CNN Poll: GOP advantage in midterms
May 5th, 2014
04:02 PM ET
5 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. godelleb

    People do the voting. I prefer polls to have no meaning. I take every poll offered and intentionally answer opposite what I think.

    May 5, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  2. KenyanLies

    Let`s face it, democrats have kkrapped in their collective hat – watch what happens when the Senate is controlled by the GOP along with The House. Obama WILL BE IMPEACHED for high crimes and treason. I will dance for joy.

    May 5, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  3. kenmargo

    Anyone dumb enough to vote republican deserve ALL the misery the repubs would bring on them. The economy would be in a depression if it wasn't for Obama. Obama wants a job bill to fix the roads and bridges in the country. Repubs block it. Obama helping people get healthcare. Repubs try to repeal it. Obama keeping us out of war in ukraine, Repubs would bomb a circus if the ring leader was a democrat.

    May 5, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  4. sampler1136

    This is the reason why it is not wise to have a two party system - each party knows that no matter how much they screw up, cheat or lie to American people, they are just an election or two away from being back in power.

    Anytime you have a politician that cares more about the party than the country - game over, last one out please shut off the lights...

    May 5, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. ChrisM

    Americans remember the tp/GOP ran on Jobs, Jobs , Jobs in 2010. But now we know exactly what the GOPers meant was Shut down the Government and cost U.S. Taxpayers 24 Billion Dollars. Oh and of course, no gay marriage and of course GOPers must take away a womans right to chose what she does with her own body

    May 5, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  6. MIKE

    ahem, Independents as well as even some GOP voters may surprise you Paul.....
    there to far right for even the southern GOP and their attacks on the woman
    well ...... we will see

    May 5, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  7. network

    The liber-t@rds are frothing at the mouth about this article.

    May 5, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. srcactus

    Obama's OK. It's his policies and the direction that he's taking the country that's the problem. A fully employed country is a happy country, a country of people with money to spend and a government with good cash flow of taxes. We need more jobs not more government programs for the unemployed, or under employed. Social engineers don't seem to understand the American working class.

    May 5, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. Rob

    Oh, and "Storm Chaser", you can forget about your dreams of Republicans nominating a lot of unelectable candidates. I think the party (and voting Republicans) have seen the damage that caused, and polling numbers suggest that the more traditional Republican candidates are likely to win their primaries this time around. But you go ahead and keep telling yourself that Democrats are gonna do GREAT in the midterms!!

    May 5, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. pkfops01

    Wow....the election is six months away.

    Like maybe people, other than a few political nutjobs, have other things to do.

    May 5, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  11. KenyanLies

    Say goodbye to socialism and community organizer incompetence. I will never forgive the injustice you liberal voters have brought upon our nation, all in the name of pigment and special interests. Shame on you all.

    May 5, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  12. Edward Cox

    Everything hinges on whether the Democrats can cheat enough to steal another election.

    May 5, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. Charlene

    This sounds like a Republicans pipe dream -every body I know is voting Democrat .Nobody likes Republicans because Republicans refuse to raise minimum wage -instead they gave a big fat tax break to their owners the Koch brothers. This story just sounds bogus -these exact same polls had Romney winning back in 2012 and we all know how that turned out. Democrats are going to keep the Senate and probably take back the House as well-judging from what I hear out here in the real world-not the rich white world of these polls. Republicans will make such asses of themselves in the next few months that even their own people won't vote for them. Charlene

    May 5, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. Ken

    Don't vote. It doesn't matter. The power and money base will dictate to all. WE are an oligarchy.

    May 5, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. CrashMan

    Scary. Just... scary.

    May 5, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. abby

    prices still sky high, no jobs, taxes and insurance up a third more, security failing – pretty gloomy – promised changes, not delivered

    May 5, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. Dennis

    CNN should do a story on all the stupid people who would vote for any GOP candidate. What are they thinking, that they'll become part of the 1%, not happening guys.

    May 5, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  18. KenyanLies

    "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. "......SPEAKING FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR LIBERAL PIE HOLE Paul.....

    May 5, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. Justin

    re: Wake Up Sheeple! Many Rivers to cross...

    No need to make it up. It has been proven that Democrats dont vote as much as GOP in midterm elections. Especially since all Senate Democrats tied their horse to an ACA that is failing miserably. Reminds me of the 12' general election. It was not that GOP voters actually pulled the lever for King Barry, more like GOP voters were not enthused about Mitt Romney, so they did not vote. That will not happen this time aroung, especially when O's approval rating is hovering around the same mark that W has in 2006.

    May 5, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. jim

    The GOP's midterm advantage is called Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and the ACA.

    May 5, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  21. frank

    Small Edge? Really? NO way the silent majority is down with Bengazi cover up, IRS coverup NOT BEING ABLE TO KEEP YOUR DOCTOR, LOSS OF COVERAGE FOR HEALTH INSURANCE and Viral Executive Orderitise. My guess, is a blow out in November. We Tea Baggers have not forgot the above issues. With Gowdy leading the Bengazi investigation Impeachment is closer than you think. Those libs wearing rose closed lens need to switch to clear lens. What goes around comes around. Karma will catch up to those that fleece Americans.

    May 5, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    The people have already made up their minds for the midterms and it's not going to be good for the corrupt America destroying democrats .They will get what they deserve .We will be watching out for the democrat voter fraud like in the past,they are getting desperate .

    May 5, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. Joe

    I can't wait until there is a near complete sweep by the (R). I think it will make 2010 look like every (R) stayed home. Obamacare is bad, yes. But once the select committee is up and rolling and more and more lies are uncovered it is on like Donkey Kong.

    May 5, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  24. Ricky Vee

    Libs are gonna get crushed in November. If a CNN poll has them up by even a small margin, you know that no bias polling will have them up even more.

    Libs, you did this to yourselves. You elected Obama based on his race which is your obsession, and not his qualifications. You reap what you sew...

    May 5, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. Richardo

    6 years of this lying, corrupt scandalous administration is enough. They don't take any responsibility for anything. Screw up and get a promotion Obama style. This administration is a disgrace any way you look at it. Hurry up NOVEMBER.

    May 5, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
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