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. geri

    The canceling of the campaign certainly got everyones attention. However, sliding into the crevices and pretending he is only intrested in cowboying a deal to repair the economy is ridiculous. He may have some say but he is not the president and as the president he has to learn to multitask...So show up to the Debate or Shut up McCain.

    September 26, 2008 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  2. Hercules Mulligan

    LLeftists were affected with the same optimism the Kerry/Bush's debates. Mr. Kerry "won" them all they claimed ; yet he got beaten in November.

    HONOR: George Washington and Alexandere Hamilton two true patriots that made possible the Change in America.

    VOTE: McCain/Palin

    September 26, 2008 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  3. Kpawlak

    6 in 10 believe Obama will win the debates?
    Is Obama bringing along his teleprompter?
    McCain can talk foreign policy in his sleep.
    Obama has had to train with a debating coach.
    CNN, I don't know where you get these ridiculous polls.
    Your bias is so transparent.

    September 26, 2008 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  4. Republican Woman For Obama

    I still don't get how McCain is better at handling terrorism and Iraq??? He scares me! I think he would be too quick to go to war! It's obvious that he is a bully! He keeps talking about 10 town halls like he is running things and that Obama should do what he wants! He is arrogant and not presidential!

    September 26, 2008 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  5. S Kirk

    I have a suggestion....If John McCain can't make it to the debate he should send Palin to fill in for him...See if she is, as John McCain so strongly suggests, "ready to lead" Now that would be interesting..

    September 26, 2008 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  6. JV, MS

    This is a joke if the election day was today and anyone voted for McCain/ Palin I would have clear understanding as to why we are in this mess. People vote with common sense it is clear Obama/Biden will bring America back from the depression the republicans have created. Don't judge a man by his skin because we are all Americans and we all love this country. No one race built america, we all did.

    Vote Obama/ Biden, Mississippi will.

    September 26, 2008 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  7. sm

    The 4 or 5 conditions put forward by Obama will only work in a
    COMMUNIST / SOCIALIST ENVIRONMENT where the Government has authoritarian Control..

    Obama has played his Presidential Politics card in DC.
    He will blame it on McCain.
    His next card is the FEAR Card which he will play in Mississippi.

    He'd better go back to COMMUNITY ORGANISING.

    September 26, 2008 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  8. Bucciman

    hey this story has been running for days now as a front page story, I guess it is best to leave it up to help drive down the republicans popularity

    September 26, 2008 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  9. Johhn Kilduff

    Obama has it right, its "by the people, for the people", not "by big business for big Business"

    September 26, 2008 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  10. candy

    I have to say that this economic situation is alot more important than the debate,We all know that to postpone that for one or two days will not hurt the parties but,Not focusing on the economic situation cannot wait ,we saw that in the headlines this morning,One more thing if i might add ,David Letterman Had to at one time find a fill in last minute because of a heart attack,AMERICAS HAVING ONE NOW!!!So I hope he will get off his high horse about JOHN McCAIN WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT?He made such a tantrum on the show Last NIGHT ,Its not about HOLLYWOOD APPROVAL.I am AM GLAD McCain STUCK To his guns.

    September 26, 2008 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  11. Carrie Pa

    McCain is afraid to debate on the economy, period. He is pathetic!

    September 26, 2008 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  12. Gabriele

    This election campaign is highly entertaining. I always believed that if you do vote you do so for the person or party you think will get the job done. Issues should be so much more important than looks or race or gender. By what I've seen and read so far the next president of the States can only be Obama. The 'circus' that is the campaign of the Reps just doesn't convice me that McCain or Palin know what they are doing. Too bad I can't vote.

    September 26, 2008 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  13. VA girl for Obama

    Obama is the obvious choice for the majority of Americans who are struggling in this whack economy...I don;t know about you, but I want to be a ble to afford a house payment in the next year or so...McCain can afford to lose about 4 or 5 and still live comfortably...Such an elitist!


    September 26, 2008 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  14. johnny2 in kalamazo

    Debates are a media event and the outcome, either way, will be spun by the media to meet their agenda. So look for B. Hussein Obama to be crowned the winner, whether he does or not. Because he is who the media wants to win.

