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. Steve ... Hawaii

    Get real, Mr. McCain ... your bizzare idea of running away from this debate is showing your true colors. Gimmie a break, this is grandstanding, pure and simple. If you cannot go face-to-face with Obama for just 90 minutes, then what qualities DO you have to deal with more than one thing at a time?

    A real President must be able to handle more than one crisis at a time, so I guess your actions sure as heck speak a lot louder than your hollow words.

    First you hide Ms. Palin from the press, then you hide from this debate. WHAT GIVES? What are you afraid of?

    September 26, 2008 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  2. bmore4real

    Mccain doesn't have a chance in the debates and he knows it! That's why he is hiding. As far as the VP debate OMG! I can not even imagine what a nightmare that will be.

    September 26, 2008 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  3. Chase in Houston

    Let's hope the McCain campaign doesn't declare another crisis days after it actually occurs. I wouldn't want Hurricane Ike to get in the way of the vice-presidential debate set to take place next week.

    September 26, 2008 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  4. Ed S.

    If John McCain feels that he cannot participate in tonights debate because of stalled financial bailout plan, I feel Sarah Palin should step up to the plate and take his place at the debate. Why not make tonights debate for the vice presidents?

    September 26, 2008 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  5. Nancy

    After the events of the past few days, I am more confient than ever in my decision, as a registered Republican, to vote for Obama. The McCain/Palin ticket has turned into one big frightening fiasco. McCain needs to be in Washington, yet he sits in relative silence during the talks? Nauseating. I am confident Obama'sappearance will display his knowledge, fortitude and ability to lead in the face of adversity.

    September 26, 2008 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  6. Roger

    Yay for CNN! Another point for Obama! Your candidate puts campaign first. I love how you use reverse psychology by saying that the McCain campaign is the ones that is sexist and is playing politics. You really fulled a lot of people with that one.

    September 26, 2008 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  7. Tara

    Let's hope there is even a debate. My money is on McCain not showing up. His campaign is a joke.

    September 26, 2008 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  8. fmr. Hillary Supporter now for McCain

    Only if Obama shows up by himself.

    Btw. you stupid people are picking on McCain so much because he might not show up at just 1 debate. what about the summer when McCain always challenged Obama to do the same thing and what was his answer? NO!

    You Obama lovers are the most ignorant, irragant, self righteous and most stupid people in the whole world.

    And that's not typing much!

    This black democrat for McCain.

    September 26, 2008 07:17 am at 7:17 am |

    I think the subject matter of the debates should change and this one should be on the economy and the last should be on foreign policy.

    This is nothing more than political posturing in the worst way. He pretends to care, when he has not voted in the Senate since APRIL, and now he implies the wheels of democracy will grind to a halt if he is not in a room for his photo op. Maybe if he had skipped the Clinton speech he would have been there earlier or if he had skipped the round robin of newscasts last night and flown then, he would have been there all day since he appears to think he is so indispensable all of a sudden.

    Exactly, who is the McCrypt supposed to be reaching out to??? The republicans in the Banking Committee were onboard before McCrypt hits town. They go to the WH for the photo op, there were NO negotiations taking place in that room! The problem is House republican conservative, that do not want any bailout period. Is McMoron is in the Senate, the Senate repubs are on board! McMoron does not work in the HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES!!! That is where the holdouts are and they are REPUBLICANS AND THEY HATE MCCAIN!

    Other than cause the fragile pact that was announced JOINTLY by both parties in the Banking Committee, WHAT HAS MCMORON CONTRIBUTED "reaching across the aisle" to HOUSE REPUBLCANS??? That is not bipartisan that is PARTISAN???


    Go home, change the Depends, take a shot of prune juice, soak the teeth in Efferdent(PLEASE) and nod off and leave reality to the rest of us for at least 8 hours!!.

    September 26, 2008 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  10. Lawrence

    When McCain shows up and reminds us the economy is fundamentally strong and all of these people are unemployed, businesses are closed, houses are empty and banks are changing hands because the surge is working, we can relax and explain to our kids and grandkids how much they'll have to work to pay for this mess.

