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. NORepubs

    Are people STUPID? Eight years of Republicans created this disaster. How could you possibly vote them back in?

    January 15, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. Dyan, Minnesota

    We voted for change, and what we got was a continuation of Bush policies and Bush hold-overs into the Obama adminstration. We gave Democrats super majorities in both houses, and they spent months courting two lone Republican votes and giving into to every demand made by conservatives. After watching months of one-sided compromises where progressives gave up everything and conservatives gave up nothing............ I know that I'm not voting for these people again.

    Simply put - they threw progressives under the bus to hold on to the likes of Joe Lieberman; they don't get to expect our vote in November.

    January 15, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  3. Randy in pa

    Our government has proved once again that neither party is any good. Both are corrupt, both are in the pockets of companies.

    The GOP are idiots. The Democrats are stupid for squandering what could have been historic change for the better. If GOP makes it big in these next couple of elections, God help us all because He will be the only one to really carel.

    January 15, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. CB

    I too am leaving the DEM party, Obama said he would stop the war, he didnt. Obama said he would reform healthcare, Insurance companys won, with no public option. Obama said he would create jobs, MADE IN CHINA still runs America . Now the DEM congress after winning the public over have threw it all away again. Im through with the GOP and the DEMS Ill vote independent or third party for a long while. No more partys for this voter

    January 15, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  5. abl

    The Republicans have nothing constructive or positive to offer the vast majority of Americans. They've already led us down a path of ruin to the extent that we will be dealing with it for years to come, no matter which party is in power. People are "fired up", all right, having lost their jobs, their houses and their retirement plans under the leadership of a party that exclusively favors the interests of a wealthy few. They're angry and demoralized, but they aren't stupid for the most part. Nor will they soon forget the people that brought us to this point. So, the Republicans shouldn't be counting any chickens before they hatch, especially before we're done cleaning up after all those still coming home to roost.

    January 15, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  6. Jennifer Miller

    President Obama ran on transparency – NO
    Bipartisan- NO
    Promised no pork barrel spending – NO
    Promised C-span could broadcast – NO
    Pelosi, Reid have headed up Congress since 07. Obama was part of this congress. Spent, Spent, Spent!
    He's hired an administration that has a very shady past,
    plus an administration that owes the IRS $.
    I never seen a President open his mouth and say such wonderful things and do exactly the opposite. (Lie)
    Finally, I'm tired of him acting like a grade school boy, blaming everything on Bush. Grow up!

    January 15, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  7. J Farrow

    We voted for change in the last election. We are getting change. Now the American people are either apathetic about it or against it,what has always been called the "fickle" electorate. Frankly, the problem is the broken Congress which is incapable of making bold decisions in the best interests of the American people. Looks like our President is finding this fact out the hardway. I still like President Obama's ideas and his untiring dedication to fixing the many,many problems left to us by Republican political domination in Washington.

    January 15, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  8. Candy

    The moment Obama adopted a dog from a breeder instead of following his promise to rescue one from a shelter is the moment when my enthusiasm waned. And he has not done much to raise it since.

    January 15, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  9. Greg

    This goes to show that neither party does well when in control of everything. The US has done best under Clinton 94-00 and Reagan when the congress was controlled by the party not in the whitehouse.

    January 15, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  10. MT

    All you Liberal Democrats were dancing in the aisles less than a year ago... What happened to your grand plan?


    Keep crying and if you throw a big enough tantrum maybe your momma will wipe your nose.

    I've got work to do

    January 15, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  11. Annie, Atlanta

    Henry Miller, Libertarian and Mike in MN. Wrong. Obama wasted nearly an entire year reaching out to those on the right, watering down legislation to appease them, to no avail. So we got a watered down stimulus full of pork and tax cuts and the possibility of watered down health care reform. That's where the loss of enthusiasm comes from; not a too liberal or too far left agenda, by any stretch of the imagination. The party hasn't been Liberal enough for us.

    January 15, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  12. sensible Cape Coral FL

    If the Dems in Congress have not delivered on their promises, let's be honest and ask ourselves WHY? How about starting with Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Kent Conrad, John Kyl, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrch, Bill O'Reilly and of course, the big fat slob himself, Rush.

    All GREAT Patriots who really really love their country. With "Patriots" like these who needs Al Qaeda?

    January 15, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. Andrew in Illinois

    I for one am not happy with other party...
    The Republican's. . give the rich a tax break in order to provide me with a minimum wage job... doesn't work for me...
    The Democrat's .... multi generational public assistance is what they like so they can keep getting voted in... What gives a politician the right to take my money that I have worked for and give it to someone else.... doesn't work for me.
    Socialism does not work... what it does it create people dependent on the government(politicians, they love this). While other countries are distancing themselves from socialism and embracing capitalism, and doing very well by the way... we are heading the other direction and one day we will be asking ourselves what happened...

