August 12th, 2010
02:33 PM ET
12 years ago

CNN Poll shows big similarities between 2010, 1994

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich led House Republicans to a stunning victory in 1994 with his 'Contract with America.'"](CNN) - When it comes to the political landscape three months before the midterm elections take place, is everything that's old new again?

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey paints a picture that is markedly similar to that of August, 1994, when few people predicted that in only three short months the Republican Party would snatch 54 seats from the Democrats and wrestle control of the House from the beleaguered party.

Sixteen years later, Republican candidates for Congress have a three-point advantage in the "generic ballot" question - virtually the same position they held at the same time in 1994. President Obama has an all-time high disapproval rating almost on par with that of Bill Clinton's 16 years ago. And Republican voters are feeling an intense amount of anger over the state of the nation - the same motivating force that the GOP relied on in 1994.

Full poll results [PDF]

But Republicans may not want to pop the champagne just yet. Unlike 1994, the new survey shows the public dislikes GOP members of Congress about as much as they dislike Democrats, and a majority think most Democrats in Congress are ethical, despite the controversies surrounding Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters.

Add to that the fact Democrats insist they won't get caught flat-footed like they did in 1994 and things perhaps begin to look a little less ominous for the party than it did back then.

"While it's clear that the Democrats will lose a lot of seats in Congress this November, it may be too early for the GOP to start measuring for drapes in the Speaker's office," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland says.

Still, Democrats have plenty to worry about. In a "generic ballot" question that asks voters whether they would vote for an unnamed Democrat or an unnamed Republican in their congressional district, 48 percent of registered voters say they would vote for the GOP candidate while 45 percent pick the Democrat. That's nearly identical to the 46-44 margin the GOP had in August of 1994. (It is, however, much lower than the nine-point lead the Democrats had in August of 2006, when they took control of the chamber back from the Republicans.)

Battle lines are also being drawn much earlier this year – 55 percent of registered voters now say their minds are made up, compared to the last midterm election, when less than half the voters in August felt that way. Polarization is almost complete – 93 percent of Democrats say they will vote for the Democratic candidate and 97 percent of Republicans say they will vote for the GOPer. That leaves the independents in the middle - tending toward the Republicans by a 46-38 percent margin, but with one in six saying they are unsure who they will vote for or planning to pick a third-party alternative.

And President Obama? His approval rating is now at 47 percent, with 51 percent saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job. (That ties the record he set in March, when 51 percent also gave him a thumbs-down.) Moreover, fifty percent of all voters say they are likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the president – almost identical to the 51 percent who said they planned to vote against a congressional candidate who opposed Bill Clinton in 1994.

Still, Obama's approval rating is a bit higher than the 44 percent approval Clinton scored in August of 1994 and it's also higher than the 42 percent Ronald Reagan got in August, 1982 and the 42 percent George W. Bush got in August, 2006.

"Those differences may mean nothing, but they may give the Dems just enough to hold onto the House, at least by their fingernails," Holland said.

But nearly seven in ten Americans say things are going badly in the country, and a similar number are angry about that state of the nation. Over 30 percent of voters overall describe themselves as "very angry" while half of all Republicans do.

While the Tea Party movement has perhaps best encapsulated the anger felt in some conservative circles, voters appear poised to take out their anger on both parties – 60 percent of registered voters say that most Democrats in Congress do not deserve re-election while 56 percent feel that way about most Republican members of Congress.

"That four-point difference is insignificant, particularly in comparison to the 15-point advantage Democrats had on that question in 2006," said Holland.

And in a mid term election season that has already proven fatal for a series of incumbents, a bare majority (51 percent) say that their own member of congress deserves re-election – a number that is an all-time low dating back to 1991 when Gallup first asked the question. (For comparison's sake, 60 percent of voters said their representative deserved reelection in 1994.)

So, will all of that add up to a GOP takeover on Capitol Hill this fall?

Americans are as unsure as the pundits. Forty-seven percent of all Americans predict that the Republicans will win control of Congress this November while 45 percent say the Democrats will hold on.

The poll, conducted on August 6-10, surveyed 1,009 Americans, including 935 registered voters. Questions involving the full sample carry a sampling error of plus/minus 3 percent, while questions of registered voters carry a sampling error of plus/minus 4.5 percent.

Filed under: 2010 • CNN Polls • Congress • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. Steve

    I want to go back to Bush's first 6 years. The unemployment averaged 5% and I had a job. The last 2 years of Bush's term, the Democrats took over Congress and that is when everything started to go down the toilet.
    Question for the Liberals were you better of 8 years ago compared to today? Liberals you have your blinders on. Tell the truth, no spinning.

    August 12, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Mr G

    is there any intelligence on this comment board??

    the dems have been a disaster and they will get clobbered in november.....get used to it.

    August 12, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  3. glib lib

    "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
    -George Santayana

    August 12, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. 0 for 4

    If nothing else it will be an interesting election. All I hear from the Republican speakers are that we should stop taxing the wealthy and let folks regulate themselves. Democrats are at least trying and some of their policies are actually working well.

    Regardless of who allowed what, we are living with the results of poor leadership. Economic collapse (could happen again really soon) and environmental disaster.

    What ever happened to respectful argumentation and advocacy? focusing on problems and solutions?

    America, don't vote dumb.

    August 12, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Four and The Door

    JonDie August 12th, 2010 12:48 pm ET

    ...And it is also true that the GOP plan to dumb down Americans and make the federal government work so poorly that Americans hate the government is also working.
    Obama, Pelosi & Reid have been able to get everything on their wish list regardless of the price tag. Nothing they did has worked for the economy or unemployment. How can you blame the Republicans for that?!?!

    August 12, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. Concerned AZ Repub

    Bill, to be selected for polls you usually need to be a registered voter... So register and provide your phone, and one day you may be selected...

    August 12, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. terry,va

    Keep your head in the sand dumbocraps! There is a tidal wave coming that is going to wash you away. The only people that will vote for the dumbocraps are those that have their hand out. Stats shown that is about 50% of this country, So the only way you will win is if you have welfare buses round you up and take you to the poll along with a pint of liquor.

    August 12, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  8. Ben in Texas

    I'm collecting all the b.s. predictions from "Fair is Fair" and "Four and the Door" and some of the other sociopaths who predict Repugnant resurgence in November. I want to play them back here after the elections so we can watch them be denied, in typical Repugnant fashion.

    After all, they deny the disaster that was 8 years of Bush/Cheney, so there's little doubt they'll deny the election results in 2010 that demonstrate the demise of the Repugnant Party.

    August 12, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  9. Marie MD

    Thanks for the picture of the cheater and disgraced grinchman. Nothing works better than to show us a first class loser.
    boner couldn't ask a simple question about the shrub's tax cuts and in his own wods back in June, abou reasing the retirment age to70, among other things he has shrilled like a little girl about in congress.
    mcnasty is an opportunistic sadist (he probably enjoyed the ride with the quitter). angle is a first class lunati.
    I havenever been called to take part in a poll and I agree that this is probably a cut from the rethugs followers. Nobody, the middle clasand poor mostly, can honestly say that the rethugs are doing anytyhingg for them except to stand in the way of them not going bankrupt or losing theirunemployment benefits.

    August 12, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  10. bernice

    @Bill Taylor....I'm with you 100%..I'm 60 yrs old & never in my life been polled..These polls are such a bunch of cramp..They say they poll 1,000 people...that's a small amount in a country of over 300 million..We'll see in November...Nobody in their right minds would vote republican..They are against education, health care & anything that benefits the middle class & the poor...Wake up Americans

    August 12, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
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