September 26th, 2008
09:15 AM ET
14 years ago

CNN Poll: Obama has higher expectations to meet in debates

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A new poll shows Americans think Obama will win the debates."](CNN) - It appears Barack Obama has higher expectations to meet at Friday night's debate than John McCain does, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll suggests.

According to the new poll, nearly 6 in 10 Americans think the Illinois senator will win the debates, while only 34 percent think McCain will come out on top.

But that's no guarantee Obama will be deemed the eventual winner, CNN's Polling Director Keating Holland said.

"Four years ago, voters thought George W. Bush would beat John Kerry in the debates but Americans who watched the debates generally thought Kerry was the winner," he said. "On the other hand, voters thought that Bill Clinton would win the debates in 1996 - and post-debate polls agreed with that assessment."

Obama clearly goes into the first debate with a clear advantage in the issues. The new poll suggests 60 percent of voters say that the Illinois senator aggrees with them on the issues. Voters say they trust McCain more than Obama in international issues like Iraq and terrorism - but Obama has a clear 10-point edge (53-43 percent) on the overriding issue of the day: the economy. (In a CNN/ORC poll released Thursday, 56 percent of Americans said the economy was the No. 1 issue.)

But the two candidates are statistically tied on the question of whether voters feel they possess the personal qualities a president should have (62 percent say McCain does, while 64 percent say Obama does.) And in good news for McCain, voters are also tied on what they care more about in this election - issues or personal qualities. Forty-three percent of voters say that the candidates' leadership skills and vision is more important to them than issues; 42 percent say issues are more important.

Americans are also split when it comes to the vice presidential debate, with 48 percent saying Joe Biden is the likely winner and 46 percent giving the edge to Sarah Palin.

"That's probably an indication that Americans aren't familiar enough with either candidate to be able to handicap their performance in a debate," Holland said.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. JIM...TX

    The debates should be a SLAM DUNK for the Dem's! After watching Palin stumble through her interview with Couric yesterday, which was very bad and McCain "riding into the sunset" to stick his nose in an almost done deal bailout that soon feel apart one wonders how it is people have ANY support for these two "mavericks"...i.e CLOWNS. It will be substanance over Republican BS .

    September 26, 2008 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  2. Brenda Elizabeth Cowley-Waters

    Could the great maverick/exPOW (you do know he was a POW!), be running scared, and is playing Rovian 'diversion/.divisive politics? I think so. Reprehensible at such a crucial time in the Global Economy.

    September 26, 2008 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  3. Tony

    If McCain does not show up to debate this evening, I hope people will see this as just what it is, a man unprepared and running scared.

    September 26, 2008 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  4. Jessy in Texas

    MaCcain's cancelation on Letterman's show indicates he is irresponsive and he is ignoring Americans' expectations. It shows he handles things unorganized and illogical. The finacial crisis has been rooted since years ago, since the banks irresponsively lending out a tree of loans blindly, but MaCcain did nothing. Why he suddenly quits everything else, including a scheduled and published campaign debate, for his atempt to save the financial crisis? He is out of his mind and too old to think normally. He needs to bail himslef out first before doing anything to bail out a bank.

    September 26, 2008 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  5. DannyCali

    I don't know why people keep talking about Sarah Palin, look she have no experience at all and John McCain just send her to training in UN with other leader. Other thing she talk like a homeless women fighting on food only so, how she going to be the VP of the United States?

    September 26, 2008 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  6. Doug

    Barack Obama has shown again his lack of leadership by failing to return to washington to particapate in the discussion on the economic bail out, excusing himself based on his belief that it's more important to hold adebate over foreign policy than the concerns imediately effective our ecomomy, At every turn Barack Obama has proven his ineffectiveness as a leader not only in his campain but also in his dealings with the everyday challanges that a Junior senator should concern himself with and as a potential leader of the worlds most powerful free nation on earth i would think taking care of the business at hand should be a strong suite. One that McCain and Pallin have shown the can do.

    September 26, 2008 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  7. steve

    Big B.O. is an eloquent speaker, but he's only so-so in unrehearsed debate. That's because he speaks well, but he doesn't speak from experience.

    September 26, 2008 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  8. Jeff In Ohio

    Of course. All McCain needs to do is come and he's exceeded expectations.

    September 26, 2008 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  9. Truth Squad..?

    Exactly, people would rather have a president who they think they could have a beer with rather than someone they think is smarter than they are.. man Americans are beyond dumb sometimes. they'd rather go down in flames with the old white guy that doesn't know whats going on at the controls than face having a highly educated, well spoken, on top of the REAL issues black man as president.
    It just shows how racist and envious a lot of Americans are.

