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. Mary

    The American public is fickle and runs back and forth between the two major parties looking for a messiah that they will never find. Obama hasn't been in office a year yet, and everyone expects him to work miracles because Americans have the attention spans of 3-year olds and the maturity of teenagers.

    Grow up, Americans! Stop looking for a Pied Piper to lead you to the Promised Land and stand on your own two feet. Both parties are bankrupt of morality and new ideas. Stop looking to Washington for salvation! Instead, hold our so-called "leaders" to the vows they take to uphold the Constitution. Vote out ALL incumbents and work to sever this unholy alliance between government and Big Business that has made us a debtor nation to COMMUNIST CHINA and is destroying our Republic.

    January 15, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. mary

    This isn't about Dem or Rep it's about the people taking back the country that has been ruined by both parties. We will NO longer vote blindly but will vote for the one who says they're for the people and if they're not then they will be voted out in the next election. And all of you idiots out there that continue to have all this faith in the "party affiliation or the President" are being played like a fiddle. I will NOT stand by while our country is being taken hostage by the liberals in control of the WHite House. They are spending our money quicker than it can be printed and all this crap about transparency and then keeping the doors shut...give me a break. Hit me once and shame on you, hit me twice and shame on me. Bye bye supermajority.........I live in MA and I say Scott Brown all the way!!!!!

    January 15, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. kaleto

    The dems' failure to pass REAL, bipartisan health care reform means they're going to lose big next election.

    January 15, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. normajean

    How can anyone take polls seriously. From one news item to another they change dramatically and I have never been polled about anything and neither have my friends or family.As to Democrats being discouraged, we are not stupid. We knew from the get go that time would be a factor at reversing the bloody mess this country was in. If the Repub. voters were smart they would realize that for every Repub. they put back into office they will still be getting more of the same. Do you have a solid job?, health care for your family? your own home? Why not, because your party has theirs and they don't care whether you have anything or not. What has "The Party Of NO" done for YOU lately?

    January 15, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. jody from Kentucky

    This is one Democrat who will continue to vote Democratic. I will never forget who got us into this mess. Of course it will take some time–years, people, to undo the harm Bush/Cheney/Condi/Rhumy and company got us into. This presidential term was the worst in history. Remember the lies that got us into the war in Iraq, leaving Afghanistan to itself, and starting a war with a country that had nothing to do with 9-11. Remember bank failures, General Motors, etc, failing among a slew of other hugh blunders. Don't forget.

    President Obama is trying so hard to return our country to greatness–but if you vote the Republicans back into office-back our country goes to the lies and fear tactics of the Republicans.

    January 15, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  6. jason moxter

    I thought things would be dfifferent with the Democrats taking over, it is still the sameo sameo, the rich bankers and wall street keep getting rich by stealing from the working majority while the working majority get screwed. I personally will vote for any, ANY independent.

    January 15, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. mike

    lets jump up and down the no party and every person for them self
    this is great and after they put there so call republican life saver in then
    I can be the party of NO NO NO NO NO NO do think that everything
    will change you are an idiot to think so

    January 15, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  8. Joe

    No one can blame Obama alone for the Democrats failures. Pelosi and Reid are more to blame than Obama and they have attempted to screw most Americans. Obama lacks courage and the ability to be a real leader. Obama is nothing more than a puppet. He allowed Pelosi and Reid to run Washington and for that reason alone Obama is doomed.

    January 15, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. Billy J..Texas..

    Well it is hard to be enthused when you are trying to pull the bus out of ditch while the fat guys that drove it in there, are still inside yelling about what a lousy job you are doing. But that's OK. I assume within the next 5-10 years, even the blindest of Republicans will realize how wrong their ideology has been and how crooked and/or useless their representatives have turned out to be. It ain't pretty on the progressive side either, but not near as destructive as the last few years of Repubs have been. If we swing back towards Reps this next election, watch that bus go deeper in the mud, and the voting public will finally get it.

    January 15, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. David

    God I love seeing Democrats all in a tizzy!

    January 15, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  11. jfs Memhis, Tn

    Please all of you readers this is a CNN POLL not a national type POLL. There is a big difference.... and the difference will continue to be apparent as CNN pursues the Fox crowd. I wish you folks would stick to the news as when this NEWS agency first started and stay out of politics, polls, and editorials.

    January 15, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  12. TR

    Now THAT is change we can beleive in!

    January 15, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. seebofubar

    The only thing that a Democrat can get excited about is another hand out from hard working Americans. Get a job and keep your lazy hands out of our wallets!

    January 15, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. pau76fau

    Is it the lack of enthusiasm or buyer's remorse?

    January 15, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  15. deb

    One year is NOT ENOUGH TIME to undo all of the damage the Bush Administration made. I hope to God that the democrats and independents keep believing in "change" and let Obama continue to get our country back on its feet. We can't keep going back and forth every two years between which party is in control. It just isn't enough time and defeats the whole purpose. We are a nation that is very impatient which in the long run will hinder any actual change.

    January 15, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  16. Erik S.

    Here it comes...

    January 15, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  17. Eleanor

    We may be unhappy with the Democrats in Congress, but after the last 8 years of Bush and his tribe of criminals in an out of Congress...there is no way that we'll give them another chance to drive our country off the cliff again! None!!

    Of course, it suits CNN's political leaning perfectly well to try to give everyone the impression that the Repugnants have a Chinaman's chance in hell of regaining control of our government and our lives! They're just a shade behind Faux News when it comes to promoting the GOP lies, slanders, and propaganda.

    January 15, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. elaine price

    I am a dem and I am voting-All the republicans do is name call and work in unsion to defeat all legislation that dems put forward. They have no positive message and the dems have worked hard through a terrible recession and republican blocks to get things accomplished for the american people.

    January 15, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  19. bmantx

    Yeah right......keep blaming Bush. The Democrats have had a majority in Congress for 6 YEARS....remember, we have endured just ONE year of Obama. I am very afraid for future of our country knowing he can continue to destroy for three more years.

    January 15, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. Dan

    Take our health care as we know it, take our money as we gain it, give breaks to your union friends and other friends, and expect us to be enthus about it!?!???

    January 15, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  21. Leslie

    Can anyone honestly tell me how to fix the mess the last administration left in a year? When Bush arrived in office he had a surplus, after 8 years of giving taxes breaks to the rich, not even addressing the low income of the poor starting a war with a country that never attacked us...etc. So instead of posting what a horrible job Obama is doing with what he was given offer solutions or sit down and shut up.

    January 15, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. Get Real

    Obama and the Congressioal Democrats are TOO soft and weak and try to get along with everybody. The country voted them in and the GOP out for change. But, instead, the DEMOCRATS are letting the GOP run the congress and the government. DEMOCRATS, STAND UP AND FIGHT BACK, YOU COWARDS. Trying to get along is not the way to succeed. Being a leader is the way. Tell the GOP to shut-up.

    January 15, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  23. Jon

    Yes, the American people are indeed idiots if they move to elect any of those religious, conservative, neo-cons again. All these people want to do is to continue the war machine with our tax money.
    That makes lots of money for the industrial/military complex (while getting a lot of our young men and women killed – all for nothing.) Thanks Repubs.
    God help us – let's not go back to anything like those past 8 years!

    January 15, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. Nancy

    I'm a Democrat and I'm enthusiastic about voting - Republican!

    January 15, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  25. Earnie Timmerman

    Why support either party. I think for the first time in years I am going independent. Everyone should think about it. These two have been in power far to long. If millions gave just 1 dollar to third party candidate we might have a chance to shake things up. come on America. Wake up and get with it. Try something new!

    January 15, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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