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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/01/art.poll.ap.jpg caption=" 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. Pat Riot

    We honestly cannot believe a word Obama is saying. His Santa Claus campaign promises everything to everyone. Now he is on the side of big taxes, FISA courts, large corporations and special interests.

    July 3, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. Amarissa

    I think the trophy goes to Obam! He promised "Change" but he didn't explain that it was his constant "Change" of mind that he was referring to!
    Thank you Media, thank you superdelegates, thank you Texas for your Caucuses, thank you Howard Dean for your biased laws on Florida and Michigan votes and thank you so much Ms Pelosi for your kind words regarding Hillary should concede and get out so your rookie candidate cheat his way as the primary winner(?).
    Amarissa, Florida

    July 3, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. Nick

    conservatives like john mccain love to talk about their love for america. they are in love with an abstract idea. they don't care about the people in america, but an abstract notion of 'what america is'. what is it? it's pretty diverse, i think, and to say it is 'either this or that' is very problematic.

    July 3, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  4. Enlightened Voter

    Obama has not flip flopped on one issue including the presidential financing which he simply opted out of, he never said he was definitely going to take it. Mccain on the other hand........

    July 3, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  5. HD

    Look folks – Obama has to move to the center in order to get the most votes (from liberals, independents, republicans, evangelicals) He's slow-rolling his position just enough so when he get to the White House, he can then revamp everything fresh. It's a knife-edge, I'll admit, but it is a sound strategy, if we the people take the time to understand it.

    Ole Dubya was not a flip flopper and look where it got us. We are humans, and the smart ones from time to time will adjust positions somewhat.

    He is already invoking change by planning Religious Rock concerts and Evangelical house parties for people to come out and meet and discuss the issues, and get involved. What Liberal Democrat would have the vision (or balls) to do that? Other folks besides hardcore Dems DO vote, you know. Have some patients, watch closely and see how we/Obama set this whole thing off. Time to stop the partisanship, be smart.

    -Lifelong Dem

    July 3, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. Women for Obama

    Timber, we can only see what a SNAKE McBush is. He is the most foul mouth, hot headed person that has ever graced the floor of the Senate. He lies–inspite of the video tapes that follow you around forever. He's either incoherent, senile or just a lying SNAKE. Probably a combination of all three.

    July 3, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  7. Don't Blame Me... I voted for Bush...

    This is what the bumper stickers said when Bill Clinton won the office over George Bush...

    The Economy got better and jobs were building... The deficit started going down "a bit"...

    Then silly people got a hold of little Bush and now your unemployed and yet you'll still vote for a guy that stated "I don't know much about economic"?

    Wow, keep driving the nova's and the chevy's and vote for McCain... in 4 years you'll still be driving the same old "hoopty".

    July 3, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. McCain is too old

    Hey Timber,

    Your gal Hill said she would pull troops REGARDLESS of what military leaders said!!!!

    Oh yeah, and while we are on the subject, Hilly LOST...move on and grow up. You think McCain is going to end the war?!!

    July 3, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  9. McCain is too old

    Hey Timber,

    Your gal Hill said she would pull troops REGARDLESS of what military leaders said!!!!

    Oh yeah, and while we are on the subject, Hilly LOST...move on and grow up. You think McCain is going to end the war?!!

    July 3, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. The Blind Lady of Justice

    Confronted with inconsistencies in McCain’s record the senator’s aides told the New York Times that the senator “has evolved rather than switched positions in his 25-year career.”

    That’s a perfectly sensible spin — when a politician holds one position, and then, for apparently political reasons, decides to embrace the polar opposite position, it’s only natural for his or her aides to say the politician’s position has “evolved.”

    But in McCain’s case, the spin is wholly unfulfilling.

    First, McCain sells himself as a person, not a politician, who never sways with the wind, and whose willingness to be consistent in the face of pressure is proof of his character.

    Second, Republicans have spent the last four years or so making policy reversals the single most serious political crime in presidential politics. The dreaded “flip-flop” is, according to the GOP, the latest cardinal sin for someone seeking national office.

    McCain flip-flops.

    * McCain supported the drilling moratorium; now he’s against it.

    * McCain strongly opposes a windfall-tax on oil company profits. Three weeks earlier, he was perfectly comfortable with the idea.

    * McCain thought Bush’s warrantless-wiretap program circumvented the law; now he believes the opposite.

    * McCain defended “privatizing” Social Security. Now he says he’s against privatization

    * McCain wanted to change the Republican Party platform to protect abortion rights in cases of rape and incest. Now he doesn’t.

    * McCain thought the estate tax was perfectly fair. Now he believes the opposite.

    * He opposed indefinite detention of terrorist suspects. When the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion, he called it “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

    * McCain believes the telecoms should be forced to explain their role in the administration’s warrantless surveillance program as a condition for retroactive immunity. He used to believe the opposite.

    * McCain supported storing spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Now he believes the opposite.

    * McCain supported moving “towards normalization of relations” with Cuba. Now he believes the opposite.

    * McCain believed the U.S. should engage in diplomacy with Hamas. Now he believes the opposite.