    September 26, 2008 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  10. carol

    There is no doubt in my mind that Senator Obama will win the debate
    tonight.......he has shown himself to be Presidential from day one.....fully aware of the facts at all times.
    Intelligence, knowledge, cool composure and willingness to
    explain his positions at all times......that's what we need in a leader and Senator Obama has proven this over and over again.
    Senator McCain may try and play this game of trying to show leadership over this financial crisis......but I think most people by now can see him for what he is.....just a politician first and not as he likes to portray COUNTRY FIRST.
    I feel he is just trying to weasel out of this debate because he knows he is not as smart on the issues as Senator Obama and his true colours will show.
    We need to see him tonight alongside Senator Obama and lets see how much he really has a grasp on the issues......he is always saying
    "I know how to win.....I know how to fix it".....well, Senator McCain lets see you tonight and put your money where your mouth is!!!!

    September 26, 2008 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  11. not a liberal

    John McCain can't handle a one hour debate with Barack Obama AND issues our nation faces?????

    I thought presidents are supposed to be able to juggle a few things at once. What's McCain going to do, handle Iraq, and then the economy? Or economy and THEN Iraq?

    September 26, 2008 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  12. Ron

    Firstly, I believe Bush will cancel the elections to stay in power and create a dictatorship, leading to war with Iran.

    That being said:

    I hope McCain places his latest publicity stunt on hold long enough to show up for this 90 minute debate. America needs to hear from both candidates on the issues.

    If McCain does not show up, it will not look good for him and the polls will reflect this.

    September 26, 2008 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  13. Rob

    issues aren't important ? –are these people insane . Bush and the GOP have ruined this country . Issues are very important.

    46 % are giving Palin an edge-an edge on what ? . when she talks , the women is clearly a fool .

    September 26, 2008 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  14. IWASP!-Intelligent Woman Against Sarah Palin!

    This debate doesn't matter, john mccain is determined that palin does not debate biden and he will do whatever he has to to stall that debate. Thus his charade of cancelling his campaign which hasn't been by the way. He made a choice in picking palin and now that the dust has settled he is seeing what the world is seeing, she is beyond clueless and he cannot afford to have everyone see that in a debate forum so obviously.

    September 26, 2008 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  15. Bitter in Texas

    Hey, CNN...I'm tired of all the mind is made up, let's call for an actual vote and get this over with. I can hardly wait until early voting begins here in Texas. I want to watch the football games.

    September 26, 2008 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  16. DebM, Allentown, PA

    Well, winning should be easy for Barack. All he has to do is show up since McCain threw a monkey wrench into the bailout agreement yesterday. Now he doesn't have to go to the debates.

    And Americans, we can not let the VP debate be cancelled or postponed. It's critical that people get to see Palin for the person she is – ill-prepared to be President from Day 1.

    September 26, 2008 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  17. Charlene in Ohio for OBAMA

    McCain is ALL MOUTH & NO BRAINS.
    Delaying this will not help.
    McCain is AN IDOIT

    September 26, 2008 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  18. Bitter in Texas

    ...another thought...I hope McSame is a No Show at the debates...simply can't stand to watch that man try to pains me to no end. And to think I was a Republican for 30 years.

    September 26, 2008 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  19. tws1906

    McSame is unprepared..he let the nation know that he could not multi-task...he went to a meeting to help with bailout as a photo op...and sat silently there for 45 minutes b4 saying anything.

    He may as well show, he is not doin anything else.

    September 26, 2008 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  20. Praying for America

    The stakes are too high for anyone to consider John McCain as effective in the crisis facing America today. His latest grandstanding stunt proves that he is unfit to lead this country. Whether McCain shows up or not doesn't matter anymore. I believe that most American's have made up their minds and will quietly go to the polls in November to cast their vote for the only rational candidate who has shown that he can handle many fronts at one time.
    I'm not sure between McCain and Palin which one is more unfit to lead. God help America!
    Obama 08

    September 26, 2008 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  21. Informed Voter

    Mc Cain better be There

    And CNN why are you doing this no matter who does better .. you still are going to spin it as a win for Mac .....I am 100% positive about this .... You people disgust me

    September 26, 2008 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  22. Bottom line: Obama has NO resume, even for change!!

    Sad that the country can't see the Dems are the ones out of touch, and the cause for the current financial mess. This debate is on Foreign Policy, and Obama has NOTHING as far as experience in that arena.

    September 26, 2008 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  23. David

    People know Obama is more thoughtful and more serious than McCain. McCain will try to make do with a platitude and a POW tale.

    Obama may come across as too serious; he may stammer a bit as he collects his thoughts; but he will think and he will try to give a well-considered answer.

    The main difference is that Obama respects the questioner and the audience. McCain just tries to bluff them with phony straight talk that leaves us no closer to the truth.

    September 26, 2008 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  24. Enlightened Voter

    "The fundamentals of the economy are strong!" "We will win the Iraq war!" "The surge was a huge success" "In picking Sara Palin, I put my country first" "I know very little about economic matters" "The economy is not my strong suit" "I would not be opposed to a 100 years presence in Iraq" "We will be involved in another war" "War is inevitable if I am president of this great country"

    September 26, 2008 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  25. Franko

    Obama knows squat about the economy! Don't try to make him an economic powerhouse! John McCain has just proven that he understands the economics of the bailout but all Barak knows is to sign on the dotted line! Not someone I want in the Whitehouse. We don't need a car salesman running our country, thank you!

    September 26, 2008 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
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