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. Mateo

    Religious zealots, arms everywhere, little governmnet, no revenue, no middle class, and poor masses ruled by a few elites.

    Somalia or the United States? Vote in November.

    May 5, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  2. Tom

    Obamacare is working. Millions of people now have Healthcare Coverage; more millions have access to Health Care thanks to expanded Medicaid (except where ignorant Republiklan Governors have blocked it) and many young students are covered by their parent's plan...and the repubiklans can't stand it. Obamacare is working, and its a good thing! Suck it Repubiklans!

    May 5, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  3. O'drama ya Mama

    All I hear from Republicans is that when they gain control over both houses the first thing they are going to do is impeach the President. Remember that their goal is not to make America a better place but simply impeach the President. Is this what we call progress? Is that all they can offer? Lets say that happens, now we have a President Biden. Are they going to spend the next 2 years trying to impeach him too?

    May 5, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Mike

    Wow. More delusional thinking among conservatives here. It's unlikely a party will fare well if they need to hire consultants to teach them how to relate to women . . . .

    May 5, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Arnold P.

    Obama's so far underwater it's time to foreclose on the White House!

    May 5, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  6. edmundburkeson

    if it's a cnn poll – the Dems will get buried in the hole they dug themselves.

    May 5, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  7. James

    How soon before Obama can legalize 20 million illegal aliens and have a 20 million vote advantage overnight?

    May 5, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. billbfit

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

    And hence their crazy campaign to invalidate voter ID laws, even though you practically have to have an ID these days to even go to the bathroom.

    May 5, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. Geoff Maguire

    Both parties have more than enough time to mess up between now and November. That said the republicans have the advantage if as usual in mid term elections moderates and minority voters stay home. Having no plans to actually change anything they will spend the following two years holding hearings and trying desperately to make things like Benghazi live forever and shutting down the government. In 2016 when the rest of America bothers to show up at the polls they will still lose the grand slam.

    May 5, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. Blake

    No matter how you put it, Americans want more gridlock and even if the GOP wins the senate, that's all they will get.

    Which is strange because the vast majority of Americans by 60%-80% support major the policy points of the Democrats, save for Obamacare, but in the same breath will also say they need to stop Democratic policies...

    Then there's the economy which has been moving in a positive direction regardless of how you spin, since before the 2012 election, and Americans think its going in the opposite direction...

    Even Obamacare looks like a success (we will see what happens o premiums over the net few months) and Obama is doing exactly what the majority want in Ukraine, but people still disapprove of the handling of both...

    Democratic approval is much higher than GOP approval as well and the GOP hasn't even presented policy. but the public still say they will vote for them.

    This leads me to believe it doesn't matter what Democrats do, the fact is Americans are not knowledgeable enough to vote for their own interest or vote logically and instead vote illogically or based on emotion/ignorance. They vote based off what their friend said at the bar and not what the latest job reports etc. conclude. In any other western democracy the GOP with such public disapproval and disapproval of its policies wouldn't hold 5%-10% of the seats they have in the US.

    May 5, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  11. Tony in Stl

    Republicans simply have NOT done ANYTHING! Except make themselves appear unfit lo lead. Not sure who's getting polled here. Too much bigotry, hate, and fabricated scandal. Too many spoken gaffes. No constructive ideas. Geez, they're still listening to Sarah Palin! True losers.

    May 5, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  12. Sniffit

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

    Yeah, and the percentage of people who say they can't breath rises sharply when you poll only those who have ingested cyanide. Do we REALLY have to point out the faulty sampling dynamic you just engaged in?

    May 5, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  13. Silence DoGood

    @Edward Cox
    Everything hinges on whether the Democrats can cheat enough to steal another election.
    You know that debunking sites have, well debunked this repeatedly. Real verifiable (the enemy of conspiracy theory) proof is in the few here, few there numbers. It is extremely rare. Except in the heads under the tin foil hats.

    May 5, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  14. radar8

    Justin: You say that ACA is failing miserably, but the facts dictate otherwise. Over 8 million people have already signed up. The CBO is projecting lower costs than before ACA. People are now protected from being dropped due to illness or "pre-existing conditions"

    But go ahead and keep chanting your lies. See you at the polls with the other birthers.

    May 5, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  15. PHinMiami

    The Republican advantage?? Same as it's always been, "Appealing to the uneducated, paranoid & weak-minded".

    Unfortunately, the US has no shortage of GOP minions.

    May 5, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "A fully employed country is a happy country,"

    Guess what percentage unemployment is "full employment." Guess.

    Now, state the percentage we're at as of last week.

    May 5, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |

    Yea CNN, if no dems show up to vote???? And THATS NOT going to happen,we are ALL coming out to inflect the BEATDOWN these GOP LOSERS deserve !!!!!

    May 5, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  18. Liberal...NOT

    given the last 6 years, why would any educated person vote democrat?

    May 5, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. Gurgyl

    BS. Fox idiocy. Simple. Vote straight dem. ticket.

    May 5, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. amusing

    Always amusing to read 'both' sides of the comments. Obama can blame himself if the Dems loose the Senate. A community Organizer who has never so much as ran a lemonade stand is running this country, what could possibly go wrong?

    No, I didn't voe for Bush, but one would have to be brain dead to have voted for the liar-in-chief.

    May 5, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  21. Jon

    Where the heck is this "Bengazi" anyway? Probably only about 1% of the people could even find it on the map.

    May 5, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  22. Michael

    National polls don't matter. Congressional districts are so gerrymandered that the Democrats don't stand a chance.

    May 5, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  23. onlypansieshidetheirnames...doh

    Some of you are so delusional that you think a poll 6 months before the elections is the sign that things are going to happen a certain way. people that are repulicans aren't changing their minds, people that are democrats aren't changing their minds either, the only people that may be swayed one way or another are the Independents, the unaffiliated voters and other small party members, and since nobody really calls them for polls. You might as well get off your high donkeys and elephants, unless you actually think something you say on here is going to change anyone else's opinion, like the epitomy of stupid that is known as KenyanLies.

    May 5, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  24. Vijay

    GOP = Grand Ole Party... No Chances...Dems are slowly closing in... Most of the senate races, dems are leading... This author is not right....
    Obama base will help this fall.

    May 5, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. dave

    The republican advantage is the same as it's always been, it's guns, gays, God, and factor in some bigotry. There's not much anyone can do about that, it's just the way we are. The economy or foreign affairs are hardly the republican's strong suit, not after the massive Bush Republican recession depression, and all the wars, and the huge debt from the wars. All you can say is that American workers better dig way in if republicans make any gains, it's going to be awfully rough for working people. I think most of them ought to just forget about working, find something else to do, maybe welfare, or crime, immigrate, just think hard about ways to survive. Already the ranks of those that have given up on working is massive, they even have a new name for them, "the disconnected". If republicans make gains, the last days of capitalism might get pretty chaotic, be like the end of times. I strongly urge people to get their passports, beat the rush, it might be too late, if you wait. You could just take a vaction abroad and not come back, become an illegal alien.

    May 5, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
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