January 15th, 2010
07:05 PM ET
12 years ago

CNN Poll: Big dip in enthusiasm among Democratic voters

Washington (CNN) - Democrats face a growing enthusiasm gap in this year's battle for Congress, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday also indicates Americans are split in their choice for Congress in November's midterm elections, with Republicans making gains at the Democrats' expense.

Forty-nine percent of Republicans questioned in the poll say they're extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this year, up 6 points from November. Thirty-one percent of Democrats say they're enthusiastic, down 11 points.

"Democrats face a huge 'enthusiasm gap,' and that gap is growing," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But the poll indicates that roughly half of all registered voters may change their minds between now and Election Day, so there is plenty of time for the playing field to change."

According to the survey, 48 percent of registered voters say they would vote for the Republican candidate for Congress, with 45 percent saying they'd back the Democrat. The 3-point edge for the GOP is within the poll's sampling error - but it's a switch from November, when the Democrats held a 50 to 44 percent advantage. The generic ballot question asked respondents if they would vote for a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district, without naming any specific candidates.

"That 3-point difference doesn't sound too bad for the Democrats, but the party's numbers are boosted by high levels of support in districts that the GOP has no chance of winning this year," says Holland. "In safe Democratic districts, the Dems have a 21-point advantage over the GOP."

The poll paints a different picture in more competitive districts, those where the incumbent won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2008. In those districts, the poll indicates Democrats are currently facing a 27-point deficit, with 59 percent of registered voters in the competitive districts now saying they would vote for the Republican candidate for U.S. House if the election were held tomorrow, and only 32 percent that they would choose the Democratic candidate.

"That suggests big losses for the Democrats this November. But keep in mind that there is a lot of white noise in the data, because it is almost impossible to accurately model individual House districts," adds Holland.

The poll indicates that 2010 is shaping up to be a bad year for incumbents regardless of party. Just a third of all Americans say they would prefer to vote for an incumbent this year than a challenger, with 46 percent saying they would rather vote for the challenger and one in five adding that it makes no difference.

"Those numbers are roughly the same as they were at the start of 1994, when the Democrats lost control of the House. Challengers are seen as more honest than incumbents, more likely to bring change, and more likely to represent the views of the voters," says Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted January 8-10, with 1,021 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Democrats currently hold a 256-178 advantage in the House of Representatives, with one seat formerly held by the Democrats vacant. The GOP needs to win back 40 House seats in November to regain control of the chamber.

Full results (pdf)

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn

Filed under: 2010 • CNN poll • Popular Posts
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Mike in MN

    Democrats are turned off because Obama and his Democrat thugs in congress have not delievered the hope and change he promised. What they have delivered are an array of major bills all opposed by a majority of voters.
    Republicans and conservatives are fired up becasue they believe Obama and the congressional Dems are leading us down a path that we will not be able to recover from or if we do the cost will be so enormous that the US may never be the great nation it once was.

    January 15, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. j

    Just remember how badly the Republicans messed things up and that should help with how people vote. America doesn't have a perfect system but I think the countries better off with Progressives versus Conservatives.

    January 15, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  3. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Of course Dems aren't enthusiastic. They bought a bill of goods from Obozo, and now he can't deliver. He promised everything to everybody, and has delivered NOTHING. The only change is that everything got worse. Can't wait until November.

    January 15, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. Mike in MN

    Obama has put the Democrats in a terrible position.
    He was always a far left liberal and the liberal base of the party knew this and expected he would push liberal policy.
    He ran as a centerist to get the independent vote which is needed to win elections.
    What he as delivered is very liberal bills where he can which has resulted in deficit numbers that have alarmed all but liberals. Because of this he has lost the independents.
    But on issues like the wars and health care he has lost the base. The base wants the wars to end and they want universal single payer health care and also cap and trade. Obama has let cap and trade and health care be watered down in an effort to get them passed. The liberal base does not like this and the bills are still unattractive to conservatives.
    End result is a majority of voters do not like what is happening and the Democrat liberal base is turned off.
    Obama is a self serving idiot.

    January 15, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  5. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Yep, even life-long Democrats are realising, with some degree of reluctance, I suspect, that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are too far over the left edge for comfort, not to mention for the presently poor economic strength of the country.

    January 15, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  6. aneanderthal

    They see what they have gotten during the last two national election cycles, judge it versus what was promised and are voting with their feet. Dems will eventually learn that they can fool the people once, maybe twice, but not forever like the old days. All you libs can denounce and demean the TEA partys, but they are determining you fate now. If Schumer were to run for reelection in New York today, he would not make it. Rangel should be gone. Reid is gone, just a rotting corpse. Pelosi, well, she is from San Francisco, but she will make as bad of a minority leader as she has been a majority leader.

