July 3rd, 2008
03:56 PM ET
12 years ago

CNN Poll: Voters say both candidates likeable, flip-floppers

 Obama and McCain are viewed favorably...as flip-floppers.

Obama and McCain are viewed favorably...as flip-floppers.

(CNN) - How do voters feel about the two major-party presidential candidates this year?

As the marathon 2008 campaign for the White House enters its final four months, a solid majority views both Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain favorably. At the same time, a majority of voters also believes both men are flip-floppers who will change their opinions for political reasons. Voters are also skeptical that either man will be able to end the partisan gridlock in Washington.

According to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, 63 percent of registered voters have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 59 percent have a favorable opinion of McCain. Roughly one-third of voters hold a negative view of both candidates.

Compared to President Bush, whose approval ratings continue to hover around 30 percent, both candidates are seen in a remarkably positive light. Judged against the favorable ratings of past presidential nominees at this stage of the campaign, however, Obama and McCain are registering typical favorability numbers.

"In previous elections we have often seen both candidates get favorable ratings over 50 percent at this stage," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "In mid-summer, both parties tend to be unified behind their candidates but the negative ads have generally not yet started."

The poll also shows both candidates improving on their perceived weak points.

The number of voters who think Obama has enough experience to be president has increased by eight points since March (40 to 48 percent), while the number of voters who say McCain cares about people like themselves has increased by seven points (51 to 58 percent).

McCain, however, still holds a sizeable advantage over Obama on the issue of experience, with 76 percent of voters saying the Arizona senator has the right experience to be president. Obama, on the other hand, continues to hold a significant edge on the question of caring, with 67 percent of voters saying the Illinois senator “cares about people like you.”

Do voters believe that the two presumptive presidential nominees are willing to stick their principles regardless of the political consequences? Not exactly.

Sixty-one percent of voters believe that McCain has changed his mind for political reasons; 37 percent do not. Fifty-nine percent of voters believe that Obama also shifts positions with the political winds; 38 percent do not.

That's a change from 2004, according to Holland. “One of the reasons President Bush won reelection in 2004 was that only one-third of voters believed he would change his policy positions because of changing political dynamics. Most voters, on the other hand, believed that John Kerry was a flip-flopper.”

As the general election continues to heat up, charges of flip-flopping and political opportunism are becoming a more regular occurrence on the campaign trail.

On Tuesday, while en route to Colombia, McCain argued, “I don't switch my position depending on what audience or what time it is in the electoral calendar…. I believe that [voters] will more and more see where Senator Obama has switched his positions on fundamental issues. The one thing they want is trust and confidence in their leadership, and I think I will win in that area.”

Campaigning today in North Dakota, Obama replied by saying that McCain “is a person who opposed Bush's tax cuts before he was for them, who opposed drilling in the continental shelf before he was for [it]. [McCain] has reversed himself on a range of very substantive issues during the course of this campaign, and so I'd be happy to have a debate about consistency with John McCain.”

According to CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, the flip-flopping charge may not resonate as much with voters this year as it did in the past. “So what if voters think both candidates are flip-floppers?” asked Schneider. “After eight years of George W. Bush, voters may welcome some pragmatism and flexibility in their leaders. Times change.”

Finally, the latest CNN poll results indicate that, regardless of who wins in November, most Americans do not believe the bitter partisanship that has characterized national politics in recent years will come to an end.

Only 43 percent of voters believe that Sen. Obama can end the partisan gridlock if he is elected; 52 percent do not. Thirty-one percent of voters believe that Sen. McCain can end the gridlock; 64 percent do not.

The poll, conducted June 26-29, surveyed 906 registered voters and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain • Polls
soundoff (207 Responses)
  1. Clinton/McCain

    Remember Obama was suppposed to be different from all the other politicians. McCain never made that promoise. Out you go Obama!

    July 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. susie

    Obama kept saying in his speeches he was for change. Within a month he flip-flops on issues. He is unbelievable.

    July 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  3. Capt. Smash, Salt Lake City, Utah

    We have all been involved in presidential campaigns in the past, but this campaign is special because of the unique honor of working for a candidate like John McCain — a man who never surrenders.

    Just think if McCain was the president of the confederacy during the Civil War the South would have been totally destroyed, and millions of men and women would have lost there lives. This man does not know how to cut his losses and move on.

    Further, if he was president during the Vietnam conflict we would still be fighting and a million more Americans would have died.

    July 3, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  4. Willy

    Obama will and flop to the highest bidders, for George Soros for one.

    July 3, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. people make no sense

    The only question that I have is, why is McCain traveling to other countries? Didn't he say that we need to put our country first because that is patriotism? We need to sure up American needs first. We Americans are suffering and he is worried about traveling abroad. A man's actions will show his true desires. He cares nothing about America. Americans were being flooded out of their homes and he was in Iraq or wherever. He bashed the way the government handled Katrina and he did the exact samething. Please get rid of this man America.

    July 3, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. YoungGrad

    Can we stop using these pictures of the candidates. They look so dumb.