    September 26, 2008 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  11. Lone Wolf MD

    Obama will be cool and collected, and very presidential. McCain will not be able to defend his positions, because they are the same as the Bush administration's. Obama will win hands down. As for the VP debate, how could 46 percent actually believe that Palin will defeat Biden? Are these people brain dead or what?

    September 26, 2008 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  12. fmr. Hillary Supporter now for McCain

    And that includes you too, JIM...TX!

    September 26, 2008 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  13. Matthias Sirch

    It seems a little strange that there is so much talk about keeping the panic factor down – but this (the sudden game change) only adds to it.
    Feels like it's a stunt for people to feel releaved and applaud him once he walks on stage.

    September 26, 2008 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  14. msgijoe

    The debate (if John McCain shows) will be a slam dunk for the voters. It seems we are beginning to move beyond discussions of lipstick and houses to more important issues dealing with Wall Street and its relationship with government. People tend to use "hot button" terms like liberal and neocon without getting down to the real issue. The crises (Iraq war, Afghanistan war, Wall Street Bail Out , etc.) the country is now facing should focus the debate on real issues.

    September 26, 2008 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  15. democrattotheend

    I'm a huge Obama supporter but I am nervous about the debate. It's not always his best forum...he's not so great at dumming it down for the soundbyte-obsessed culture of our politics. I don't know what kind of debater McCain is but obviously people have pretty low expectations for him, which can only help him, if he bothers to show up, that is. I do think Obama's a hell of a lot smarter than McCain, so that ought to count for something in the debate.

    September 26, 2008 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  16. rayofhope

    A split between Biden and Palen???? No, that means that you need to poll someone other than native Alaskans....

    September 26, 2008 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  17. Jeremiah Iowa

    Jim you must be joking right? You can not actually believe that Barack Obama would beat John McCain on a foriegn policy debate. Palin did not stumble in her interview, I have a feeling that you would have said that before you even saw it. McCain is putting country first to slove a very important issue. Obama is putting Obama first. Case closed.

    McCain/Paiin will win in 39 days and Obama will have to go back to being a Senator if he even remembers how to do that.

    September 26, 2008 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  18. RF, TX

    I'm voting for Obama but if he keeps over-explaining everything, he will lose. He needs to just get to the point and not provide every single detail and nuance about complex subjects.

    People really aren't that smart, just look at who we have now in the WH.

    September 26, 2008 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  19. Guy

    McCain knows how badly he will do that's why he's wimping out... hero my butt.

    September 26, 2008 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  20. kayce.

    biden is going to hand palin her touche in the debates... if people are confused about that, it's prob b/c they haven't seen one of her three interviews. biden is not going to let her talk in circles. here's praying that palin/mccain aren't successful in their bid to delay the debates.

    September 26, 2008 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  21. Jackie From Michigan

    They didnt need Mccain there in washington. And if he was really trying to get things done why did he just sit there in the meeting and not give any ideas. according to the press he didnt have any insight . so tell me how is he helping? McCain is using this as a political ploy. does he want the debate on the vp night so sarah doesnt have to debate/ or is he afraid of losing and showing his temper.

    September 26, 2008 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  22. Michelle in Philly

    If there is a debate this evening, I hope McCain wipes the floor with your messiah candidate. Obama is an empty suit and all talk no action candidate.

    I wonder what the pundits and media would be saying if the tables were turned and Obambi was the one who suspended his campaign to work on this bailout crap? The story of course would be different.

    I applaude McCain.

    September 26, 2008 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  23. annette

    Obama should do well at the debat.. McCain should debate. He is stalling, looking for some sort of political gain for his campaign, it is beyond me how so many are going for the McCain, banana in the tail pipe?? It's obvious the finanical system is in a crisis, which utimately effects our national security. We need to hear from both candidates NOW!

    September 26, 2008 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  24. Al


    Suspension of campaign – a lie!
    Country first – a lie!
    Sarah Palin's qualified to be VP – a lie!

    Three strikes, you're out!

    Obama/Biden '08

    September 26, 2008 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  25. Willy Brown

    "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." It's called E-G-O first, country second.

    September 26, 2008 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
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