CNN Poll: Big swing for Democrats but not where they need it

Is Congress avoiding ISIS debate?
Is Congress avoiding ISIS debate?

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    Is Congress avoiding ISIS debate?

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Is Congress avoiding ISIS debate? 02:13

Story highlights

  • Democrats edged out Republicans 47% to 45% in generic ballot
  • 60% of Americans disapprove of how Congress handled the war with ISIS
  • The economy is more important than military action against ISIS among voters by a 2-1 margin
Five weeks before the November midterm elections, voters give Democrats an edge over Republicans, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday.
But the poll also indicates most of Democrats' gains are coming from the Northeast and not from the parts of the country where they're locked in tight contests that could give Republicans control of the Senate.
In a generic ballot among likely voters, Democrats edged out Republicans 47-45%, a 6-point swing from a CNN poll three weeks ago when likely voters favored the Republicans by a 4-point margin. The Democrats' advantage is within the poll's 3.5% margin of error.
The "generic ballot" question which asks Americans to choose between an unnamed Democrat and an unnamed Republican in their vote for U.S. House, suggests a shift toward the Democrats nationally, if not in key races in key states.
The poll comes a week after the U.S. launched airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, and while poll respondents overwhelmingly think the economy is the more important issue, they gave Congress low marks for how it handled the ISIS threat and have more faith in President Barack Obama than GOP leaders to set the military policy to deal with the militant Islamist group.
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"That may explain why the Democrats have gained strength on the national "generic ballot" question," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.
Democrats gained the most ground among men and independent voters, two key groups that could help Democrats in competitive races this November. Men took a 7-point swing toward Democrats from the previous poll, bringing the party within 6 points of Republicans' 49% support.
"That may be a sign that some men wanted to see aggressive action taken against ISIS and are rewarding the President's party -- or simply that the President's actions have convinced men that they don't need to send more Republicans to Washington in order to get action that they are looking for," Holland said.
Republicans also lost support among independents as Democrats saw a 7-point bump, giving them a 44-42% advantage over rivals.
And while the traction for Democrats comes in the wake of an expanded military campaign ordered by Obama, roughly two out of three Americans said the economy is more important than military action against ISIS in determining who they'll vote for in the midterms.
Those numbers reveal a different mindset than in the lead up to the Iraq War, when 49% said in September 2002 the possibility of war with Iraq was a more important factor than the economy.
That may be because most Americans, 59%, don't consider the conflict with ISIS to be a war, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Monday.
Americans remain unsatisfied with Congress's handling of the situation with ISIS: 60% of Americans said they disapprove, just weeks after members of Congress absconded from Capitol Hill without a vote on military action against ISIS to campaign for reelection in their districts.
But maybe that's not such a bad mark for Congress, given that 83% said in the CNN/ORC poll three weeks ago that they disapproved of how Congress was handling its job overall.