CNN Poll: GOP advantage in midterms
May 5th, 2014
04:02 PM ET
7 years ago

CNN Poll: GOP advantage in midterms

Washington (CNN) – A small edge right now in a key indicator of the midterm elections could lead to a big advantage for the Republicans over the Democrats come November.

That's the suggestion from a new CNN/ORC International poll, that also indicates that President Barack Obama's lackluster approval ratings and pessimistic perceptions about the economy could also make 2014 a good year for the GOP at the ballot box.

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Read full CNN/ORC International poll results

But according to the survey, which was released Monday, Americans are divided on whether they want Republicans to regain control of the Senate if they also retain their majority in the House of Representatives.

Complete coverage: 2014 midterms

Six months before Election Day, the GOP has a one point edge over the Democrats (46%-45%) among registered voters nationwide in the generic ballot. The question asks respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. While that margin is well within the survey's sampling error, any advantage is noteworthy, since Republicans normally perform better among the smaller pool of those who vote in midterm elections than the wider group of registered voters.

The GOP's margin grows 48%-45% when looking just at those who say they voted in the last midterm elections, in 2010.

"The results among 2010 voters is not a likely voter model because it is still too early to get a valid estimate on who is likely to vote this year. But looking at the 2010 electorate does help adjust for the fact that midterm voters are quite different from the general public or from voters who only vote in presidential years," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"That three-point margin may not sound like much, but it's pretty much where the GOP was in the spring of 2010 before the party went on to take control of the U.S. House in November thanks to a 63-seat pick up, and made a major dent in the Democrat's majority in the Senate," Holland added.

One caveat: While the generic ballot question is one of the most commonly used indicators when it comes to the battle for Congress, the poll results often are a long way from predicting what will happen in November, since there are 435 separate House races rather than one national race. Analysts often look other polling indicators.

But many of those other indicators also seem to favor the Republicans right now.

President a drag on his party

According to the poll, 43% of Americans say they approve of the job Obama is doing as president, with 55% giving him a thumbs down. The President's approval rating is unchanged from CNN's most recent survey, which was conducted in early March.

The President's approval ratings are hovering in the low to mid 40's in most non partisan national polling this year, slightly above where he stood in November and December, when he hit or matched his all-time low in many surveys.

Obama's approval rating is slightly better at this time in his presidency than his most recent predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, who was in the low to mid 30's in April of 2006, his sixth year in the White House. That November, thanks to a Democratic wave, the GOP lost control of both the House and the Senate in midterm contests.

While a majority of those questioned say the President is not a major factor in their vote this November, a quarter say they will be sending a message that they oppose Obama, with one in five saying their vote will be a message of support for the President.

"On the face of it, a majority saying that their vote is not based on their opinion of an unpopular president may sound like good news for Democrats," Holland said. "But President Obama has usually been the Democratic party's most reliable way to fire up the base, and this question suggests that Democrats won't turn out this year just because Obama asks them to. It's also worth noting that the current numbers are almost identical to 2010, when the President's party got shellacked in the midterms."

And Democrats, more than Republicans, appear to have more work ahead of them when it comes to firing up the base. Conventional wisdom dictates that the GOP has an advantage over the Democrats in midterm contests. White voters and older voters, key to the Republican base, tend to cast ballots in bigger percentages in midterms than younger voters and minorities, who are an important part of the Democrats' base.

Economic perceptions trump reality?

The nation's unemployment rate now stands at 6.3%, the lowest level since September 2008. But according to the CNN poll, which was conducted after Friday's jobs report from the Labor Department, the positive news from Wall Street and Washington may not be resonating on Main Street. Many people just don't feel that good about things, and recent national polling indicates most people don't feel very optimistic about the economy and their personal plight.

Only 38% of those questioned in the CNN survey describe the country's current economic conditions as good, with 62% rating them poor. There has been constant growth in the number of Americans who think the economy is in good shape - the 38% is a nine-percentage point improvement from last autumn, but the number with a positive view of the economy only increased by two points since February. At that rate, a substantial majority will still have a negative view of economic conditions in November.

The economy remains the top issue on the minds of voters. Economic realities, as well as perceptions, will influence voters in the midterms.

Silver lining for Democrats?

Even if this all adds up to a good year for Republicans, it may not mean the public wants the GOP in total control on Capitol Hill.

Key races to watch in 2014

The Democrats currently hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate (including two independents who caucus with the party). But the party's defending 21 of the 36 seats in play, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states.

In the House, Democrats need to pick up 17 GOP-held seats to win back control of the chamber, a feat political handicappers say is unlikely considering the shrinking number of competitive congressional districts.

According to the poll, if Republicans retain the House, 42% say they want the GOP to also win back the Senate. But 45% say they want the Democrats to keep control of the upper chamber.

The poll was conducted May 2-4 for CNN by ORC International, with 1,008 Americans nationwide. including 911 registered voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. Name

    All Obummer has to do is repeal his failed ACA and all will be forgiven. Obama is his own worst enemy.

    May 5, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  2. Frank

    This is because most of the uneducated Obama voters will stay home, thankfully. No news here. God bless midterm elections and checks & balances or else we'd be Venezuela by now.

    May 5, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    "if I didn't know better I would think Foxlite is trying to convince us it's over and don't even bother voting...."

    Exactly. This article was sponsored by the Koch Brothers...

    May 5, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. peter clarke

    The advantage is the GOP have more money and powerful backers from Wall street, major corporations who now, thanks to the Supreme Court can buy most any election. Lets all sit back and wait for the bone they may throw the rest of us...

