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. Kala

    That's because they too have figured out they are getting screwed by the Democrats in power. It's all about the elite new aristocracy. Left Wing Radical Democrats – The new Committee for Public Safety who never really helps the little guy but manages to help themselves to the little guys money.
    Remember, Robin Hood was robbing from the greedy rich government to give back to the poor what already belonged to them in the first place.
    Obama is not the messiah, he's the Sheriff of Nottingham.

    January 15, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. Diane Portland OR

    The media seems to forget right before each election lately. Polls by land lines (old republicans) Youth and educated (cell phones)

    January 15, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. Tracy

    What's with all of these pointless and insipid polls?

    January 15, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  4. Anderson Coop

    Keating can NEVEr just say it is what it is if its bad for dems. Keating always has to say, "yeah, it looks bad for dems, BUT". We get it, you love democrats but have to do your job – basically you're like everyone else at that sorry ass news station.

    January 15, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  5. Joe

    The democrats made the fatal error of not nominating Hillary Clinton to be President, and they will pay for it in 2010 and 2012.

    January 15, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  6. Phil in Pa.

    Don't forget Barny Frank, Chris Dodds and the Fannie mae and Freddie dealings that helped screw this country up! It wasn't all the GOP.

    January 15, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  7. always proud dem in nc

    The Rethuglicans put us in this economic fix with their policies during the Bush years. Why vote the same fools back in office that put us in this mess. Give Pres. Obama time to fix their messes. Obama 2012!!

    January 15, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. Dave C - NJ

    Obama has not had time to do much yet you goons.

    And his policies are NOT "far left." The only people on the left complaining are the far left. Obama is center-left, where he should be.

    Get a clue you fools.

    January 15, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  9. ran

    Wait until election time when the republicans will be in for a rude awakening when they lose yet again because of their fear/hate/obstructionist/purist attitude.

    Either true Democrats or Independents will be the winners in 2010/2012.

    January 15, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  10. david in iowa

    There is no 'Taking Back America'. This government is what the majority of the people want, and that is what you get. If this isn't your America, than go somewhere else and see how you like it!

    January 15, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. Robert

    For the first time in my life I will vote straight-ticket Republican on everything! We need at least a little sensibility right now. Obama's gone off the deep-end with "lets throw $100 billion there, $900 billion there, $100 million over there, $200 million here"....

    Not to mention he is the reason why living babies of botched abortions are left on a table to die.

    He used the power of his federal office to fire the CEO of a private company.

    And now the democrats want to pass a healthcare bill half the country is opposed to. Checks and balances are in place for a reason, and right now our system is not working.

    January 15, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. buzz

    I don't recall EVER having to put up with so many POLLS for any elected President and or Political Party in the past 40 years!! I doubt that these POLLS can get into the brains of the majority of Americans!! It's just another effort to keep this Country polarized and Partisan!! It sure would be nice to see somone write an article here about UNITY, and what it really can do when it comes to supporting the President of ANY Country no matter what their political affiliation!! Fear-based people never give up causing division! FEARLESS PEOPLE ARE LEADERS!! UNITY IS THEIR MANTRA!!

    January 15, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  13. melody

    I, am a christian and our rights are slowly disappearing. no jobs,medicaid terrible now....and they want health reform...it will be worse.I, feel usa has became to liberal.....its their way or no way at all.

    January 15, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  14. Simonsays, Orlando

    How can Democrats justify any enthusiasm over Obama's promise of change and transparency and then watch him pull the same old secret backroom deals with all the special interest groups that paid for his campaign?

    January 15, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  15. Kim in California

    I am a lifetime Democrat and I fully support Obama, but I am not as supportive of the Congress and the Senate. With them it's business as usual not matter who becomes President. What we need are new faces and new energy in the Congress and not the ones who receive the most $$$ for their campaigns from their respective parties. They will just be "cookie cutter" politicians with policy debts to pay back inexchange for winning . We need "fresh" "new" voices without all of the past baggage and "axes to grind" at the other party members. I feel like we are children in the middle of a messy, hateful divorce and that the two sides are only concerned about destroying the other even if it means destroying us (Americans).

    January 15, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. NancyLV

    Democrats nothing it's the independents that got Obama in the white house and we the independents are not going to take it you see we don't like either dems or repub they are screwing up our country the dems are pushing more big government to take over everything the republicans not far behind but at least they don't want as big government as we are seeming to get with this administration, so some of you may say the dems will come out when the time is needed but the independents are tired of all of this and we will speak.

    January 15, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  17. Samuel Hill

    In todays political arena, the American people can see that NO Political party should have control.
    When the parties are evenly spread, there is a greater need for bi partisan agreements.

    January 15, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  18. billy123

    I think the Dems are having buyers remorse on President Obama. I am a life long Dem and in 2008 I voted for None of the above in the 2008 election. The problem with President Obama there is no experence.

    i suspect if the Dems could have a re-do of the 2008 Dem Primary I suspect Hillary Clinton would be President today.

    January 15, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  19. JosiahTX

    It's really pretty lame to keep saying "the GOP created this mess" because the mess has gotten so much worse since the Dems took over. Deficit has tripled. Unemployment way up despite getting the stimulus they wanted. War on terror less effective. No progress in foreign affairs. Convoluted, purely partisan legislation as in the healthcare bill. It's Obama's government now, and it stinks.

    January 15, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  20. rob elliott

    democrats are doing everything secret, that bothers me more then anything, what happened to our open government he promised, i hope they lose in 2010, trouble is it will be to late, the money will be spent and where it goes will be secret to.

    January 15, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  21. Gerry NH

    Obama has not been good for America from the first day he was president. He inherited a bad situation and made it worse.. He asked us to help him but he did not include3 50 % of America. I am an Independent but in 2010 I will try and vote out all incumbent and clean this government out. It is like we have a cancer running our government. Obama also LIED about taxes. My first paycheck of the year had more taxes and less take home pay. Our house supported Obama on 2009 by never again.

    January 15, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  22. southerncousin

    Can't blame them a bit. For a brief moment about a year ago, I almost believe Obama would actually make things better (against my better judgement). He quickly quashed that with the signing of the SCHIP and acting like he was real proud of that tax increase on the middle class. Maybe democrats can blame their defections on Bush, they do that for everything.

    January 15, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  23. southerncousin

    I was going to say that they would probably blame this on Bush, then I read the comments and saw one of the dope addicts already did. And another one said that they were making a great president ordinary. Puzzling, they are making a horrible president the worst we have ever had. He did it to himself, but one of the things about liberalism that shows itself, is never accept responsibility, blame it on someone else.

    January 15, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  24. ben

    repub are animals that dont even suppose to be anywhere close to leadership may God help united state if they ever vote for them they will be worst than haiti is right now

    January 15, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  25. Elliott Carlin

    I'll vote the GOP incumbent out if you promise to vote the incumbent Dem out....

    That way we can get rid of 2 libs at one time.

    January 15, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
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