    January 15, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  14. TCM

    This isn't news CNN, it's reality.....the majority of the country is center-right when pushed....the liberal minority managed through ACORN and other corrupt avenues to hijack the White House....nothing short of a chicago gangland-style carjacking....well, true Americans who sat took for granted that McCain would win, are coming out of the woodwork to right this entire wrong...this facade of leadership that's running amok in our nation's capital. I look forward to the concession speeches of Pelosi, Reid, Barney FFFFrank, Dodd...and others...in 2010...2012, if we're still a nation after Obama's done raping the treasury, I'll look forward to that worthless goof hitting the road. What's truly a shame is the undeserved wealth he'll gain from this.

    January 15, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  15. Lauren from Tallahassee, FL

    I'm a democrat and very enthusiastic about 2010. I'm proud to be a part of the party who is actually trying to solve these 21st century issues. There's such much hate our there from the right and I cannot participate in that. I want to solve problems; not just say "no" to everything.

    January 15, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  16. dee clary

    The dems are such a disappointment. To control both houses plus the White House and do virtually nothing to address our serious problems in terms of financial regs, health care , breaking up these too big to fail institutions,etc.etc. The money and power concentrated in the hands of too few has distorted the political process. But no anti-trust action is even being taken to lessen the unseemly influence of the few at the expense of America.

    January 15, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  17. JD

    Obama has lied, and distoyed this country. He has put our grandkids in debt. you think they are down now, wait unitl after Tuesday. If Brown wins Ted's old seat things will go nuts. . . GO BROWN. Vote for Scott Brown Tuesday in MA. Obama has shown the Dems to be even worse than Bush, time to bring back two party rule!

    January 15, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  18. Mark L.

    I am a pure Liberal Democrat and I am proud of it !! I am highly enthusiastic and looking forward to the upcoming 2010 midterm elections along with the 2012 Presidential election. The Democrats ROCK !!

    January 15, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  19. Dodd Democrat...

    Can you blame us for being disappointed.

    The White House is pushing a Health Care bill that Americans are AGAINST.

    We DO NOT WANT this Health Care Bill.

    It only helps to serve the Insurance Companies.........we are giving them billions while the poor and middle class are going to be paying more for insurance, fined for not having insurance and our benefits will be reduced.

    Everyone is getting deals.....the Insurance Companies, the Pharmaceutical companies, the Unions......every one EXCEPT THE PEOPLE THAT REALLY NEED IT......THE POOR AND MIDDLE CLASS.

    If they pass this Bill through we are going to turn on our own and VOTE against the Democrats that helped push this bill through!!!

    January 15, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. Sean

    With increasing anxiety the numb and dumb American people will point to Obama's healthcare package as reason 1 why America will turn right this election..Add in a pitiful candidate like Marty Coakley for Ted Kennedys seat in Mass and you can see the current landslide approaching for the Gop....This nation just never learns.

    January 15, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  21. NH voter

    I think every congress person in office now, up for re-election, should be voted out. We need to set term limits on these offices.

    January 15, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  22. lani

    People have always believed that any problems this country faced could be solved if we simply had the will to do it. That may no longer be the case. We now have a government peopled by two-bit lawyers and professional treasury robbers, and a general population of diverse groups with no common history, hell, not even a common language! You can't solve problems if you can't agree on what constitutes a solution.

    January 15, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  23. Average Guy in Red-State Kansas

    There's a lot of time between now and November '12. But, hey, what did you expect??

    The "special interest" groups that keep the Capitol Hill campaign fund accounts in spending money have been working overtime on diminishing President Obama BEFORE the '08 election.

    Do we still have a representative democracy in this country? You bet, and it represents only the special interests, not regular folks like you and me.

    Our elected leaders only look out for themselves and their lobbyist pals!

    January 15, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. Desmond Sequeira, Canada

    Fickle voters! However you vote, history will show that Obama is the leader you desperately need!!!

    January 15, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  25. Voice of Reason

    I am a democrat, and I am more motivated than ever to vote this year, for a straight democratic ticket! We need to keep up our enthusiasm. If we do not, the republican stranglehold we had under the Bush administration will return. According to polls, there is more of a reason for democrats to be motivated in 2010 than in 2008. In 2010, these polls favoring republicans should be enough to get any democrat motivated to go out and vote so those polls prove not to be true.

    January 15, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
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