May 5th, 2014
09:39 AM ET
6 months ago

New polls favor GOP in midterm showdown

Washington (CNN) - With six months to go until November's midterm elections, new national polling suggests that Republicans have the edge over Democrats in the battle for Congress.

A USA Today/Pew Research Center survey indicates that the GOP's advantage is due in part to an uneven economic recovery, an unpopular national health care law, and President Barack Obama's lackluster standing among Americans.

And by a more than two-to-one margin, the public says they want the next president to pursue different polices than the current administration, according to the poll.

Battle for Congress

The according to the survey, released Monday, the Republicans have a 47%-43% edge over the Democrats among registered voters in the generic ballot, which asks respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. While the GOP's margin is within the survey's sampling error, any advantage is noteworthy, since Republicans normally perform better among the smaller pool of likely voters than the wider group of registered voters.

And the four-point edge is the GOP's best over the Democrats in USA Today and Pew Research polling in more than two decades.

The new survey is also the third straight poll to indicate the GOP with a slight edge (Fox News) or all tied up with the Democrats (ABC News/Washington Post) on the generic ballot question.

At this time four years ago, a CNN/ORC International poll indicated the Democrats and Republicans all tied up in the generic ballot. That November the GOP went on to win back the House of Representatives, thanks to an historic 63-seat pick up, and made a major dent in the Democrat's majority in the Senate.

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.

"The problem with interpreting the generic ballot is that a national poll cannot produce the same results that 435 separate polls in 435 House districts would produce," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That's why analysts tend to look at other measures as well."

The Obama factor

One of those other indicators is the President's approval rating, which is considered one of the best gauges of a president's standing with Americans and of his clout with lawmakers here in Washington. And during a midterm election year, the approval rating is constantly under the national spotlight, as it's considered a key indicator of how the president's political party may fare on Election Day.

President Obama's numbers in the latest four non-partisan, live operator, national polls are nothing to brag about. His approval rating stands at 44% in the USA Today/Pew Research Center poll and in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, 41% in an ABC News/Washington Post poll, and 42% in the latest Gallup Daily Tracking poll.

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 his sixth year in the White House. That November, the GOP lost control of both the House and the Senate in midterm contests.

While more than half questioned in the USA Today/Pew poll said the President is not a factor in their vote, more (26%) see their vote as a vote against Obama than in favor of the President (16%).

And Democrats seem to be less enthusiastic about Obama than they did four years ago at this time. Back then, in the spring of 2010, 47% of Democrats said their midterm vote would be an expression of support for the President. That's down to 31% now.

2014 Midterms: CNN special coverage

Obama joked this weekend about how his numbers could impact the midterm elections.

"Folks are saying that with my sagging poll numbers, my fellow Democrats don't really want me campaigning with them. And I don't think that's true – although I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a speaker at career day, and she invited Bill Clinton," the President said Saturday at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner.

The poll suggests that the President could also affect not only the 2014 contests, but the 2016 presidential election as well. By a 65%-30% margin, the public says they want the next president to offer different policies and programs than the current White House. That's close to the 70% who said the same thing in April 2006 about whom ever would get elected president in 2008.

Economic perceptions trump reality?

The nation's unemployment rate now stands at 6.3%, the lowest level since September 2008. But according to the latest polls (conducted before 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 national polling indicates most people don't feel very optimistic about the economy and their personal plight.

Only a quarter of those questioned in the USA Today/Pew Research Center poll say economic conditions will better a year from now, with about half saying things will be pretty much the same and one in four saying things will be worse. And nearly two-thirds say jobs in their community are difficult to find.

Less than three in 10 questioned in the ABC News/Washington Post poll said they describe the economy as good or excellent, with more than seven in 10 saying economic conditions in the country are not so good or poor. And just 27% of Americans say the country's heading in the right direction, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, with more than six in 10 say the U.S. is on the wrong track.

"Because the recovery has been relatively modest, moderate in its strength, there's this psychology among people that it's just not getting better out in America," said CNN Chief Washington correspondent John King.

The economy remains the top issue on the minds of voters. Economic realities, as well as perceptions, will influence voters in 2014. The big question is whether those economic realities, and perceptions, will change between now and the November midterm elections.

Health care

Opposition to the Affordable Care Act, approved in spring 2010 when the Democrats controlled the Senate and the House, was a factor in the Republican wave that November. The GOP took back the House following a historic 63-seat pick up, and trimmed the Democratic majority in the Senate.

The federal health care law, better known as Obamacare, was also a major issue in Obama's 2012 re-election victory over Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The Democrats picked up seats in the Senate and House in that election.

And polling indicates the measure will be in the spotlight again this election, as Republicans make their opposition to the law a centerpiece of their campaign. According to the USA Today/Pew Research poll, 55% say they disapprove of the law, with 41% giving the measure a thumbs up.

