Republicans Regain Lead In Generic Congressional Ballot, For Now At Least

The Generic Congressional Ballot has shifted again, but how long will this trend last?

United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. Aerial

Back in mid-October in the wake of the Syria debate and the Federal Government shutdown debacle, Congressional Democrats were crowing over poll numbers that seemed to be decidedly in their favor. Not only were Republicans on Capitol Hill registered historically low approval numbers, but the Generic Congressional Ballot, which asks voters if they were more inclined to vote for a Republican or a Democrat in next year’s 2014 Congressional midterms, showed their part with an advantages as high as somewhere between seven and nine points, a number which suggested to some that Democrats at least a chance of regaining control of the House. In reality, of course, the reality of how Congressional elections are handled at the District level made the odds of a Democratic takeover fairly low, although the poll numbers at the time did put into doubt the probability of a GOP takeover in the Senate.

That, however, was six weeks ago. Since then, the shutdown seems to have largely faded into political memory and we’ve been faced with virtually nonstop coverage of the disastrous Obamacare rollout and another round of what the general public likely views as purely partisan fighting in the Senate over judges and filibusters. The result has been rather predictable. As I noted both last week and yesterday, President Obama has suffered significantly in the polls, and now CNN is out with a new poll showing that the GOP has retaken the lead in the Generic Congressional Ballot:

Washington (CNN) – What a difference a month makes.

A new CNN/ORC International poll indicates a dramatic turnaround in the battle for control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.

Democrats a month ago held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates.

That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling.

But the Democratic lead has disappeared. A new CNN/ORC poll indicates the GOP now holds a 49%-47% edge.

The new survey was conducted last week and released Tuesday.

The 10-point swing follows a political uproar over Obamacare, which included the botched rollout of and controversy over insurance policy cancelations due primarily to the new health law.

The turnaround in the CNN/ORC poll follows similar shifts in recent national surveys from Quinnipiac University and Fox News.


“It looks like the biggest shifts toward the Republicans came among white voters, higher-income Americans, and people who live in rural areas, while Democrats have gained strength in the past month among some of their natural constituencies, such as non-white voters and lower-income Americans,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

“If those patterns persist into 2014, it may indicate that Obamacare is popular among those who it was designed to help the most, but unpopular among the larger group of voters who are personally less concerned about health insurance and health care,” Holland said.

Republicans currently have a 17-seat advantage in the U.S. House with the Democrats holding a 55-45 majority in the Senate.

The CNN/ORC results echo a dramatic shift that has occurred over the past six weeks as reflected in the RealClearPolitics poll average which, factoring in the CNN poll, now shows the GOP with a narrow one point lead, a lead which suggests that the party would be likely to retain control of the House (the Generic Ballot seems to have less predictive value when it comes to the Senate). As the chart shows, the shift over the past six weeks has been swift and dramatic:

Congressional Ballot RCP


There are, as always, several caveats to consider when looking at numbers like this. The most obvious, of course, is that the events of the past six weeks demonstrate quite plainly just how fluid this poll can actually be. Indeed, all one need to is look to a point about six weeks prior to the Democratic high point in mid-October and see a point where the two parties were virtually tied. Additionally, as CNN’s own pollster observes, we’re still quite a long way from Election Day 2014:

“There is just under a year to go before any votes are actually cast and the ‘generic ballot’ question is not necessarily a good predictor of the actual outcome of 435 separate elections,” Holland cautions.

“A year before the 2010 midterms, for example, the Democrats held a six-point lead on the generic ballot but the GOP wound up regaining control of the House in that election cycle, thanks to an historic 63-seat pickup,” he said.

With more than eleven months to go until Election Day, and most incumbents in vulnerable districts not even facing a named opponent yet, it’s hard to say exactly what that means for November 2014 right now. If these trends continue, of course, then it appears that the GOP’s House majority would be secure and that it would be in good position to pickup a good number of Senate seats if not grab narrow control of the body itself. However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned in politics in the United States over the past eight years or so, and especially over the past five years, it’s that trends rarely continue. So, it’s worthwhile to keep an eye on these poll numbers but, as always, what matters are the trends leading up to Election Day rather than the numbers at a given time.



FILED UNDER: 2014 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    “If those patterns persist into 2014, it may indicate that Obamacare is popular among those who it was designed to help the most, but unpopular among the larger group of voters who are personally less concerned about health insurance and health care,” Holland said.

    LOL That excerpt pretty much says it all.

    I thought Americans cared about health insurance and healthcare? I suppose they do not care as long as they do not have to pay for it, that is, if their employer is paying for it.

  2. beth says:

    “If those patterns persist into 2014, it may indicate that Obamacare is popular among those who it was designed to help the most, but unpopular among the larger group of voters who are personally less concerned about health insurance and health care FOR OTHERS,” Holland said.