    May 5, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  5. Tom

    Let's see, the Republican House's approval rating is about 7%, so let's elect more of them so maybe we can get even less done? God the American people are STUPID!

    May 5, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. max vega

    If Americans want more GOP, let them have more GOP. Stupid is as stupid does.

    May 5, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. 1776usa2016

    Why is it that the Dems all stay home during midterms when this is the very election to determines the policies that will affect them for the upcoming years?

    It has never ceased to amaze me about this.


    May 5, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. Colo001

    Are you liberals that insecure? Everyone knows the left is in trouble come November so what are you saying?

    1."No comment" is the only relevant talking point here.
    2, Repubs will nominate crazy tbaggers that are unelectable they may even loose ground party of NO we ain't forgot
    3. If I didn't know better I would think Foxlite is trying to convince us it's over and don't even bother voting

    Pretty weenie

    May 5, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. Robert constant

    CNN uses a polling company-CNN/ORC International– owned by Terence Graunke a Tea Party contributor so conservative that he withheld support from Mitt Romney. The business of polling is so easily manipulated by even subtle changes in how questions are phrased or what is the sub set of the polling sample that I categorically will not accept any polling from a company owned by a right wing GOP contributor. If CNN wants to be taken seriously in its polling it must use an impartial polling organization.

    May 5, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Frank

    Time for the DNC to start promising more freebies to their base to get them to come out in November.

    May 5, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. Thomas Pate

    Folks , keep your eye on the them PUB's lips, they preach lower taxes on the rich less spending on all programs, except for the rich bailouts , it will all be just flub when they get elected. They have no real solutions and the only talking points they have is its all Obama's fault.

    May 5, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  12. radar8

    Edward Cox
    Everything hinges on whether the Democrats can cheat enough to steal another election.

    Edward, Edward, Edward. You pathetic, ignoramus. There was only one election stolen and it was stolen by SCOTUS and given to Bush.

    May 5, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. Mateo

    THe Koch Brothers shuld be happy. Maybe their payout will have a good return for them. The sad thing is most American's don;t even know who the Koch Brothers are. And before Republicans start mentioning George Soros, the difference is he knows the imporatnce of a strong middle class for the American economy in the long run. The Koch Brothers are only interested in quick money at any cost.

    May 5, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. snowdogg

    "Obama's approval rating is slightly better at this time in his presidency than his most recent predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, who was in the low to mid 30's in April of 2006, his sixth year in the White House."

    Nothing to brag about for either President.

    May 5, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. Sonny

    Obama did it to himself . He has been caught in too many lies one trusts anything he says anymore. Deceit will always come back to haunt you

    May 5, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  16. Jim

    Someone needs to have their diploma revoked. Very poor journalism and a complete failure of Stats 101.

    "While that margin is well within the survey's sampling error, any advantage is noteworthy"

    May 5, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. Tychi

    You would think with all of the things the GOP has done against the middle (and poor) class that they would not have a chance in the elections. But people do not learn, and those that vote GOP will one day look back and ask what happened with the downfall of America, not realizing it was their fault. Those that do not vote at all deserve to be deported.

    May 5, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. rfer

    realusa maybe you should actually realize it is closer then you really think. I think you are finding everyway possible to tout up your GOP party. You did the same thing with Romney.

    May 5, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. Koch Brothers

    Libs are insane. The Republics destruction is all on the heads of libs.

    May 5, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. chrcar

    The 1% edge could be easily lost because of the disgusting response by House Majority Leader John (let them eat cake) Boehner in refusing to vote on refunding the ECU. There are 2.8 plus million american voters who have suffered in their daily lives because of this cynical inaction. Please people get out the vote; 3 million people affected by this power hungry man can make a difference at the midterm poles.

    May 5, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. sly

    Thank you President Obama for setting America on a progressive path.

    It is our nation now:
    -We repeal federal discrimination againest gays
    -We repeal laws prohibiting 50 million Americans from getting health care
    -We brought the troops home from Iraq after 500,000 murders
    -We have prevented all foreign terrorist attacks on our soil
    -We killed Osama Bin Laden
    -We have sent the stock market to all-time records, along with our 401K
    -We have unemployment at it's lowest rate in 10 years
    -We have reduced the federal deficit more than any President in history.

    Thank you President Obama. And yes, us Democrats will continue to rule for the next 10 years. These are good times.

    May 5, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  22. Mark Bruce

    Let's see, the GOP gave us Iraq, less regulated Wall Street, trickle down economics, tax cuts for the wealthy, no interest in helping the uninsured (until the Affordable Care Act was proposed), a political Supreme Court majority, as well as NO to food stamps and NO to extending unemployment benefits during the recession they were primarily responsible for. Their plan is to cut Medicare and Medicaid and virtually any program that helps the poor and middle class. And they have the advantage? Democrats must go to the polls in numbers never seen before! We must send the GOP a message they cannot ignore.

    May 5, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    republicans need to take off their blue suits and show off their white sheets underneath and then we'll see how everyone votes.....

    May 5, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  24. Demigod Vadik, CA

    Unless the Democrats are winning by 6%, they will not re-take the House..

    4-5% Democratic advantage, comes out about even in the house (+/- 5 seats)

    Anything less than a 4% Democratic advantage in a poll is a Republican shallacking...

    ...thank re-districting for this one....

    May 5, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  25. Whatever

    As it has ever where else it has been tried, socialism is failing in America (and America is failing because of it). Defeat the Democrat/Socialists in November!

    May 5, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
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