September 30th, 2008
05:40 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN POLL OF POLLS: Debate 'changed nothing'


The first presidential debate did little to change the dynamics of the presidential race, new polls show. (Getty Images)

(CNN) - Nearly 60 million Americans tuned in to the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain last Friday, but national polls released this week suggest the square-off did little to change the dynamics of the race.

The new polls are bad news for McCain, who with only five weeks until Election Day is quickly running out of opportunities to shake up the race for the White House.

In a new CNN poll of polls consisting of surveys conducted entirely after the first presidential debate, Obama holds a 5-point lead over McCain, 48-43 percent. That's exactly where the race stood immediately before the two candidates kicked off the presidential debate season in Oxford, Mississippi, four days ago.

“The ruling on last Friday’s presidential debate is in, and it’s a split decision,” said CNN Senior Political Researcher Alan Silverleib. “The debate changed nothing. Obama’s supporters aren’t shifting to McCain, McCain’s supporters aren’t shifting to Obama, and undecided voters are still undecided.

But the poll numbers come even as surveys conducted by several media organizations immediately after the debate showed most viewers thought Obama had won. However the polls also showed the debate viewers appeared to be more Democratic than the overall population.  (Related: CNN analysts grade McCain, Obama debate performances)

"Unfortunately for McCain, a continuation of the status quo favors Obama," Silverleib also said. "The pressure is increasing on McCain to find some way to change the fundamental dynamics of this race. He can’t afford to walk away with a tie in the remaining debates.”

McCain and Obama next square off October 7 in a debate that features a town-hall format - a set up that McCain favors. VP candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden have their only debate on Thursday.

soundoff (251 Responses)
  1. Leah,Texas

    Obama looked presidential and gave intelligent answers regarding the future.
    McCain acted like an angry old man that is out of touch and mainly talked about the past.

    Obama won the debate by a landslide!

    September 30, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  2. Deb, Allentown,PA

    Two things I have to point out.

    First, Palin is again making cracks about Biden's age. Is she kidding, or is she truly as stupid as she seems? Picking on Biden, when he's 7 years younger than your Presidential candidate?

    Secondly, McCain has released a new ad calling Obama a hypocrite. He cut off the first part of Obama's sentence to parse what he needed in order to make this claim. The McCain/Palin/GOP campaign is a lying, sleazy, distasteful farce.

    September 30, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  3. strong

    Debates have always struck me a staged, rehearsed skits. They come off as a badly acted highschool play. There needs to be questions asked from the audience, a spur-of-the-moment type of question, without any rehearsing by the candidates beforehand.

    No wonder the debates don't change opinions. Debates are just showpieces for the politicians.

    September 30, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  4. Jane

    McCain's communication style was condescending, rude with an outright my-way-or-the-highway attitude. I know who I want negotiating with other world leaders. McCain has no skills to help us towards diplomacy with other nations.

    September 30, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  5. chelle

    Yes indeed, Mr. McCain does favour the town hall format – although I'm not sure why. If I were in the audience and he kept saying "my friends" with that horrible little grin of his, I'd throw my popcorn at him!
    He isn't the audience's friend for pete's sake. As for Sarah Palin's debate with Joe it possible she is playing stupid and then is going to wallop Joe??? Or is she really that lacking in basic knowledge of government, economics, and foreign policy??? What exactly did John McCain and his staff ask her about during the vetting process?

    September 30, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  6. sandee in Portland

    Since neither of the candidates offer specific answers to specific questions, I don't think the debates will change anyone's minds. As far as the VP debate, why has the Debate Commission allowed the McCain camp to get their request to limit responses cut down to 2 minutes. Again, a format set up to favor the Republicans? Is the committee bipartisan? If so, rules should remain the same, not be changed.

    The only thing people really get out of debates, is how Presidential the candidate is. Does he stay calm, does he stay on point, does he address the issues that are being discussed or ramble off on another subject, what's his body language saying.

    September 30, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  7. Brad

    I am not surprised the liberals at CNN can't subtract. It's amazing how stupid some of the people at this news oulet are. 48-45 is a three point lead. Not to mention that the polls are weighted based on pollsters expectations. Another joke.

