I watched the debate between Obama and McCain on C-SPAN last night because I didn't want to hear any pre-debate nonsense from the networks. I wanted to make up my own mind about how the candidates did. After the debate was over, I thought Obama did very well. McCain did better than I thought he would, but not well enough to really help himself.
So imagine my surprise when I flipped over to CNN and MSNBC after the debate, and all I heard from either was how well McCain had done and how many opportunities Obama had blown. It was almost as though we had been watching different debates. I turned off the news and hoped America had been watching the same debate I had seen.
It looks like Americans saw the debate a bit differently than the "talking heads" did. CNN and CBS both did overnight polls. Both of those polls show that Obama did very well.
In the CNN poll 51% said Obama did a better job in the debate, while only 38% thought McCain did the better job. The poll also showed:
Obama was widely considered more intelligent, likable and in touch with peoples' problems, and by modest margins was seen as the stronger leader and more sincere. Most said it was McCain who spent more time attacking his opponent.
The CBS poll had 39% believing Obama had won the debate, while only 24% thought McCain had won. The other 37% saw it as a tie. Obama also showed a 16% improvement in the number of people who thought he was prepared to be president -- up to 60%. The poll also showed:
In another Obama advantage in the CBS poll, far more said their image of him had improved as a result of the debate than said it had worsened. More also said their view of McCain had gotten better rather than worse, but by a modest margin.
Democracy Corps got 45 undecided voters together in St. Louis. About 33% of them identified themselves as Republicans while 27% said they were Democrats. They had voted 2-1 for Bush in 2004. They picked Obama as the winner of the debate by a 38% to 27% margin. This group also showed:
A look at the underlying numbers shows that Obama made important gains that could endure through Election Day. These undecided voters had a strong positive reaction to Obama on a personal level. Before the debate, just 40 percent viewed Obama positively, but this skyrocketed to 69 percent after the debate – a remarkable 29-point gain that left him more personally popular than McCain despite this group’s conservative leanings. He also made large strides on being seen as independent, from 44 percent to 65 percent. And in head-to-head matchups against McCain, Obama made significant gains on who “shares your values” and is “on your side."
McCain did not fare as well. His personal standing also improved, but not to nearly the same degree as Obama’s. And while he made impressive gains on being a “maverick,” he actually lost slight ground on “offering a different path than Bush,” showing that these gains were more about style than substance. Moreover, McCain either remained stagnant or lost ground on nearly every other issue we tested. He went into the debate being seen as the more negative candidate by a 7-point margin and expanded that dubious honor to 26 points by the conclusion of the debate.
It looks like the voters saw the debate quite differently than the media's "talking heads" did. Maybe the media should put aside their own prejudices before watching the next debate. Then they'd have a chance of seeing what the voters are seeing.