of 2006, his sixth year in the White House. That November, thanks to a Democratic wave, the GOP lost control of both the House and the Senate in midterm contests.

While a majority of those questioned say the President is not a major factor in their vote this November, a quarter say they will be sending a message that they oppose Obama, with one in five saying their vote will be a message of support for the President.

"On the face of it, a majority saying that their vote is not based on their opinion of an unpopular president may sound like good news for Democrats," Holland said. "But President Obama has usually been the Democratic party's most reliable way to fire up the base, and this question suggests that Democrats won't turn out this year just because Obama asks them to. It's also worth noting that the current numbers are almost identical to 2010, when the President's party got shellacked in the midterms."

And Democrats, more than Republicans, appear to have more work ahead of them when it comes to firing up the base. Conventional wisdom dictates that the GOP has an advantage over the Democrats in midterm contests. White voters and older voters, key to the Republican base, tend to cast ballots in bigger percentages in midterms than younger voters and minorities, who are an important part of the Democrats' base.

Economic perceptions trump reality?

The nation's unemployment rate now stands at 6.3%, the lowest level since September 2008. But according to the CNN poll, which was conducted after Friday's jobs report from the Labor Department, the positive news from Wall Street and Washington may not be resonating on Main Street. Many people just don't feel that good about things, and recent national polling indicates most people don't feel very optimistic about the economy and their personal plight.

Only 38% of those questioned in the CNN survey describe the country's current economic conditions as good, with 62% rating them poor. There has been constant growth in the number of Americans who think the economy is in good shape - the 38% is a nine-percentage point improvement from last autumn, but the number with a positive view of the economy only increased by two points since February. At that rate, a substantial majority will still have a negative view of economic conditions in November.

The economy remains the top issue on the minds of voters. Economic realities, as well as perceptions, will influence voters in the midterms.

Silver lining for Democrats?

Even if this all adds up to a good year for Republicans, it may not mean the public wants the GOP in total control on Capitol Hill.

Key races to watch in 2014

The Democrats currently hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate (including two independents who caucus with the party). But the party's defending 21 of the 36 seats in play, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states.

In the House, Democrats need to pick up 17 GOP-held seats to win back control of the chamber, a feat political handicappers say is unlikely considering the shrinking number of competitive congressional districts.

According to the poll, if Republicans retain the House, 42% say they want the GOP to also win back the Senate. But 45% say they want the Democrats to keep control of the upper chamber.

The poll was conducted May 2-4 for CNN by ORC International, with 1,008 Americans nationwide. including 911 registered voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. CryBabies

    "No comment" is the only relevant talking point here.

    May 5, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. storm chaser 101

    Repubs will nominate crazy tbaggers that are unelectable they may even loose ground party of NO we ain't forgot

    May 5, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  3. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    If I didn't know better I would think Foxlite is trying to convince us it's over and don't even bother voting......👿👿

    May 5, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  4. BO

    Thanks obamacare.

    May 5, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. BO

    American's have had enough of the lies.

    May 5, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  6. wjm980

    The Pew-USA Today poll shows a far bigger swing towards Republicans. Bottom line – the left is in trouble.

    May 5, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. Dave

    That's funny, USA Today cited poll results earlier today that suggested the GOP was going to have it's best midterm election in 20 years.

    May 5, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. Liberal_garbage

    Ha, liberal garbage article.

    May 5, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. behaviorquest

    The American public deserves the government that best reflects the majority of the citizens. If the citizens don't value education, basic human rights, women's issues then they can screw themselves which is what the Tea Party is trying to do.
    Our forefathers would be turning over in their graves to see the yahoos that are in congress now.

    May 5, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  10. Bill from GA

    " most people don't feel very optimistic about the economy and their personal plight "

    This sums up a major problem with our economy. Most of us are doing fine these days, and much better than we were 5 years ago. But the media is always telling us how bad the economy is. Perception drives reality.

    When i get out, I see people eating out, bars are crowded. New car sales are high. Housing has largely recovered. A new cell phone model comes out and it flies off the shelves. Yet we continue to hear about the unemployed, even with many jobs unfilled. And a large problem is that we no longer feel the need to maintain and improve our infrastructure.

    May 5, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. rs

    The salient question here is: Just what has the GOP done to improve the economy of the United States of America in the last 6 years?

    Oh, yeah, nothing. The Democrats simply need to remind the voters of that (and their record number of filibusters), every single day. "Mission Accomplished".

    May 5, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  12. betterdays

    Only six months of "they're gonna put y'all in chains" to go. By November, this advantage will have been erased.

    May 5, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Joshua Wertheim

    Not to mock the poll, which is scary, but the picture in the article says Vote Here (Aqui) and points to what looks like someone's home. What I note about that is that the word Aqui implies it's an invitation for Spanish speaking people to vote there, and then pointing to someone's home suggests it's in a Republican sign. Why? It must be a trick to get the Spanish speaking voters (who lean Democrat) to go into a fake polling station, where their ballots will never see the light of day. BTW in response to the overall article, I say this: "Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water..."

    May 5, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  14. Tai Mai Shu

    There is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, a vote for either party is a vote against your personal liberty.

    May 5, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  15. JIM Boom

    Well with gov trust quite low it is not a surprise

    May 5, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  16. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    This is like the 4th article in the Ticker today alone stating the exact same thing.....

    May 5, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  17. 1776usa2016

    Why is it that the Dems all stay home during midterms when this is the very election to determines the policies that will affect them for the upcoming years?

    It has never ceased to amaze me about this.

    .

    May 5, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  18. BobHaze

    Can you say S-H-E-L-L-A-C-K-I-N-G ????

    May 5, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  19. guest

    romney by a landslide said all the polls, it will be a historical landslide victory say all the pundits.

    do not listen to the forecasts, they are paid big money to say it will be a landslide to dissuade voters.

    May 5, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  20. Everyday Joe

    The polls don't mean anything now CNN-why dont I ever get polled??? I'd really let you corporate media hacks have it!

    May 5, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  21. DustyOnesIsBack

    CNN/ORC poll? This means the GOP really has a double digit lead.

    May 5, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  22. Ann

    Fox and CNN are the same. But we see the FOX, Know how it work and it's not little Red. IT'S The woof.

    May 5, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  23. Mateo

    Never underestimate the stupidity of the American public. THey'd have to be either wealthy or ignorant. Stop voting against your own interest. Republicans may divide and conquer on socail issues, but they're laughing all the way to the bank as America's middle class continues to shrink and America continues it's downward spiral. Income ineuality si on par with China and countries like Suriname. Canada's middle class wealth just surpassed that of the U.S. Today's Republican Party is not your father's party.

    May 5, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  24. grampatc

    If there were more smarter voters they would look for people running for office that are neither Democtatic or Republican choices and throw all the current crop for screwing the American Public while always exempting themselves from the crap they pass.

    May 5, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  25. James

    Small advantage is all it takes for the GOP to declare victory this fall

    May 5, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6