January 15th, 2010
07:05 PM ET
11 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. John Metsopoulos

    The Republicans ( Religious Right) destroyed this nation over the last eight years, and now the sow the seeds of hate, disention and fear with no agenda for our future. if they win it will be based on playing on people's fear and not because they are leading.

    January 15, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. Lucullus

    Can you blame them? Why vote when it seems to make no difference. People came out in droves to elect Obama and give a majority to the Dems in Congress and yet the Dems refuse to fight. Obama refuses to use the Bully Pulpit, they let the one man, Judas Liberman push them around and then they wonder why people aren't enthusiastic about voting

    January 15, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. Edna

    Such disrespect for our President will NOT be tolerated and that is why all of the doomsday sayings that the rightwing nuts are spouting will not come to pass. Calling the President anything but what his name is, is totally disrespectful and whatever the Democratic voters need to do to keep the House and Senate intact will be done. There will be a great deal of whining and complaining when the Republicans do not get what they think they will get in the House and the Senate. I can not wait for the Massachusetts election and the November 2010 elections. The Democrats will be victorious and all of the legislation that needs to be passed will go through.

    January 15, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  4. Sea.gem

    This president has the lowest polling numbers of a newly elected president EVER!!!...in terms of the health reform bill..it is pure nonsense...when Bush wanted to privatize Soc. Sec.....the public approval for it was at 36%...Obama said Bush should swallow his pride and listen to the American people...the people think less of this horrid "Health Reform Bill:...and Obama's ego is too big to follow his own advise...another example of "do as i say, not as I do" from this administration.

    January 15, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  5. Chad from Tampa

    Higher taxes, more gov't control, softer national security policies.... Most people don't like that crap.

    January 15, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  6. Mlhall

    I would like to know how can some one deliever hope and change when he have no one to help him with these thing he can not do it by him self. All I hear is some one calling him names when I was in school they say you are what you are. Right now I hope he don't get back in so you can have another Bush. Maybe you will get 5 more wars, much more wire tapping, tax cut for the rich, no medical care for the poor just for the rich, we will have the welfare because the poor will be with us always.

    January 15, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. Mike in South Korea

    It's really very simple...ABCD (Anybody but Chicago-style Democrats!!!

    January 15, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. Jim

    Most Americans are weary of endless politics. They are facing economic hard times, taking care of their home and families, etc. Our nation's mood is somber, as it was during much of the 1930's with F.D. Roosevelt. Hollywood movies provided wonderful escapes during both Depressions.

    We know Pres. Obama has brought us out of the Great Recession, and given us new directions in foreign policy, health care, financial regulation, etc. We know whom to vote for again in 2012 – and it won't be the party of Hoover/Bush/Limbaugh/Palin or Pat Robertson!

    January 15, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. D. Bunker

    Wow, lots of uneducated theories from the sheep without a clue. The problems we are facing come from allowing corporations rights as "citizens" and not restricting campaign contributions to actual human beings. It will take a constitutional amendment or two to take back our country from the predatory capitalists who are running both parties. Wake up people!

    January 15, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. Gary, Los Angeles

    Buyer's remorse, you think?

    January 15, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  11. Travis

    Thats what happens when you get elected under false pretenses. Guess he shouldn't have been a huge liar & undercover marxist. We survived Carter and we can survive Obama. Hopefully our flag won't have a sickle & hammer on it by 2012.

    January 15, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. T. Pipe Owosso

    Ok minor history lesson here for the liberals that continue to say Pres. Bush and the republicans caused all our issues.


    Do they have any responsiblity for the state of our country?
    Is it only me that understands that the congress makes the laws and has oversight of how the money is spent?

    Keep playing the silly blame game and lose your majority just as quickly as you got it!

    January 15, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. OldUncleTom

    What continues to amaze me is the number of people who buy into GOP prophesies about the future.

    I remember only too well that it was our Republican administration that could not see the cliff it drove this economy over, they could not see the attacks of 2001, hell, they could not see a hurricane coming in New Orleans.

    Yet, somehow, they can predict the results of "liberal" policies they disagree with. I'm even a Republican, and I can't believe how easy it is to fool folks.

    I'd like to see more accomplished too, but democracy, even the version we practice, is a flawed model for efficiency.

    January 15, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  14. Vic of New York

    I'm not loosing an once of enthusiasm!

    The difference between being commited to a cause and simply being a bystander who sways with the wind is realizing the gap between idealism and reality – all the time not giving up hope on achieving the ideal.

    President Obama is doing exactly what I would do given the circumstances - and by all previous measures of the past 30 years, he is "Smokin!"

    Trust me, I will be kicking Democrats on their combined assess come this November. Anyone who's not a woosey is welcomed to join.

    January 15, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  15. Barry H

    Bush was terrible and Obama is Ultra Bush, we need some change!

    January 15, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  16. W l Jones

    When did they start polling Democratic?

    January 15, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  17. Pennytwo

    Guess Hopey McChange isn't working out so good, is he?

    January 15, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |

    Go conservative victories in 2010. Please save our Country.

    January 15, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. TOTUS 4 President

    The proper way to phrase the situation is: "Democrats are even MORE depressed (and depressing) than usual"

    January 15, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  20. John

    CNN Poll: Big dip in enthusiasm among Democratic voters


    But my enthusiasm revives every time Palin, Huckabee, or Gingrich make a speech.

    January 15, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. shs

    Come on Democrats. Things didn't instantly improve on all fronts so you can't be bothered to vote any more? Or do you want to vote for Ralph Nader and turn government back to the right-wingers?

    January 15, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  22. John in NY

    The reason for this is some Democrats are realizing the American people the voters are very upset with the way president Obama and white house staff are acting.It like president Obama is say I am your king and your ruler I will do what i like .His steping on the America constitution wiring presidental oders that take way are freedom .If the Democrats want to keep there job they may want to start to listening to the American people ,The voters.I think president Obama thinks where all idiots .I say this because the lies just keep coming.We will see whow the real idiots are when it time for the American people to vote.This gos for the Republicans as well.

    January 15, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  23. Sarah L, Fayetteville, AR

    The problem isn't the party, it's the American people. We have become one of the most selfish society's on the planet. People are turning to Republicans because they are too greedy to give anything up for the good of someone else. What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine–that's the attitude of anyone who's opposed to helping the environment, universal healthcare etc... These attitudes are un-christian and immoral. And, yes, people who hold these attitudes are bad people and should be ashamed of themselves.

    The only problem with the Democrats is that they are too afraid to stand up against the increasing numbers of selfish jerks in this country.

    January 15, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  24. Richard in Chicago

    What people want is to work. They want to have a reasonably secure job at a reasonable salary and they want it it without the government breathing down their necks or taxing them to death.

    The Democrats can't wait to give away the store to all comers. The Republicans can't wait to take care of the fat cats. Both parties cater to whoever can help them out at election time with the biggest contributions to the campaign war chest. That's why the number of people describing themselves as independents has more than doubled in the last few years.

    America needs a credible, durable third party. A centrist, populist party that puts common sense, economic growth, reasonable taxes and manageable deficits first.

    America is about freedom and growth. The business of America is business. We need to truly improve education, replace the infrastructure, become energy independant, regain the worldwide competitive advantage and get jobs back here.

    January 15, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. Scottyrw

    The Rebublican'ts are living a pipe dream if they think the American people will vote their party back into office after what they did to the country after eight years of Bush League management. They won't win a single election except for states that are already true RED states. The people will remember the Bush years for 40 years.

    January 15, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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