CBS poll shows midterm enthusiasm gap opening

Last night’s release of the latest CBS News poll offers plenty to analyze, but most of its data tracks pretty closely to other polling. Barack Obama’s approval rating is 41/50, a slight improvement from June’s 40/54, and Congress is still less popular than personal-injury lawyers and used-car salesmen. Republicans are less popular than Democrats, but that’s only true in the abstract. When it comes to the midterm elections, an enthusiasm gap has developed that portends disaster for Democrats:


If the election were held today, the results would look much as they did in June, with Democrats holding a slight edge (41-37 percent). But among those who are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, Republicans have a lead (47-40 percent).

And just over a third of voters say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in November.

This year’s election campaigns have yet to capture the attention of many voters. Just a quarter of voters are currently paying a lot of attention to the campaign.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake explains why that matters — and why it may be worse than it looks for Democrats:

The CBS numbers aren’t quite “likely voters” — a voter doesn’t have to be more enthusiastic than usual to be a likely voter — but they do show how big the difference in enthusiasm (and, by extension, turnout) could be.

What’s more, among those who say they are equally as enthusiastic about voting as previous elections, significantly more are Republican-leaning (14 percent of the GOP) than Democratic-leaning (8 percent).

In a neutral environment, Democrats are supposed to have a slight lead on the generic ballot. Recent history shows the GOP tends to gain even when the generic ballot is close. If they have a generic-ballot lead, as they did in 2010, it’s Bad News Bears for Democrats.

There are still three months to go, and this is just the first in a long line of polls that will spotlight the differences between registered voters and those most likely to turn out on Nov. 4, but the fact that the most enthused potential voters favor the GOP by seven points has got to be concerning if you’re a Democrat.


We should start seeing the likely-voter screens in polls starting after Labor Day. The turnout models matter, as we all discovered to our chagrin in 2012, when those turned into a rerun of 2008 rather than 2010. Without Obama on the ticket, though, the demographics will change in the turnout models in a way that’s almost certain to put Democrats at a distinct disadvantage — and with more Democrats defending Senate seats, the disadvantage already exists.

There’s more to the poll than just the midterms, though. CBS surveyed on the border crisis, and discovered that Americans largely want the border enforced and crossers sent back immediately — even when the crossers are minors:

When asked what should happen to the Central American children who have recently crossed the border into the U.S. illegally, 50 percent of Americans say they should be returned to their home country as soon as possible, while 43 percent think these children should stay in the U.S. while awaiting an immigration hearing, according to a new CBS News poll.

Most Republicans think the children should be returned to their home countries, while most Democrats think they should be allowed to stay and go through a hearing process.

Almost two-thirds favor legislation that will make it easier to expedite deportations (65/28). That holds true across all of the listed demos; even Hispanics favor the bill by 54/40, and Democrats by 55/37. The reticence of the Obama administration and key Democrats in leadership to address this may well backfire on them.


In the more mundane parts of the poll, Obama fell to his lowest leadership rating in the CBS series, 50/47. Only 25% now say they have a lot of confidence in his ability to handle a foreign-policy crisis, a decline of 14 points over the last year. The direction-of-country question got its worst rating since the ObamaCare rollout debacle, 25/67. Obama remains underwater on all three issue areas surveyed by CBS:

  • Economy – 40/54
  • Foreign policy – 36/48
  • Immigration – 31/57 (was 35/56 in June)

Small wonder voters are getting enthusiastic — about removing Obama’s allies from the House and Senate.

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Jazz Shaw 8:30 AM | February 25, 2024