    Fixed it for you, Mr. Holland

  3. JKB says:

    I see a bit of a challenge for the Democrats. People will remember and vote when they suffer a loss but are far less likely to vote after they receive free stuff. So, the plan was to give Obamacare then run on stopping Republicans from taking it away. But now, the loss due to Obamacare is real for those who had plans they liked, whereas any loss of the Obamacare “freebie” is conjecture. Not to mention, the “freebie” isn’t free but comes with big co-pays so the subsidy’s impact will be muted.

    In any case, every call that Obamacare will be repealed or significantly modified so beneficiaries should vote will also rub salt in the wounds of those who got the Obamacare raw deal. Who will show up at the polls?

  4. JKB says:


    As several have already commented when they got their new, improved, more expensive insurance bill, they want others to have health care, they just didn’t know they’d be personally paying for it.

    Reality bites.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    You still haven’t explained to us why you want people with pre-existing conditions to not have access to Health care?

  6. beth says:

    @JKB: And as I’ve pointed out many times already, you’re already paying for it – have been for decades.

  7. JohnMcC says:

    It seems to me that the essence of the difference is the motivation of the particular subset of voters shifting as the good-news/bad-news for ‘our guys’ goes up and down. The shutdown motivated the Dem constituency and disheartened the Repubs. The ‘ObamaCare rollout’ did the opposite.

    Everyone agrees that the ’14 off-year election favors the Repubs from several points of view (numbers of vulnerable seats, history of non-presidential-year elections favoring the opposition, etc).

    Everyone will be saying the opposite when the ’16 election cycle rolls around (all those Repubs who won in ’10 will be up, will Ted Cruz have coattails?).

    It’s a great game. Millions of eyeballs glued to millions of screens. Millions of dollars donated and spent. Lots of tempers roused and voices raised.

    Possibly some of it actually makes a difference. And hopefully our country will survive it. And there is the remote possibility that it all will result in some deepening of democracy and widening of prosperity for us all.

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    Republicans including Senator Mitch McConnell have spent the last three years trying to undermine, bad mouthing and trying to repeal the PPACA (AKA Obamacare). Mitch is running for reelection this year against a very popular Democrat. His real problem may prove to be that Obamacare is turning out to be very successful and popular in his state of Kentucky.

  9. rudderpedals says:

    The elections may be a year off but just to make certain that the people who vote are the ones “they” want to vote (and therefore reflect this poll) my leaders in Florida made it much harder to return one’s absentee ballot for tabulation.

    The difference being it costs postage + extra postage (1.5 -2 oz) to return most absentee ballots as they’re printed on heavy cardboard.

  10. edmondo says:

    Bring on the popcorn!

    Can’t wait to see how many more Democrats Obama will send into early retirement – hopefully every one of them who voted for this POS.

    “You want to prevent your race from being about Obamacare. If you enable your race to be about Obamacare, you’re making a mistake.”

    — Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, quoted by National Journal.

    Democrats Fear Obamacare Will Cost Them The Senate

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Yet again, people vote on things besides PPACA. It is not a one-issue election.

    It is also a year away, which is an eternity in politics, so why are we discussing polling on here seemingly non-stop lately? We might as well be trying to handicap next year’s World Series.

  12. David M says:


    Yes, this seems a bit premature, especially as the problems with the federal exchange are being resolved.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    So why do you want to deny people with pre-existing conditions access to Health care?

  14. C. Clavin says:

    People like JKB and edmondo are busy measuring the drapes in the White House…positive Obamacare will be the Democrat’s Waterloo…but here’s what they conveniently ignore; the Republicans have absolutely nothing to run on…can you really win the White House by whining about a website that has (by that time certainly) been fixed???
    Republicans have no solutions or ideas for how to deal with the free rider problem, or the pre-existing conditions problem, or the exploding costs problem. Let me repeat that…they have NOTHING to offer. They will have nothing to run on except returning to these very same problems.
    I truly regret what has happened to Conservatism in this Country. And I don’t see how anything they are currently doing makes it any better.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    And what about Foreign Policy…are Republicans going to run on bombing Iran instead of diplomacy??? That’s what they are advocating when they question this recent deal. I think most Americans are pretty tired of their wars of choice and the associated costs…4000 troops and at least $2T, probably more. I could be wrong. Maybe Republicans are right and permanent war appeals to Americans other than John Bolton and Dick Cheney.

  16. JohnMcC says:

    @rudderpedals: Here’s a tip if you have the time and mobility to follow it and want to vote early in FL (and I suppose every other state). Go to the Registrar’s office in person during the early voting period and ask for an absentee ballot. Fill it out right there. Put it in the ballot box. Then round up every registered Democrat you know and drive them to the office. Keep doing that.