    * McCain believed the U.S. should engage in diplomacy with Syria. Now he believes the opposite.

    * He argued the NRA should not have a role in the Republican Party’s policy making. Now he believes the opposite.

    * McCain supported his own lobbying-reform legislation from 1997. Now he doesn’t.

    * He wanted political support from radical televangelists like John Hagee and Rod Parsley. Now he doesn’t.

    * McCain supported the Lieberman/Warner legislation to combat global warming. Now he doesn’t.

    July 3, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. Nick

    What has Obama policy issue "flip-flopped". I don't see the public finance as a flip flop, as it is only relavent to the campaign itself, not any policy or issue that will be pushed as president. It was stupid for him to say it during the primaries as we have learned that every candidate has used public financing since its inception. It wasn't really a bold pact to introduce to begin with.

    July 3, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  12. Belle

    Obama only wanted to win the primary....mission...take all of Clinton's issues and agree with them....after mission accomplished, show you are no different than any other politician....Obama, change we can believe in?

    Sure...he changes to fit his own personal power goals. Forget about the Blue collar workers...NAFTA and WTO are fine....forget about campaign finance laws he supposedly supports...money speaks faster...forget about pulling out of Iraq....Clinton said she would have troop withdrawals in the first 60 days....now Obama knows the surge is working...so instead of trumping "I'm right" now it is whatever I feel is appropriate....

    Wow....and he thinks we are so stupid we won't remember his promises because he has a wonderful smile, great family, and now controls the DNC, and moves to the middle, just like every other politician.

    July 3, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  13. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    Does anyone think polling is accurate anymore with the use of cell phones instead of landlines? Not sure how you get around this, but seems like there is a whole segment of the population that never gets polled – and a pretty vocal one in this election cycle! This is really the first election where the cell crowd will make a huge difference.

    Also, on the major issues, Obama HAS NOT changed his stance. His webite has had this stuff documented for months now.

    July 3, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. Dave

    Now we are stuck with flip-flop Obama. The truth about him is coming to light. I can not believe that it was less than a month and now he is just enough politician. Where is the change message. In addition, he is more like Bush than McCain. He is turning his back on the very people who put him where he is.....I am speechless. I knew it was too good to be true. What a disappointment!!!!!!

    July 3, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. Johnny

    If McCain flips pancakes as well as he flips positions, he should be president of IHOP.

    July 3, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  16. arc, Lugano CH


    You forgot to throw in the standard “Elitism”, “His middle name is Hussein”, “Throw Under The Bus” and “Wright’ tags to your post. Make sure you include those next time. And you also forgot to call yourself a Puma.

    July 3, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. libertyjack, Fort Myers

    They are flip floppers.
    But I don't like the ideology or the strategic ideas of either one of them.

    You don't have to hold your nose when you vote.

    Libertarians 2008.

    If you're tired of the same old party lines drawn up for them by their special interest handlers-take a look at our agenda and pledge.
    Real change is only 4 months away if you want it.

    July 3, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  18. Avoc

    Mccain: “I don't switch my position depending on what audience or what time it is in the electoral calendar"

    .... ahahahaha... oh man, thats rich.

    July 3, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  19. Susan

    Obama's flip-flopping all over the place, so CNN steps in with a bogus poll about "both candidates" being perceived as flip-floppers. The bias is so transparent, it's sickening.

    July 3, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  20. Cynthia - Arkansas

    McSame got caught yesterday in an outright LIE. When called on it, he wasn't even man enough to admit it. Wake up call to McSame:
    Since the internet does exist, everything is on video now and is easy to find. Just pretending you didn't say something, doesn't make it so.

    We have had way too much of this with Bush!

    Go Obama!

    July 3, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  21. Mark

    I can't stand the term "flip flop" any more! Karl Rove coined the phrase and made it and every day talking point. I'm amazed at hos Democrats use the term against each other now.

    July 3, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  22. Vietnam COMBAT Vet, OHIO

    McSame can't end the gridlock, he is one of the major gridlockers!!!

    July 3, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. Nick

    Furthermore, even though "flip-flopping" is the hot new political cliche, it lacks a clear definition. Is changing your stance on any issue in anyway a flip flop? Or does it have to be a complete 180 in your stance? Or is a change in campaign strategy? The same goes for "swiftboating". Does this include any negative attach against another candidate? Or is it only when the victim of the attack claims it is a lie? Or does it only apply to denegrating military service? Or is it only when a poll shows that people consider an attack "swiftboating"? Never the less, these buzz words provide little to the political debate. In my opinion, they are only used to make relativley uninformed voters feel smart.

    July 3, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  24. Vignesh

    Well I think Obama is changing his mind on some issues, because he looks too liberal for the general election, and if McCain becomes more centrist, obviously IMO he would be a better choice, especially if he was a little more lenient of getting out of Iraq ASAP.

    July 3, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  25. RW

    The important question is "can Obama change the way things are going now for the better ?" Now if is YES, and I think he can, dont really care how many times he flip-flops, its all good.

    July 3, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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