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. harold

    Yes some people long for someone like a Republican to turn the other way when a GM auto maker needs hel;p to survive ...to preserve the corporation .. Maybe they would reather have a Repubican balanced budget.. like the Republicans gave the USA back in 1930 during the Great Depression.. That would sure get em a job would it not?

    January 15, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  2. Susan L.

    I would still vote for ANY Democrat over ANY Republican in any election being held. The Republican party is a travesty. They nearly destroyed this country in 8 years of Bush where 6 of those years had a fully Republican Congress, too. I'm pissed at all of these whiney-baby Democrats who seemed to have believed that rainbows and unicorns would suddenly appear the day after Obama was innaugurated and that ponies would be delivered to all of them within his First Year, no matter what Congress did or didn't do. They're the ones who are no longer enthused. What a bunch of stupid children. Grow up, buck up, and vote to CHANGE things. Give him a better Congress, not a bunch of backstabbing jerk Republicans who will only make things a million times worse.

    January 15, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  3. Pat

    The Democrat enthusiasim was bound to fade. You eventually run out of Bush effigies to burn, all of the Cheney jokes about his fixation with domestic terrorism all ring hollow now after Ft. Hood & Detroit , all of the Palin attacks make her richer and more powerful, and now, most of the "racist" comments are coming from the Democrats, not "talk radio". Historically, the minority party always gains back seats in the Mid-term elections. The Prozac Democrats are realizing how history will keep repeating itself.

    January 15, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  4. Ready for 2012

    The smart democrats realize that voting for Obama was a HUGE mistake.

    "Hope and change" was nothing more than a lie. This is why the democrats who were enthusiastic about Obama won't bother to vote in either 2010 and 2012.

    I encourage all democrats to vote in 2012. You have a chance to correct your mistake. Just say NO to Obama.!!!

    January 15, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  5. Cliff

    Should anyone be surprised? Well, I guess just the libs.
    They were SO SURE old B.O. was their guy. Didn't even take one year for them to realize they elected a divider not a uniter.
    No experience. No plan...other than spend, spend and spend.
    Whe the D.C. Dems are keeping their hands in their own pockets you know there is a big problem ahead.
    Only the libs can make the change since they now out-number conservatives. They can get rid of their big spenders or live with the resultes. Unfortunately, ALL will have to pay for the error of their ways in Nov. 08. How $ad!

    January 15, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  6. jules sand-perkins

    I am already planning the party at my house to watch the election night returns in November.

    January 15, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  7. Katie B in NC

    If hysteria counts as "enthusiasm," then this poll makes perfect sense. The Repubs have been whipped into a frenzy by the right-wing pundits and the Dems are calm because Obama has things under control. That will change if the GOP mounts any credible challenges; the Dems will kick it up a notch just like they did in '08. YES, WE WILL!

    January 15, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  8. B

    Isn’t it interesting that people are really even considering going back to the idiots that gave us this disaster ...!

    Americans have a memory of about a week.

    Fix it fast or let’s try something else –

    January 15, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  9. Rodger West

    Good lord, Democrats should be celebrating in the streets. Their leaders, with their majorities have rammed everything they have ever wanted over the last 30 years through congress without any consideration of the 48% of the people that did not vote for Obama/Biden. These guys are rulers over 52% of the people and to hell with the rest of us. Is this the American way or tradition? No it is not. Yes, majority rules in a democracy but this rule was never intended to allow the minority to be so disenfranchised, ignored, and treated with such disrespectful and treacherous behavior. Hey Democrats, would you like the tables turned? How would you feel then? Maybe you guys should go to a mass sensitivity group meeting and learn how to show respect for ALL Americans and quit bullying you way around the people and their rights.

    January 15, 2010 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  10. from the middle

    Why would anyone want to return to the days of ineptitude, cronyism, incompetence, & the gilded age? Could we be that ignorant of a society? Are we that full of self loathing?

    January 15, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  11. From Socialist Oregon

    C'mon Scott Brown!!!! Please!!!!!

