October 7th, 2008
11:45 PM ET
11 years ago

CNN Poll: Obama won the night

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Polls suggests Obama has won tonight’s debate.

Polls suggests Obama has won tonight’s debate.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) - A national poll of debate watchers suggests that Barack Obama won the second presidential debate.

Fifty-four percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey conducted after the debate ended said that Obama did the best job in the debate, with 30 percent saying John McCain performed better.

Watch: Debate analysis

A majority, 54 percent, said Obama seemed to be the stronger leader during the debate, to 43 percent for McCain. By a greater than two to one margin - 65 percent to 28 percent - viewers thought Obama was more likeable during the debate.

"Obama had made some gains on the leadership issue even before the debate," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "McCain's advantage on leadership shrunk from 19 points in September to just five points this weekend. If Obama can use this debate to convince Americans that he is a stronger leader than McCain, he may be difficult to defeat."

Watch: Reading the candidates' faces

A majority of debate watchers polled thought Obama was more intelligent, by a 57 percent to 25 percent margin over McCain. Twice as many debate watchers also thought Obama more clearly expressed than McCain, with 60 percent giving the nod to the Democratic nominee and 30 percent to his GOP opponent.

Hands down, debate watchers questioned thought McCain rather than Obama spent more time attacking his opponent: 63 percent said McCain went more negative, as opposed to 17 percent who pointed to Obama.

Half of those polled say Obama answered questions more directly, 13 points ahead of McCain, and by a 14 point advantage debate watchers thought Obama seemed to care more about the probelms of audience members who asked questions.

McCain did come out on top in one category that neither candidate wants to win: By a 16 point margin, debate watchers thought McCain seemed more like a typical politician during the debate.

According to the poll, 64 percent had a favorable opinion of Obama after the debate, up four points from the pre-debate result. McCain’s favorability rating remained unchanged: both before and after the debate percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of the Republican nominee both before and after the debate.

"For McCain, the key finding may be that his favorable rating did not change at all," Holland said. "It's unclear whether Obama will gain any momentum from Tuesday night's debate, but it looks like McCain will not do so, and for a candidate who has consistently been a few points behind in national polls, that's not a good sign."

The poll suggests that independent voters thought Obama won the debate. Fifty-four percent of those identifying themselves as independent say Obama performed best, with 28 percent saying that McCain did the better job.

Among Democrats, 85 percent say Obama won, with just 5 percent saying McCain was the winner. Among Republicans, 64 percent say McCain won, with 16 percent saying Obama won the night.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted by telephone with 675 adult Americans who watched the debate. All interviews were taken after the end of the debate. The audience for this debate was 38 percent Democratic and 31 percent Republican - very close to the partisan breakdown among all Americans nationwide. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

(Updated with additional poll results)

soundoff (124 Responses)
  1. Change

    Barack Obama was the only one who showed up in the Presidential mode. McCain is stuck in politics of the past – Reagan, O'Neill, Leiberthal...we need someone to take us into the future, not someone who is keeps reverting to the past – some 30 years ago.

    Sen. McCain, your time is over. Please cede the moment to the younger, more qualified generation.

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  2. Mark Austin TX

    "That One" won the debate.

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  3. Olaus

    McCain sounded like an arrogant, petulant school-child. It's been obvious to me for a long time, and should be clear to everyone now, that he will say and do anything to try and win this election. He brought in a no-nothing as his VP pick, he's decided to go totally negative with attack ads, and he's spoke out of both sides of his mouth on the economy tonight. When talking about McCain, I'm sure not voting for That One.

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  4. C.W. Texas

    Obama won the debate tonight he just look and sound more like the president of the united states tonight.

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  5. Valkyrie

    In other words, as with the Veep debate – NOT A GAME CHANGER. The old fellow needed a game changer to stand a chance, and didn't pull it off.

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  6. TEXAS For Obama

    Did anyone notice that when Obama went to shake McShame's hand, McShame would not shake his hand but pointed him towds Cindy's hand and needless to say she shook his hand. I am not shocked about this behavior from the republican Mc Shame.

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  7. CMG

    Barack, I am so proud to be your supporter. Your appearance and demeanor was one of a statesman.

    John, your comment, "that one" leaves me very uncomfortable, but it does instead display who you really are.

    Tom, as a fellow South Dakotan and an avid viewer of NBC, I am disappointed. Your support for John was crystal clear. I thought you were better than that.

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  8. Paul, Tampa

    No doubt, Obama had a walk off win tonight. McCain just walked off.

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  9. Richard, Oakland, CA

    This race is over. Bye-bye, McCain.

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  10. cecil

    Great Job Obama!

    McCain I Give Him A "C"

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  11. Becky

    Obama clear winner of this debate. I have faith in Obama leading America in the right direction.

    I do not support McCain's stances on the issues, and in addition to that I found his demeanor this evening disgusting and un-Presidential.

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  12. Kevin

    GO OBAMA!!!

    OBAMA/BIDEN 08!!!

    YEAH!!!!!

    Obama totally crushed that creep

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  13. Trudy Jones

    I think that Obama was very focused and ready for action.

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  14. Ron was a REP now a DEM

    CNN's undecided voters have not educated themselves on the issues and the positions on the canidates.

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  15. seah

    I guess they did not watch the same debate I watched.

    Most Questions Obama did not give direct answers to, he wondered off on his own topics.

    He got flustered a few times, and tried to get more time. poor tom

    seems he changed how his health care policy would work again.

    He also told McCain he was right a few times.

    I also found him irresponsible on some of the answers. That scared me.

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  16. CNNFanatik

    Hey Matt, I'll take Michelle Obama's thoughts over Sarah Palin's ANY DAY!

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  17. Shirley-Ohio

    As president Obama will start getting America back on track and with the Clintons behind him (hopefully) he cannot go wrong. Obama did an awesome job. After all the attacks on him his week by Palin and McCain and working by himself without Biden, Obama did a hell of a job. He is cool, calm and collected and that is what we need in our next president.

    HOLD ON CHANGE IS COMING

    October 7, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  18. wannabeobamagirl

    hey matt, don't be so ridiculous...it was a joke. oh yeah, the gop doesn't know how to take one. only how to dish out b.s.

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  19. DC-African in Colorado Springs, Colorado

    The winner of 2008 US presidential election is: OBABIMADEN!

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  20. MarioB. from Berlin for OBAMA/BIDEN

    Think so, too. OBAMA WON THE DEBATE, period!
    And with the economy debate to come, this might be some VERY BAD NEWS TO MCCain!!!
    And with polls in many states already opened or going to open within the next few days, well, that's completely in Obama's favour.

    LOOK AT THIS:
    POLL TO LEADERSHIP:
    OBAMA: 54%
    MCCAIN: 43% (JUST 43%!!!!) Now that is REALLY BAD NEWS FOR MCCain!!!
    He's going to lose in a landslide.

    Obama/Biden – because experience is nothing compared to good goals, judgement, leadership skills and an economic plan!

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  21. kathy

    I think it's time for McBush to retire. He constantly repeats himself
    and I loathe the absolute rudeness and disrespect he shows
    Barack Obama. Can we talk racist? McCain needs to make himself
    a cup of warm Prune Juice and call it a day. He was up past his
    bedtime anyway.

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  22. Darren

    Agreed Obama won.

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  23. anber portland

    Obama did great , He is the hope for american.

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  24. Rita

    Obama answered the questions-McCain rambled and hedged

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  25. DPerry

    That one won!!! Who's voting for him?? THIS ONE!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
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