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. a health economist

    This isn't much of a surprise. We are a "fast food" nation. The results we want haven't come instantaneously so we automatically assumen those in charge are the problem. You'd see the exact same thing if it was all reversed – Democrats would be excited and Republicans would not be.

    January 15, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  2. Ramiro Villarreal

    Yea, Reuplicans, and this is from a former Hispanic Democrat. Hope that all Democrats are kick out office 2012 they have shown they are a bunch of idiots and very corrupted.

    January 15, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  3. Larry

    Obama is NOT the problem – it's congress. Dems are not great, but Repubs are just awful. How about some new blood in there?

    January 15, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  4. SY

    Giving any control of congress back to Republicans is a tragic mistake. America will never move forward if that happens. They want nothing for the good of the middle class, the poor, women, minorities, teachers, blue collar workers or any other group that is not wealthy. They are full of selfish, self-centered, corporate nursing fools who will destroy our economic system over and over again, as well as our environment. We had 8 years of war and misery, don't let it happen again! Don't let Republicans tread on you!

    January 15, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  5. ICARE

    elephants = in love with scrooges = nothing for the people = we have seen in for the past 8 years.....

    Bottomline, dont be stupid and put elephants back!! They aint going to change.

    January 15, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. JonDie

    What can I say, Americans are terminall stupid if they think we should return to the "glory" days of Bush and Cheney. But my 401K is in pretty good shape again, so it may be time to move my funds into safe investments.

    January 15, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  7. the dude of truth

    wow the republican hate machine is out in full force today. As a democrat, i admit i am not that enthusiastic about democrats, however that does not mean that i am any more likely to vote for the GOP. People do not forget that quickly how bad america was under their regime.

    January 15, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  8. jody from Kentucky

    This is one Democrat who will stand fast and continue to vote Democratic. I will not ever forget who got us into this terrible mess and the lies and fear tactics of the Repug party. I call on all Democrats to stand with me and remember President Obama is trying to clean up this mess left to him. Let's not let him down. He is so smart and is trying hard to make our country better. Please don't vote Republican–it will only take us back to the George Bush/Dick Cheney days. Republicans offer no solution–only negatives. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone with any intelligence would vote Republican.

    January 15, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  9. Cole-Boston

    I'm an independent & will be voting in Ma. The President's visit to Massachusetts this Sunday could spark a turnaround in this election. It has been a very interesting fight. For me....voting Democratic in this election. Tuesday night should be very interesting!!!!!

    January 15, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  10. Dennis

    I am democrat...I am voting!

    January 15, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  11. dot

    I will definitely be voting Democrat. We still have not cleaned up the last Republican mess! Let us at least get our feet on the ground before we look to another Republican or Conservative as a possible.

    January 15, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  12. Obama = WORST president EVER

    big surprise. It's a party run by idiots.

    January 15, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  13. Pete East

    The Democrats mantra is entitlements and even more entitlements. Just don't expect us Democrats to pay for them.

    If your a tax payer and don't get special favors that are afforded to the Unions you can expect to foot the bill. And it will be steep.

    January 15, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  14. Wmscot

    November is a long time away in this race. Look what happened last year. If we can get some traction in the jobs it will be a non event. The republicans have nothing that they can draw on other than the negative . On the other hand the incumbants that have stalled and dismantled the heath care reform should all be booted out in addition with Ried and that house of representitive's leader. DO WE REALLY WANT MORE OF THE PAST EIGHT YEARS ?

    January 15, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  15. Annette

    Polls, smolls....the real thing is the voter turn out.

    January 15, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  16. short-changed

    It is becoming ever more obvious to many Americans that there is a far greater evil than Republican control – and that is the Democrats!

    January 15, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. jeff ,alabama

    You will always have the hard core liberals
    in the democratic party who would die for
    their party before they would for their country.
    But the average moderate democrat, which is
    the vast majority, is dis-enchanted with the
    same old empty promises from the last
    election. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to
    figure the lack of enthusiasm out.

    January 15, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  18. jm

    "enthusiasm gap"

    What a nice euphemism to describe the realization that at best, your political actions have been maniacally self-destructive, and at worst, you've been completely hosed.

    January 15, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  19. LacrosseSon

    Too bad Obama can't run EVERY year, huh mom!

    This is just a harbinger of things to come. Dems will lose big in 2010!

    January 15, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  20. Mark Ramsey MD, Milwaukee WI

    I think it's amazing how short American's memory can be. Just over a year ago this country was circling the drain rapidly. These democrats better bet off their butt and keep a good thing going. I'm a democrat, and I'm voting.

    January 15, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  21. Mike

    NO KIDDING. People who voted for demorats in the last general election, do not want to repeat their mistake. That is why alot of democrats are voting for the Republican to try and defeat the health care stealing by the demorat government.

    January 15, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. Ed

    I don't think there is a confidence thing with Democrats or Republicans. I don't think there is any confidence with Congress in general regardless of party affiliations.

    January 15, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. anotherGDlefty

    Another day, another useless poll. Blah, blah, blah.

    Lots of polls from October 2008 showed McCain as the frontrunner, we know how that ended.

    Let's talk about it after election day.

    January 15, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  24. TwoBears

    All I have to do is think back on the 8 yrs of GW's/Cheney and the Rove nasties rule. They motivated me to leave the GOP and what IS a fact, I'll be voting and it won't be for my former party.

    January 15, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    How's that 'hopey-changy' thing working out for ya?

    January 15, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
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