    Its all propagande and only small minded people think otherwise.

    September 26, 2008 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  15. Kenneth Taylor

    Mr. McCane had suppended his convention for a wearher emergency, has campaign for a finantial emergency and now should we expect him to suppend his presidency for a natural security emergency should he be elected!

    September 26, 2008 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  16. michael Fenton

    If this poll is remotely accurate, then my suspicions that one can no longer trust the American voter to do what is best for the country. I thought the last two elections were an anomaly but the inmates may, indeed, have taken over the asylum.

    September 26, 2008 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  17. Kat

    McCain's backing out of tonight's debate is just another symptom of a campaign that is trying to fudge the election outcome by not addressing the issues, but rather creating diversions. I agree with Barack that injecting Presidential politics into the bailout dialogue will only serve to divide the party lines. The candidates' time is best served telling the American people how they will govern and what they will do to fix the mess we're in, should they be elected.

    September 26, 2008 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  18. Robert

    Who is being Polled?? How can 62% say that McCain has better personal qualities than Obama? BS...McCain has commited Adultery against his first wife, he was up to his eyebrows in the Keating five scandal, for 20 years he voted against regulation of the crooked exec.s in Wall Street and he continues to tell lies to the American people and he is definitely a crooked Elitist..
    If I were asked in a Poll, I'd give him minus 10%.
    Obama on the other hand, Is ethical, honest and trustworthy. I'd give him 110%!!

    September 26, 2008 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  19. Inspired by Obama

    Wait a minute......46% of American believe that Sarah Palin can win the coming debate with Biden? WOW!!!!! It's no wonder George W. is a two-term sitting duck.

    46% of the American population who are paying attention to this political mess are as clueless as Palin. Pull their voter registration cards...this is ridiculous.

    September 26, 2008 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  20. Punkers

    Just like the silly gas tax pander and the Sarah Palin hail Mary John McCain's latest wild gamble isn't going to pay off for him.

    McCain is blinking. This race is done.

    September 26, 2008 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  21. Mike -Maryland

    McCain is a sad sad man, hell he probably decided on this stunt after he saw the interview with Sarah (laughable and scary) to try to take the spot light off his ill prepared running mate.

    September 26, 2008 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  22. Indiana Voter

    As this election progresses, it seems to me that McCain is self-destructing and showing us how he would act in a time of crisis if he were president. He likes to gamble so he would gamble with our future as well as that of our children. Repeatedly he has shown bad judgement and made poor decisions which shows that experience without wisdom is disastorous. Moreover, as I now watch the Palin interviews, I see why she is kept away from the press. I'm sure she is a decent person and a loving mother, but she is showing that she is far from ready to be vp of the united states. I cannot even follow her logic when she answers questions. I actually feel sorry for her that she jumped in and allowed herself to be used as a political ploy to rescue mccain's campaign. It is time for all of us to step back and objectively look at where we are and the candidates and make a choice using our best wisdom and not fear and emotions. Let's not be fooled by the Republicans again. I'm nodon't believe the country can take 4 more years of Republican rule!

    September 26, 2008 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  23. annette

    Listen up folks, as much as I really don't want to say this. If not 700 billion, how much?, regardless the American people will have to pay for this??? so whether we like it or not, we will have to pay to get out of this mess, that is the reality. This mess has gone on to long, over years. Neither Obama or McCain can easliy just come in and gau-la, they have saved the day. If it was that easy, a bill would be signed and done already.
    This is a delicate balance of helping the american taxpayer, unfreezing credit, and turning things around. So for all of the folks, blaming Obama for not doing this, and praising McCain for doing that. This is not POLITICAL!!!! This decision will be very difficult on both sides, and furthermore, McCain presence did nothing????? in fact, he couldn't bring his own party together with a consensus???

    September 26, 2008 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  24. Patrick

    If McCain doesn't show up, I will expect the media to do its job and report on EXACTLY where McCain is while Obama is in Mississippi. If he isn't in the capitol building furiously working away, but rather sitting at home, I expect the media to call him out on it.

    September 26, 2008 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  25. nate

    Q: Why do all the Repubs seem so angry?
    A: Because they know theyre going to lose.

    September 26, 2008 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
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