Key races to watch in 2014

State of play

If there's any silver lining in the survey for the Democrats, this is it: Only 23% say they approve of the job GOP leaders in Congress are doing, nine points lower than the standing of Democratic congressional leaders.

But the survey also indicates that by a 53%-43% margin, those questioned say the issue of which party controls Congress will be a factor in their midterm vote. And those who say party control is important favor the Republicans over the Democrats.

The Democrats currently hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate. 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.

The USA Today/Pew Research Center poll was conducted April 23-27, with 1,501 Americans (including 1,162 registered voters) questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.


Filed under: 2014 • Congress • House • House of Representatives • Poll • Senate • Senate Race
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. smith

    People aren`t happy with the economy and the ACA. However, I still don`t think the GOP will take over the senate.

    May 5, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  2. smith1

    democrats need to get out the vote. Remember they thought ol Mitt was going to win too. Vote all repos out mid term.

    May 5, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  3. rs

    The interesting reality is that the ads being run by the Kochs, er, the Right are just complaint ads. They still hate the President, hate the ACA, hate the economy, hate Illegals, etc. but they offer no new policies (or even any policies) to deal with the complex problems of health care, immigration, or the economy- well, except more tax cuts for the Kochs, er, the rich.
    Meanwhile, the REALITY is the unemployment level is the lowest since Mr. Bush's recession; the corporate profit rate is the highest ever; more than 8 million people are enrolled in the ACA- and the system is clearly working as promised; and all the GOP has is complaints and support of anti-American welfare queen ranchers and gun nuts.

    Yes, they may win the Senate in 2014 with all their lies, and all their money, but it won't do a thing to improve America.

    May 5, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  4. Lynda/Minnesota

    "While more than half questioned in the USA Today/Pew poll said the President is not a factor in their vote, more (26%) see their vote as a vote against Obama than in favor of the President (16%)."

    So much in this poll to contemplate. So little time. (end snark). The good news: after this past horrific winter, I seriously doubt only but the most partisan will be thinking politics this coming summer. Indeed. Most folks will be out and about doing their business much as they have always done ... but with more enthusiasm for daily living and less for politics.

    The days of doom and gloom are over in more ways than one.

    But don't let GOPerville in on the secret. It'll only depress them more knowing that their rants will be falling on deaf ears.

    As for mid-terms? It'll be what it'll be. Either Dems get out and vote ... or they sit home and spent the next two years complaining.

    May 5, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    I'd love to find out where this polling is being done. I wonder who Americans blame for gridlock in Congress. Better yet, who do Americans blame for the government shutdown? No, we haven't forgotten about that!

    May 5, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  6. TONE

    Cnn you will change your tune in 5 months, your paid masters in favor of the GOP give you orders to discourage Dems turn out by reporting this? we will not stay at home this time, our turn out will be the biggest in history. This President will move this country's agenda forward with no gop to obstruct him. We are coming with a vengeance this time because we are tired of the gop getting paid by the government they dispise to do nothing.

    May 5, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  7. Winston Smith

    Get out, and vote. It's imperative that the people be heard, not big business or the military industrial complex.

    May 5, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  8. kh5744

    " ... Economic perceptions trump reality ... ? "
    ----------------------
    As if anybody really believes the supposed "reality" of massaged and faked government statistics ... the unemployment rate is down to only 6% !!!

    It's just like the ancient joke, about the husband caught in bed with another woman, by his wife: Who Ya Gonna Believe, Me or Your Lyin' Eyes?? ... same-same for Obama: Who Ya Gonna Believe, Your Actual Personal Experience, or My Lyin' Mouth??
    ______________________________________________________________________________

    May 5, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  9. tom l

    Meanwhile, the REALITY is the unemployment level is the lowest since Mr. Bush's recession"

    =====

    Lol. Wow, a gerryrigged number manipulated to take out the long term unemployed. Congrats on stellar numbers. 288k jobs created and 800k leave the market entirely. Something to be really proud of. Do you actually believe the drivel that you spew out? How about the labor participation rate? Lowest since 1978. Translation: the lowest percentage of eligible workers are actually working. But I'm sure you're stoked with that too (or maybe THAT part is the republicans fault)

    May 5, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    You've managed to squeeze TWO stories out of the same poll cnn...good for you.
    Vote Democrats.
    Get up, get out and VOTE!

    May 5, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  11. Benny

    I Blame Harry Reid and the dems. Go ROCK Tea PARTY!!!

    May 5, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  12. Gunderson

    Well,
    Fact is fact and fiction is fiction. Famous last words. I Will Cut the Deficit in Half in My First Term or I will Not Run Again. BUT it is just those Republican Ads that are fooling a lot of people, no? Well if you believe that I have a Bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you. Better batten down the hatches because abrupt changes are about to happen. CLUE !!! Repeal Obama Care !!!