    July 3, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Pat in Cali

    The big fear is that we get a president who does not listen, who is too stubborn to change his mind. Neither one of these guys has ever been president before, so it is going to be a learning experience for both.

    July 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  8. Obama Supporter from FL

    WHY, CNN, why? Why do you keep using that particular shot of Barack Obama? The man is actually photogenic, yet you manage to capture him in one horrible pose and eveidently have to use that picture every day.

    July 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. Puffin

    The ‘flip-flop’ cliché is getting just too overused. Everything has become a flip-flop. It is one of the cheap political attacks which do not even have any humor in it.

    July 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. Willy

    POTUS is not an Affirmative Action position.

    July 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    When faced with two undesirable choices like this election, I prefer to go with the better known quantity, and trust that Congress will provide a lethargic counterbalance to anything imprudent he might have in mind.

    July 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  12. Brad from SC

    times change, responses change due to current changes.

    I would hope that our politicians change their minds, due to current circumstances and don't just "stay the course."

    Flip-flopping was a tool used by the Republicans to make Kerry look weak, but now the truth is known.

    Obama '08

    July 3, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  13. Timber

    Can you believe what a SNAKE Obama is!! Doring the primary, he promised he would bring back the troops from Iraq in over 16 months PERIOD. Now, he is saying that he might change his mind about that!! He used the "16 month" argument against Hillary and tried to corner her into saying the same thing but she rightfully said she would bring them home as soon as possible but she would have to of course moniter the situation before making any brash moves. His people denounced her for that and tried to make her look like she was all wrong on Iraq policy. Now, they are saying the same thing she said!!
    What a slimy snake!

    July 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  14. Val

    Maybe not on the subject, but I wanted to comment on the previous ticker "McCain denies grabbing foreign official" since it's closed now. So here we go: Brian, you got a good point there – your reasoning makes sense and this article is actually funny.

    And YES I would vote for McCain over Obama in the heartbeat. Better have a president with a temper who can stand up and protect us and our country when necessary (that's McCain), than a spineless empty suit who, without preconditions, will negotiate the fate of our country with the tyrants such as Ahmadinejad and Chavez (that's Obama).

    Together We Can! United We Will!

    McCain 08! McCain All The Way!

    July 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  15. Dan

    How is Obama a flip-flopper? That's not fair! Just because he is unable to make any decision does not make him a flip-flopper. And just because the few decisions he does actually make are based on what polls well, that doesn't make him a flip-flopper. He's actually pretty consistent in those regards.

    July 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. Noah

    Compared to George W. Bush these guys look like Lincoln and FDR, but which one looks like whom?

    July 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  17. Terry

    Enough with the polls already

    July 3, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  18. F. Taylor

    McCain has a lot of nerve trying to paint Obama as a flip flopper and will be made a fool of over this issue if they ever come head to head in a debate. Perhaps McCain can't remember all the times he has taken opposite positions on votes and issues depending on his audience but if brought out in the open it isn't very likely Obama declining public funding will resonate as much as McCain's numerous flip flops.

    July 3, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  19. eric

    Obama's switch on taking public campaign financing, which still technically wasn't even a flip-flop since he never said anything about taking public money in the general election, was born out of simple math and reason. Why would he, or anyone in his position, limit himself in the face of such an obivous advantage? McCain's flip-flops are obvious, very substantive and without a shred of excuse except to appease a group of the electorate that has damaged the country immeasurably over the last 8 years.

    July 3, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  20. A recovering Republican

    So let me see if I understand this. If candidates or elected officials change their position, they are flip-flopers? So that means we want leaders who make up their mind and stick with it no matter what? Unyielding to public opinon? Won't ever admit a mistake? Won't pay attention to new infomraton or changing conditions? Sound like Bushy - wonder why his ratings are so low then.

    10 Years Sober.

    July 3, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  21. Jim

    Obama is by far the bigger flip-flopper.

    July 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  22. dan

    favorabel as in there loan deals?

    what is worse one so rich he has no mortgages on property or one so rich he gets special deals on his mortgage?

    July 3, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  23. Ian

    At least everyone can admit that they truly don't care for an honest politician.

    July 3, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. Jozee

    Likability is fine, but the question is who is a better leader? Too many voters said they would rather have a beer with Prez Bush; now look at the nice mess we are in now.

    Sen. McCain has demonstrated few leadership qualities while he has had three months to define himself to the American people. Sen. Obama, on the other hand, has done quite a lot to show the American people that he is a mover and a shaker. No more PAC money for the DNC and his campaign, centralization of his headquarters to Chicago and other positive moves.

    I like Sen. McCain, but feel that he cannot be an effective leader without Joe Lieberman or his handlers whispering in his ear on what to do next. His brain cells seem to be evaporating by the minute.

    John McCain is just too risky for the challenges we have to face as a nation.


    July 3, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. Paul C. Palmetto Bay, FL

    I don't understand the problem American voters have with politicians who change their minds.
    I change my mind often based on new and changing information.
    Only the dumbest moron refuses to change no matter the new information and changing environment.
    Can you say Bush?

    July 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
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