    January 15, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  12. eddy

    Why would anybody be surprise,when you have those so called blue dogs messing up everything in the democratic party.The dems forget that most people actually voted for the dems all because of obama still they can't even try to get behind his agenda and the president should step up and fight for what he campaigned on.

    January 15, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  13. Barb

    Republicans have waged a war of lies to try and win back their power. I would hope that most Americans are not foolish enough to follow such nonsense, but time will tell. We have a democratic President that is trying to what is best for America and not just what is best for the wealthiest in America for a change. it would be great if the democrats keep enough of a majority to pass some badly needed legislation. But at least if they do not, we have the consolation that for three more years anyway we have a President who will not allow the Republicans to do more harm.

    January 15, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  14. Darth Vadik, CA

    A wounded and dying animal is most dangerous when it's cornered, but don't worry Republicans, we'll put your party out of its misery soon.

    January 15, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  15. Bill

    Back room deals, bribes, no transparency and lies...what did you expect?

    January 15, 2010 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  16. Ron

    I am a Democrat and am said to see the way our party has lost it's focus from years ago.

    Gone are the days of the Kennedy (JFK) democrats, who's mantra was "ask not, what your country can do for you".

    It's sorry to see our country mired in self-destructive socialism.

    January 15, 2010 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  17. cmb

    Maybe the Democrats don't feel the need to get out and rant and rave and bully and lie and run off their mouths saying a lot about nothing. I will again vote for Obama. I trust him. Don't worry. We are still out there.

    January 15, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  18. mary jennings

    what other president have made a promise and didn't keep it? All of them. So why are you so hard on Obama? He ia doing the the best job that he can do. You comlpain too much about every little thing. When will you people figure it out, It don't make no difference if republicans, or democrats is in the white house, they all make promise that they don't keep. That why they call them politician.

    January 15, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  19. Anthony McMahon

    I never quite understand the enthusiasm gap, especially among Democrats. Democrats have everything going for them right now and then they just collapse. Must be some kind of wimp factor or something.

    January 15, 2010 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  20. bobjimflys

    I am a registered Democrat, I did not vote for Bush, I did not vote for Obama. I do believe that he country is headed down the hiway to hell. If we do not put the brakes on immediately and change course it may be too late. You cannot spend yourself out of debt. What a ludicrous idea. To stop this crash from happening again, Kill this Health Care Reform bill NOW. To stop a crash from happening again, repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Bill and reenact the Glass Steagall Act. For the Working Class Stiff, KILL NAFTA, tell Slick Willie Clinton it was not good for the US worker, look at Detroit, U 6 unemployement, under employed and flat off of the Grid is AT 50%... If we do not stop it now, the whole Country will be like DETROIT... thank you

    January 15, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  21. artraveler

    If they want to get us"up" for the election, concede that the Republicans aren't going to do anything to improve the country and go witha single payer system only and watch the Democratic numbers sky rocket.

    January 15, 2010 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  22. Keith in Austin

    I encourage all the liberal Obama-followers still blaming the GOP for everything causing poor Barry's fall from grace to STFU! Liberal Democrats have been at the core of the problem since taking control of Congress over 5 long years ago and Bozo has exasperated the situation 10 fold.

    Return the Country to THE PEOPLE and get BIG GOVERNMENT out of our way so we can prosper again.

    January 15, 2010 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  23. silvertrueone

    Unreal how quick this country forgets,really sad

    January 15, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  24. Fran

    Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have sold us out to Wall Street and unions. Never has there been so many closed door deals, purchased votes. Obama has taken a bad situation and made it 10 times worse. Common sense tells you that you don't keep on spending money you don't have. And where are the jobs promised? You do not build an economy by growing government!

    January 15, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  25. Matt in UT

    I think that it is funny how liberal posters quickly turn to the "Bush did it" line as soon as things go wrong. Obama, Pelosi and Reid are doing a bad job and everyone (including moderate democrats) know it.

    Note: Bush didn't kill the economy. Chris Dodd and Barney Frank (both democrats) shoulder much of the blame because they didn't listen to Bush when he told them to reel in the dangerous loaning of Fanny and Freddie (17 times starting in 2003). Yes, democratic policies created the lending/housing bubble.

    January 15, 2010 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
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