Republicans may begin 2014 with an advantage in the midterm elections, new polling shows.
A CNN/ORC poll found that voters would prefer a Republican congressional candidate over a Democratic one by 5 points, 49 percent to 44 percent.
The slight Republican edge follows a tumultuous autumn, when Democrats' numbers soared during the government shutdown, then fell off abruptly when a deal was reached and concerns about the flawed health care rollout took center stage. In October, the Democrats were leading by 8 points.
The CNN poll, conducted Dec. 16 to Dec. 19, shows that just about 30 percent of voters said they were enthusiastic about the congressional election in 2014, with Democrats less likely than Republicans to show enthusiasm. Voters also were more likely to say they'd vote for a candidate who opposes the president than for one who supports him.
Other surveys give Republicans less of an edge, or show Democrats leading. A Fox News poll last week found the two parties tied, while an ABC/Post poll last week gave the Democrats a 2-point advantage. In the past month, results among surveys of voters have ranged from a 5-point GOP edge in CNN's and several Rasmussen polls, to a 4-point Democratic lead in a Pew Research/USA Today Survey.
CNN's Keating Holland cautioned that with the 2014 election still nearly a year away, it's too early for polls to predict a winning party. He pointed to polls that showed Democrats leading by 6 points a year before the 2010 midterms. The Republicans took back the House of Representatives in that election by historic margins.
HuffPost Pollster's chart, combining all publicly available polling, gives the Republicans an average lead of about 2 points.