    May 5, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  13. Peace

    Fellow Dems, don't get disappointed with these polls. They are just polls and you can still change the polls into the reality. I have been watching News, especially the Morning Shows, and you hear those who are sitting on those tables saying: "these are the places Romney won in 2012". For god's sake if Romney won there the past two years, does it mean people there are satisfied because Romney won? It is really embarrasing to see those who are appointed to sit on a certain tables and educate others, are the ones who seem not educated at all. Am sorry to say this!. SORRY! but it is really making the rest of us astonished!

    May 5, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  14. Gurgyl

    Vote direct democratic ticket. Not expanding Medicare, government shut-down....

    May 5, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  15. Chris-E...al

    344.000 NEW JOBLESS CLAIMS LAST WEEK ?

    May 5, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  16. Sniffit

    "a gerryrigged number manipulated to take out the long term un

    Yawn. It's being measured the same way it's been measured for decades, which is necessary in order to be comparing apples to apples. Grow up and learn some math/statistics. It was measured the same way under Bush while he and the GOP/Teatrolls were busy allowing the housing bubble and deregulation and negligent oversight of Wall Street to cause the biggest recession in a century.

    May 5, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  17. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    In 2014, I will not only vote for a Democrat, I will contribute money to get Democrats elected across the country, work the phone banks, and stand up with FACTS to every repub/tea bag that crosses my path.

    AND I AM NOT ALONE IN MY EFFORTS.

    May 5, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    This is all part of the gop/tea bag strategy to make Dems lose hope and stay away from the polls.

    IT ISN'T GOING TO WORK.

    Limbaugh said he wants the President to fail. The gop named as their #1 goal to make President Obama a one-term president. The gop/tea bags shut down the government to the tune of $24 billion dollars. The gop/tea bags have tried to repeal Obamacare 55 times – even though it is based on THEIR OWN IDEA.

    The gop/tea bag continue to squawk about Benghazi – when NONE of them said a peep when U.S. diplomatic missions were attacked 13 TIMES during the GW years.

    The gop/tea bags cheer when the economy slows – they threaten to withhold domestic aid after natural disasters – they ran on jobs, jobs, jobs and have done nothing, nothing, nothing. Their spokespeople equate waterboarding to baptism.

    They constantly criticize President Obama on the international stage, when during the GW years to do so, they accused the person of being a traitor and aiding the enemy.

    Democrats – LISTEN UP! Get to the polls on November 4, 2014 and give the gop/tea bags the shellacking they deserve!

    May 5, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. TM

    Are the GOP going to run on jobs, jobs, jobs again, that turn out to be, denying Women's rights, repeal Obamacare, and Benghazi.

    May 5, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  20. Tony

    The current projection of RealClearPolitics, a website that keeps track of polls, is that Republicans are likely to have 47 Senate seats, Democrats 45 seats, with 8 seats as toss-ups. Without the toss-ups, Democrats will get 51 seats (including independents who vote with Democrats), and Republicans will get 49.

    May 5, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. rs

    Gunderson
    Well,
    Fact is fact and fiction is fiction. Famous last words. I Will Cut the Deficit in Half in My First Term or I will Not Run Again. BUT it is just those Republican Ads that are fooling a lot of people, no? Well if you believe that I have a Bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you. Better batten down the hatches because abrupt changes are about to happen. CLUE !!! Repeal Obama Care !!!
    ______________
    Ummmm, Gundy? The deficit HAS been cut in half- and the GOP did nothing. Meanwhile, please explain to the audience how TAKING away the healthcare insurance to 15 million Americans (those signed up through the ACA, and expanded State Medicaid programs) will help the economy.
    Finally, further explain why in cities and counties that have raised the minimum wage above the current level why there is no evidence of job cuts, or hours reductions, but in fact the local economy improved?

    Do you like licking the boots of the rich? That may be your only value if the Right wins.

    May 5, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. Joan

    Everyone who believed the polls before the last presidential election probably want to believe this one too. Polls these days are a fantasy world controlled by whoever is making up the questions, where they do the polling, how many people are called, land lines or cells, time of day people are called, etc. etc. etc. The only poll that counts is on election day. Simple as that.

    May 5, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  23. Tom l

    So, in other words, you could care less what the real number is, Sniffit.

    May 5, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  24. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Polls are nice aren't they?
    Are these the same polls that said that MIttens had it in the bag?
    The same polls that had Karl Rove meltdown on national television after their prognosticated Romney win did not pan out?
    Those polls?
    Well, you know what you can do with those dontcha?
    Vote Democrats.
    Get up, get out there and VOTE!

    May 5, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    47% for Republicans....again.
    47% didn't help them in the last election.
    We're coming, we're lining up and we're voting....and we're NOT voting Republican.

    May 5, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
1 2