    January 15, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  7. BB

    That is absolutely unbelievable. I don't know who to be more disappointed with: the American public for turning so quickly back to the party of Katrina, Guantanamo, and the Great Recession; or the Democrats for driving them there through disunity and failure to capitalize on a historic power advantage.

    January 15, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  8. TexasJack

    This is one 50-yr Democrat who has dipped himself clean out of the party. I will leave it with the minority.

    January 15, 2010 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. Jay

    I am so sad that non-senoir Democrats totally wasted their opportunity to help their party's leadership get meaningful things done. They completely wasted an opportunity to stand as one. Maybe the voters of this country could have seen, if they had stood as one single unit like the Republicans, how they used their solid majority to better life for the common man (unlike Republicans) that they would have furthered their majority in both the Senate and House.

    Now the Republicans will wipeout the Supermajority and this wonderful President will be relegated to ordinary.

    Sad, sad, sad.

    January 15, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  10. Dutch the Great

    Democrats don't show out until a week out from the election. Take this poll then.

    January 15, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  11. TomInRochNY

    There goes any chance meaningful legislation being passed in the next three years. This is why Obama wants health care passed no matter what.

    January 15, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  12. Obama Victim

    looks like "hope and change" didn't last long....C ya Obummer

    January 15, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. Doraine Gordon

    How quickly the people forget who put us in the shape we are in today. Our country was run into the ground by Bush and his GOP Party. Look at what a mess they left for the new President. I shutter to think what would have happened if the GOP had retained control of everything. They have made no effort whatsoever to help the new President. All they do is critisize every move he makes. They are envious and jealous of the fact that Obama is smart and puts Bush to shame. Bush was just a puppet! Someone had to pull the strings to wake him up. And he could not speak in front of anyone. You all know that he was the worst President our country ever had. The GOP created this mess and yet you are so stupid as to want to put them in control again. I can't imagine that the American people would cave in so easily. Anyone even considering voting Republican is a total idiot. God help us if that bunch of incompetents take over again!!!!!

    January 15, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. Larry

    I'm democrat, and I'm voting.

    January 15, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Allowing a Monopoly doesnt bring down prices

    The Death Assurance Companies had this battle ready years ago,when they planted their double agents,the blue dogs,in the right states.This system of government no longer functions for the good of its citizens,but rather the interests of the almighty dollar and Corporations without borders.Its time to dismantle the entire system that only panders to big business.

    January 15, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. mikl

    What is going in America? I just cannot remember the time that american politics made by closed door. We will take our love USA back in 2010 and 2012.

    January 15, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Dean in Florida

    The reason for the enthusiasm gap resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

    January 15, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  18. B

    Short sighted Americans that expect everything changed in two months..

    January 15, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  19. Bedtime for Obonzo

    That's what happens when the leader of the Democratic Party turns out (surprise!) to be a rabidly partisan, incompetent, lying, promise-breaking Socialist.

    "Hope and change" - what an empty mantra.

    January 15, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  20. Darby

    The state of the country in no longer Bush's fault, its now Obama's and he is failing miserably to turn it around, dont blame current failures on past presidents if a leader can not enact positive change in a year then he is no true leader but merely a pack leader to a group of incompetant individuals whom despite a supermajority still cant seem to reach resolution to problems even amongst themselves much less the problems of the working man. Yes Obama has made history and appointted many landmark people to positions of power but that does no good when it does the country no good. I for one say hurray for history, but lets not destroy our nation for want of change just to make a point, we need to get back to the fundamentals that kept this nation thriving, and stop all the self-centeredness and the attitude that you should be compensated for piss poor effort.

    January 15, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  21. Ready for 2012

    Of course Dems aren't enthusiastic. They thought Obama was going to deliver them to the "promise land" and he turned out just to be another plitician – makes big promises but then doesn't follow-through.

    I predict a very low voter turnout in 2010. Voter turnout will be up again in 2012 because everyone who is sick of Obama can vote him out.

    January 15, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  22. Susan

    Both Hope and Change are working out great for me - thanks for asking! President Obama is working hard on every campaign promise he made - obviously and not surprisingly, the Republican'ts are making it just as hard for him as they possibly can - what a grumpy, hateful group they are and never have I seen such a disturbing trend in partisanship. And, as only one Democrat, I am most surely voting in November and I encourage EVERYONE else to do the same! YES, WE CAN!

    January 15, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  23. Pittsburgh voter

    Hmmmm...I thought that the republican party and conservatism were dead. How could the liberal elites been so wrong? What else are they wrong about?

    January 15, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. Reny

    I plan to laugh when the Republicans are in charge again and they start ruining the country. You get what you vote for and if you are dumb enough to vote the Repubilicans in again then you deserve what they do to you.

    January 15, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. terry,va

    Dumbocraps are heading for the hills after voting for Obummie. No one is as goofy as him except Pelosi. Pelosi is from San Fran. Enough said.

    January 15, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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