CNN poll: Majority say midterms were repudiation of Republican policies

Posted at 10:03 AM, Nov 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-14 15:47:19-05

A majority of Americans say the 2018 midterms were mostly about the rejection of Republican policies, but Democrats may have more of a mandate this time around than in past election cycles, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

Less than half, 32%, say the election is more of a mandate for the Democrats. But the nearly one-third of Americans who see the election as a mandate outpaces the share who saw the election outcome that way in other recent elections where control of either the US Senate or the House of Representatives changed hands.

Related: Full poll results

In 2014, 16% of Americans said the takeover of the US Senate by Republicans equaled a mandate. Similarly, in 2010, when tea party backlash to Democrats helped Republicans take the House, 17% called it a mandate for Republicans. In 2006, when fatigue and anger at the Iraq War helped Democrats take control of the House and the Senate, 27% called it a mandate for the party. In 1994, 18% saw the takeover led by Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America as a mandate for Republicans.

In the new poll, which was conducted by re-interviewing those who participated in a CNN poll conducted just before Election Day, 53% of Americans said the election results indicate a rejection of policy positions pushed by Republicans.

More than 6 in 10 say it will be good for the country that Democrats will be in charge of the US House, higher than in any of those midterms save 2006, when 67% considered the Democratic takeover of the House good for the country.

Despite divided control of the Senate and House, about half of Americans expect a more responsive Congress, and an optimistic 37% think it will get more done than the GOP-controlled Congress leaving office in January.

But few want to see Nancy Pelosi as the leader of the Democratic Party in the House — 59% overall say they’d rather see another Democrat lead the party’s caucus, and even among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, opinions on Pelosi are about evenly split, with 44% saying they’d like to see her in charge and 46% preferring another Democratic leader.

It also suggests that little has changed in perceptions of President Donald Trump or the state of the country in the wake of the election. Overall, 42% in the poll say they approve of the way the President is handling his job, a narrow increase from 39% who approved before Election Day. And 54% feel things in the country are going well, about even with the 55% who said so in the pre-election survey.

The survey finds a majority saying they trust the Democrats in Congress over Trump to deal with the major issues facing the country today, 55% to 38%, and that margin holds roughly steady across a range of critical issues, including health care (59% to 36%), immigration (58% to 39%), the Russia investigation (58% to 33%), gun policy and taxes (both 54% for the Democrats to 39% for Trump), and the federal budget deficit (52% to 39%). The one exception: the economy. On that issue, 48% say they trust Trump over the Democrats in Congress and 47% prefer the Democrats.

Immigration and health care stand clearly ahead of other issues as voters’ top priorities for the new Congress, with 29% citing immigration when asked open-ended what they’d like to see as Congress’s first priority come January, and 21% naming health care. Another 10% say the Mueller investigation is their first priority for Congress.

Still, both Republican and Democratic voters are mostly happy with the outcome of last week’s midterm elections, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, but the election has done little to dampen the sense that the country’s political divisions are deeper than they have been before.

Overall, 57% say they’re mostly happy with the way this year’s congressional elections, 34% are mostly disappointed. Those who said they backed the Democrat in their own congressional district were most pleased (64% said they were happy) but a majority who say they voted Republican also feel mostly happy (53%).

Related: Full poll results

Views of Trump divide perceptions of the outcome a bit more than House votes did: 66% of those who said before the election that they were casting a ballot to oppose the president were happy with the outcome, vs. 49% among those who said they were voting to express support for Trump.

Most don’t think Trump ought to be impeached and removed from office. Fifty-five percent say they don’t feel that way and 42% say that they do. About 6 in 10 say there isn’t enough cause for the Congress to begin hearings into whether or not Trump should be impeached. And just 3% say impeachment is their top priority for the new Congress come January.

About half (49%) say they disapprove of the President firing Jeff Sessions as attorney general, while 44% approve. But most, 67%, say they think Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself from the Russia investigation, seemingly the President’s biggest complaint about his former attorney general.

This CNN poll was conducted by SSRS by re-interviewing 677 adults who participated in a nationally representative pre-election survey. Those participating in the poll were originally interviewed from November 1 through 3 and callback interviews took place between November 8 and 12. Results for all respondents reached in the callback survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.