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. Matt

    When has Obama not 'Flip-Flopped'?

    This guy makes Bill Clinton looks like a staunch, stubborn man with convictions.

    What really is sad is how the media, like Obama tool, Bill Schneider are welcoming 'Flip Flopping' as "Change".

    July 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. Leon

    It will be refreshing when we get a change in office. 8 years of BUSH and we do not want another 4 more years. McCain is playing the middle ground. He is going to flip-flop back to the Bush policies when he gets. PLEASE LET'S GIVE SOMEONE ELSE A CHANCE PEOPLE. Together we can make it happen..

    July 3, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. Mike D

    Hillary/Mccain supporters, your days are numbered. Be prepared to eat crow in november

    July 3, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  4. David in KC

    Isn't it a strength to change positions on an issue after more information is brought to the table, such as the Iraq War, health care and the economy? Is "Staying the Course" a sign of strength or simple minded stubborness?
    A leader that doesn't have any flexibility is a poor and weak leader. I'll take an educated flip flopper over a simpleton that fears stepping out of line anyday.

    July 3, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  5. rachel

    Hmm I just read that Obama is softening his timeline to witdraw from Iraq I think he is about to flip on that.

    July 3, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  6. tr

    McSame's lsit of FLIP FLOPS is 3 pages long now....there are websites keeping track of it...Problem is, he is flipping to be closer to BUSH....he will continue the failed policies of Bush....ottom line is he is BUSH 3 but OLDER

    July 3, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  7. Val

    Obama said, "so I'd be happy to have a debate about consistency with John McCain.” Then why don't you? Why did you refuse to do townhall debates with McCain if you are "so happy to have a debate?" Please give me a brake, you full of yourself Obama.

    Obama will never ever get my and my entire's family vote.

    July 3, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  8. Jay in Denver

    McCain doesn't flip flop; he's just too old to remember what he said 10 minutes ago.

    July 3, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  9. Jos/TN

    If not flip-floppers, most policticans are BSers, the nature of the beast.

    July 3, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  10. Rob

    I'm getting so sick of the term "Flip Flopper"...if you can't change your mind in politics then whats the point. Obama said he'd take public financing but had ZERO clue that he'd be breaking records in fund raising. He's done what anybody in his position would have done. So all this "He flip flopped is lame. McCain has went back on policy issues HUGE difference. I will Never support McCain. He will doom this country.

    July 3, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. Cathy in MD

    Are these the best pictures you could find? Like two deer in the headlights. Obama '08, despite your picture selection.

    July 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  12. richard

    We need a president with a cool temper, willingness to talk to our enemies and most importantly a firm grasp of ECONOMICS!

    Mccain fails.
    I vote Obama.

    July 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Of course they flip-flop. They are politicians for Pete's sake!
    How can the American public be so naive?

    Where the heck have y'all been for the last 100 years of presidential. elections? Jeez, America, grow up!

    July 3, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  14. M Lynn ND

    I would love to comment on this but I obviously am banned because my comments never get on the board. I'll be moving to MSNBC for my news coverage!!!!!!!!

    July 3, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  15. Marilyn

    Could you possibly have found two worse photos? I wouldn't want either of these guys anywhere near me.

    July 3, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. William Courtland, Southern Ontario

    Why call it flip-floping in the first place?

    The method of self-character croud jerrymandering (and happens to a great many when the individual is with groups of friends... or attachês...)

    call it lieing when it is, and call it learning, growing, and listening when it isn't.

    July 3, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  17. Obama 2008

    This race is too close to call. Any misspeaking from either candidate, display or person traits – like temper, lies, senility, loss of memory etc could make a huge difference in who gets the prize.

    We the Americans will either be McBushed or Changed for the next 4 years. In either case, we will pay higher prices for GAS, FOOD, HEALTH CARE and RETIREMENT.

    Neither candidate can solve these problems in the next 4 to 8 years. Oil is going to be priced higher because of higher demand from Asia. More mouths to feed accompanied by affordability will keep food prices higher. Add higher transportation cost to that too. Health care system will never be fixed in our lifetime because the entire system is corrupt – doctors are greedy, lawyers are hungry, patients are impatient and want to get rich quick, mal-practice insurance premiums are sky rocketing, insurance companies administering health care plans have to show profit to investors.

    In order to fix health care, the next leader will have to fight the entire broken/corrupt system. Will McCain have the inclination and/or energy to do so? Will my candidate, Obama, hire someone like Hillary as Healthcare Czar with administrative power to fight the corrupt constituents?

    I hope the next President has the motivation, courage and energy to do the right thing. I have been a supporter of Obama, because I am hoping he has the qualities that are needed to fix a broken system. I hope he will, if he wins.

    July 3, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  18. Splurge

    "times change, responses change due to current changes."

    Sounds like an obama apologist making excuses for obama's doing anything he can to get elected.

    He changed. He has become what he railed against. He lost his integrity right after he won the nomination and started changing in order to get elected. That's not what we were told we were voting for. The only real question was whether or not he intended to change all along. Given how tightly run his campaign was, I'd say he knew all along he would change once he won the nomination which means he was lying. Like he lied when he said the reason he flip-flopped on public financing was due to the fact that it was a 'broken system'. Even his supporters knew that was a lie.

    Now you know what his face looks like when he's lying. That's one thing that doesn't change.

    July 3, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. BelovedMother


    July 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  20. Terry

    And here we go with all the naysaer Puma morons coming out of the wood work.

    Go away and take your hate with you.

    July 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  21. ber6964

    Sen. Obama has more intelligence in his big toe than McInsane has in his entire body. Thats why he will be a Excellent President.

    July 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  22. mag64

    looks like mccain's flip flopper meme will only stick to him. good news for Obama.

    the charge that he is just a regular politician, makes him 'JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE' which takes away the elitist and unknown quantity charge.

    July 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  23. gary


    July 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  24. Jason

    people make no sense... Your right! You don't!

    July 3, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  25. Will, NJ

    This is the kind of partisan bickering that George Washington warned against in his fair well speech, instead of selecting what's best for our country we divide Americans among red, blue, and all the colors in between. Out with partisan politics all together.

    July 3, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
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