    September 30, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. HRM, FL

    Obama held his own and did well. Coming across as knowledgeable in Economics and Foreign Policy.

    The Palin train wreck is coming this Thursday, after that the key will be for people to come out and VOTE.

    We alll know what will happen if the election is mysteriously close, we've seen that before.

    Obama 08

    September 30, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  9. Vanessa

    Could a Ticker Producer update this post to clarify the findings.

    Is it a 5 point lead? Or are the results 48 – 45 percent?

    Thank you.

    September 30, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  10. Tony

    The last deabte between Obama and McCain is on the economy and Obama will annihilate McCain. He and his campaign will be TOAST!

    September 30, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  11. Orlando

    Palin is hurting Mccain, she needs to drop out, or better yet, stay in, so we are ensured a win....

    Obama 08

    September 30, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  12. Bob Stehens

    It is amazing that a man who can't even look at his opponent in the debate, scowls, and repeats himself again and again, has over 40% of the vote.

    September 30, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  13. WI Cheesehead

    Why is it that when a fact check is run on what McCain/Palin has said it comes back as lie or misleading? I think they should close shop.

    September 30, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  14. CM

    People pretty much have made up their minds on who to vote for by now. Of course if Palin completely tanks on Thursday night we may see another small uptick in Obama's numbers.

    Barring anything major and or McCain finally getting a clue this looks like the numbers we'll see through Nov 4th.

    September 30, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. Maggie

    The only poll that matters is when we vote on November 4 and we put our "X" beside the name of the candidate that we have chosen to vote for. The CNN poll of polls mean absolutely nothing. Its whoever goes out there to vote that matters and then we will have a true polling because we are now actually voting for our candidate. We can say we are voting for someone but when go to mark that "X" that's when it counts. So please lets stop all these unnecessary polling now and just get to the issues on hand.

    September 30, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  16. becky

    I felt Obama won! McCain bored me... what was up with the little stories...he wasted more time wanting to tell little stories of his past... I wanted answers for today.... and most of them I got totally lost on and had to ask myself if he even answered the question or just wasted 10 minutes.

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  17. FL4OB


    Yes we can!

    God bless America!

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. Eman

    The VP debate will be a game clincher or breaker for both teams. If sarah does well, or doesn't give any responses like she did with katie couric, she can put the polls in motion like she did at the RNC. If biden tears her apart that the polls will likely reflect in obamas favor. The thing we must acknowledge is that Both Sarah and Barrack will need on the job training but which is more dangerous, a learn as you go President or Vice President.

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  19. Bill, MA.

    I don't have to watch debates to inform me about the dire straits our country is in. I can see that after 8 years of republican RULE! the USA has been subjected to the likes of very selfish people. The Reagan deregulation binge has decimated industry after industry. McCain sounds like a broken record talking about our spending, and earmarks. How much does the Bush/Mccain war cost? Anyone thinking of voting republican may want to check their medical coverage to see if self destructive behavior is covered. Oh, i forgot medical insurance is one of those socialistic schemes that rough, tough republicans scoff at.

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  20. Jro

    Chuck, it was the 133 Republicans (2/3 of the Party) that derailed the bailout (rescue) because even they know Obama is the better candidate!. Obama/Biden 08!!!!

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  21. Jayson in San Diego

    I can't wait until they have a debate focusing on economics....
    Did someone say "deregulate"?

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  22. McCain is a Filthy Liar

    This is good news for Obama. The race NEEDS TO STAY CLOSE to keep people motivated to VOTE! A BIG lead for Obama could lead to apathy in the Democatic ranks which would be the kiss of death.

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  23. Tony in MT

    Mark my words...Obama will be up by 10 points this time next week. Palin will destroy any chance the ticket has on Thursday night.

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  24. David Orbach, New York, NY

    Come Thursday night, the race is over.

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. Sammy

    I suppose if most viewers were democrats, republican voters werent interested in what McCain has to say so they didnt bother to watch. The lowest numbers were in his home state.

    September 30, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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