  17. rudderpedals says:

    @JohnMcC: In the restricting directive the Secretary of State is citing a statute requiring that absentee ballots be mailed to the county Elections Supervisor even though he is only ruling out convenience drop spots (for now). Also, the early voting window is likely to be arbitrarily short and although past performance doesn’t guarantee future results I expect it to be yet more constricted this cycle.

    Instead of wondering about where and when I can vote and driving all over the place I have absentee balloting set as the default and now get all of my ballots in the mail. It’s probably not available statewide but my county offers it. Still costs around $.61 to mail it back.

  18. JKB says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Yet again, people vote on things besides PPACA. It is not a one-issue election.

    This is true, but if you don’t think one issue by people who feel loss can’t turn an election, i’ve got some former Colorado state legislators you can talk to.

    Millions of registered voters are having their health insurance disrupted by this debacle. People hold a grudge. Just remember former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski Somehow I suspect Democrats won’t be holding town halls in their districts.

  19. C. Clavin says:


    Millions of registered voters are having their health insurance disrupted by this debacle.

    Nonsense. And even if it is “millions”…it’s a small percentage…offset by those who are better off.
    Why are you so emotional about this when you don’t even understand what is going on?

  20. edmondo says:

    @C. Clavin:

    …the Republicans have absolutely nothing to run on

    What country do you live in? No one wins elections by running For something. They win elections by being AGAINST something.

    They voted against Romney in 2012; against Bush in 2008; against Kerry in 2004 and against blowjobs in the White House and superciliousness in 2000.

  21. David M says:


    People do vote against things, but voting against the Democrats and the ACA from the left is completely ridiculous. There are no words for how idiotic that plan is.

  22. edmondo says:

    @David M:

    Yes, because The Heritage Foundation Plan (AKA ObamaCare) is such a liberal document. Let the Democrats suffer whatever comes their way because of it.

  23. David M says:


    Doesn’t make voting that way any less dumb. Please explain step number two here:

    1. Vote and support the GOP
    2. …
    3. Liberal health care utopia

  24. edmondo says:

    @David M:

    Here, try this out:

    1) Stop voting for Democrats who pass windfalls for Wall Street insurance companies.

    2) Democrats learn a lesson after they are pulverized.

    3) We get Democrats who stop voting like Republicans.

  25. David M says:


    That’s not actually an answer to the question I asked.

    And it also leads me to believe you’re deeply confused about the ACA. Possibly even more so than the trolls on the right, which should be quite embarrassing.

  26. Davebo says:


    Stop voting for Democrats who pass windfalls for Wall Street Hartford insurance companies.

  27. wr says:

    @edmondo: Wait, are you pretending to be a disillusioned Democrat again? I mean, when you first showed up here, it was fine. But you go months spouting swill you’ve copied and pasted from the vilest of right wing sites… and then when it’s convenient, magically you are once again a Democrat.

    Why don’t you invent a sock puppet for one of your identities already? Or are you just too lazy?

  28. angelfoot says:

    @edmondo: You really need to explain how Obamacare is worse than what came before, or just shut up already.

  29. James Pearce says:

    These generic polls are pretty useless. They reflect genuine discontent with the party in power, but don’t tell us anything about the desirability or even electability about the future GOP candidates, who can trip themselves up as easily as talking about “legitimate rape” or the dreaded “47%.”

    The GOP shouldn’t bank on coasting in 2014. When generic polls like this are being hyped, however, that seems like it’s the plan. Are they prepared to do the hard work to make their case….or will they content themselves with popping the popcorn and just seeing what happens?


    i’ve got some former Colorado state legislators you can talk to.

    Ha! And both of them will tell you that even though they were recalled, the gun legislation they passed is still on the books and is in no danger of being repealed, rescinded, or otherwise amended. And Democrats still retain control of the State senate and the Governor’s mansion.

    Do you even know the names of their Republican replacements? Are you familiar with their records?

    Seems to me that you read about the recalls and heard a couple Democrats were recalled over “gun control” and that was all you needed to hear. You don’t care if the gun control laws still stand and apparently don’t care about the merits of the replacement senators.

    I mean, does it matter that the Dems still retain control of the legislature? Nope. Not one bit. The Republican Party has decided to expend a lot of energy on things that don’t matter in this state: The recalls, the 51st State movement, embryonic personhood.

    No surprise, then, that the GOP find their influence on the wane in this state. They rely on symbolic gestures that give the base the warm and fuzzies but result in nothing.

  30. al-Ameda says:


    They voted against Romney in 2012; against Bush in 2008; against Kerry in 2004 and against blowjobs in the White House and superciliousness in 2000.

    Nobody I know voted against oral sex in 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1998.