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. Jeff from AL

    Remember that Obama's entire platform is about change and being different from all the other candidates. To see him flip flopping his ideas is very discouraging to me. I expect flip flopping from McCain. He never claimed to be different than all the other politicians. But Obama presented himself as such. This voter is watching Obama very closely before I make my final vote decision.

    July 3, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  2. Rey

    Obama and Hillary as VP to beat McCain!!!!!

    July 3, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. Mike D

    CNN, proud supporters of John McCain '08.

    July 3, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. John McCain-McFlip-Flop-McBush is no "maverick"

    Obama's few recent nuances pale in comparison to McCain's innumerable and literal position changes. Big difference.

    July 3, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. country_voter

    To change with change is a changeless state.

    – Bruce Lee, 1971, describing his art of fighting, can also be used to describe a politician like Obama

    July 3, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  6. DAN

    Obama has to be the bigest flip flopper ever. The guy is a total oportunist and will say anything to get elected. He wants to be president at any cost and he's lying thru his teeth and will lie as much as he can and should never be trusted.

    July 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  7. RV - Arizona

    You are all a bunch of cry babies! Obama's decisions are all calculated moves for the better of the country.

    McCain is basically debating himself on his own issues. He doesn't know where he stands or he doesn't remember half the time.

    Don't forget McCain AKA "Songbird" collaborated with the enemy and taped 35 propaganda radio shows against the United States. He's a traitor to our country and I can't believe you numbskulls are going to vote for him!

    AZ for Obama!

    July 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  8. William Courtland, Southern Ontario

    Why call it flip-floping in the first place?

    This method of self-character croud jerrymandering (and happens to a great many when that 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, and secrets cause destruction... Superman's pseudonym was a lie and just look at all that gets broken when he is in a movie.

    July 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. frank

    some people you can fool some of the time and some people all of the time but I know they both are no good for us flip-flop obama and mccain only the fools will vote for them

    July 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  10. Peter

    So what? Obama flip-flopped once or twice while McCain changes his stance on every issue every day

    July 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  11. Chris, from WI

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I want a leader who is willing to change his mind on important issues; willing to listen to others; willing to admit his own faults and/or mistakes. I don't want a stubborn President who thinks it's his way or the highway.

    Now, when someone changes their position to score political points, then yes, that is a true definition of a "flip flopper". That term is being overused in this campaign and it's a shame because what kind of lesson is that teaching our kids? That they can never change their mind? That they always have to "stay the course" and turn a blind eye to the other side of an argument?

    July 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. Mike D

    CNN, why do you only post pro-McCain comments?

    July 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. loveamerica

    Both of them go away!

    Hillary is the ONLY ONE can save our country, America needs you!!!

    July 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. JUNIOR

    Obama´s minor change of positions are considerable owing to the challenges he is facing,eg.the rejection of public finance which was wise because the GOP and their swift boaters are not on Americans side but will do everything just to produce presidents that keep on destroying the country.Secondly Obama gave reasons for any changed position but McCain,a man of low intergrity will as usual always deny having said or taken any position in the past.He´ll rather attack his opponent on an issue he himself is a sole designer!He would like to meet or discuss even with a terrorist group Hamas,when confronted on them he denied as usual even with tapes as evidence. Obama totally forbids such groups but would instead talk to enemy head of states with preparations(diplomacy).The fact that McCain has changed positions in percentage so far 80% compared to Obama´s 10% proves McCain is a problem!!He can remain in senate but the smartness,intergrity and judgement of a good president is lacking in him!!

    July 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. vw

    Obama is typical flip-flipper, he just said and did what dirty politics required. He simply changed as what dirty politics required. "Change" is really his label.

    July 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. John

    People have short memories.

    Bush flip flopped in 2000, quickly transitioning from the "candidate for conservative values" in the primaries to claiming to be "a moderate for the people" during the general campaign. Welcome to electoral politics in the two party system.

    Val: you'd rather have a "President who can stand up and protect our country?" What do you think McCain will be out on the front line with an M-16? Much better to have a coolheaded individual, a la JFK, who avoids conflict rather than instigating it with some shortsighted fantasy that war is the solution to ideological difference.

    McCain is so unoriginal he had to steal Obama's campaign slogan! And you want him to run the country? Exactly which advisors do you think he'll look to? That's right, the neocons who got us in the mess that is Iraq.

    July 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. Bryce

    Flip flopping happens to all candidates, and most notably John Mccain. In 2000 Mccain did not support offshore drilling, later he sponsored immigration legislation which he voted against, he is against his own Mccain-Feingold lobbyist reform bill, said gay marriage should be allowed and then said off camera they shouldnt be, went againt his support of education of alien minors, supported roe vs wade and then changed that, flipped on negotiating with North Korea and cuba, military against rogue states, torture, telecom immunity, tax cuts for the rich and estate tax, privitization of social security. Where does it end? At least with obama we have someone less tainted with partisan/popular politics.

    July 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  18. Marc

    Wish you guys could take back your vote for Obama now? This guy just panders back and forth given the political climate. He hasn't even been elected yet and I'm ready for a CHANGE.

    July 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. Justin

    There's no more unity. I am beyond disappointed now. I even moved past sad and upset. I'm just plain angry and disgusted now. I tried to give Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt and I even kept open the possibility of voting for him. But he has show within the past month that he will do nothing but lie, lie, lie. His whole candidacy has been built on lies.

    Iraq is the final flip-flopping straw. He used that issue to knock the best candidate to the ground over and over. It's a crying shame that the Democrats let this man (to use his words) Bamboozle and Hoodwink them. McCain just picked up another vote. There is no way on God's green earth I will ever pull the lever for him now. And not only that, I will do everything I can to make sure he doesn't get elected. I would vote for Satan himself before this liar.

    NObama. No way. No how.

    July 3, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    wat politician doesnt flip flop or lie to the people at least once.
    but i believe obama would become a better president then mcCain

    OBAMA 08!!!!!

    July 3, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. Ted from Florida

    Hmm I thought Obama is the candidate of change ??? Yeah right !!!
    You Obama idiots are bunch of suckers along with the bias news media !!!!!

    July 3, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. wiser

    Change we don't believe in! Senator Obama changes with the latest poll. As his pastor said he is a politician. Senator Obama has no experience, original ideas, and can't be trusted.

    Actions do matter, more than words, words, words!

    Democrats for McCain 08

    July 3, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  23. Kate, Atlanta

    Another reason to hate Bush (as if another reason was actually needed) – popularizing the term flip-flop! A candidate can not take in new info and evolve an opinion on what to have for dinner without being accused of this all-powerful-reason-not-to-elect stupidity. If a candidate goes back on his word for political purposes only, then call them on it – but not everything is a "flip-flop". Yep, I really hate Bush.

    July 3, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  24. Vietnam COMBAT Vet, OHIO

    Say what you want about Obama, so he flip-flopped a few times. How about John McFlip-Flopper? Been flip-floppin for over 30 years. He was flip-floppin in the Hanoi Hilton to get special treatment!! McTraitor can never be trusted. Go Obama!!!!!!

    July 3, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  25. s.positive

    Obama is the next president of united States folks...

    July 3, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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