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

    Its great how cnn only prints those comments which are pro-Dem. Most of these people can't even use complete sentences to convey their ideas and cnn still thinks it's news. And they have never seem Obama blunder through a conversation without the use of the teleprompter. Go watch the Saddleback debates if you want evidence. He's an empty suit.

    September 26, 2008 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  2. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    McCain showing up (first time since April) to help is much like asking a 2-year old to help you move the sofa: no real help but makes the 2 year-old feel important. As of yesterday, McCain admitted he hadn't taken the time to read the 3 page bill ... too busy playing politics at the Clinton event that morning ... he forgot he had suspended his campaigning.

    If McCain skips the debates, then maybe the whole schedule will slide – with no time left for VP debates: wouldn't that be just dandy for darling Sarah!

    as for "sm" diatribe – there are so many errors in it , the election will be over by the time someone makes the corrections ... none so blind as those who choose not too see ...

    September 26, 2008 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  3. jo

    for some reason Gov. palin speaks like 16 years old girl is it me or

    September 26, 2008 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  4. ATLian

    SM, what in the world are you talking about and where did you get such erroneous information? More Republican talking points?

    September 26, 2008 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  5. Gayle

    McCain is not even helping by being in Washington, Democrats and Republicans have said. He is trying to get out of the debate, and trying to get Palin out of hers too.

    Palin/McCain is the most ignorant team ever!

    September 26, 2008 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  6. Rambo

    McCain still planning AWOL?

    September 26, 2008 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  7. Helen

    Barack Obama has a big mouth, Harvard educated but radical. He can do well in debates but it is just a talk, no substance, no experience. Major media like CNN, NBC, CBS, ABS and of course New York times are behind him. He is not presidential. John McCain has all the qualities and personality. John McCain will be our next president. American people are smart. Barack will try to score some points in the debate but he is a fraud. Watch out.

    September 26, 2008 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  8. Bubba

    Here's the thing: McCain has worked hard to be nominated. Other candidates fought to be in the lineup; Romney, Huckleberry, L. Ron Paul, Hillary. But Obama was pushed forward by others, not because he was scheming to be president but because he's smart, honest, and unencumbered by political scandals. He took advice from Rezko but that's not like being one of the Keating Five.
    McCain's age has done him in; first he fell off the Straight Talk Express, then he inexplicably chose Moosie Palin as his insurance against melanoma. Sorry Gramps, I wouldn't let you drive me to the mall these days, much less run my whole country. But you did whip the Kaiser and send those Japs packing back in the day, so be content with that.

    September 26, 2008 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  9. CM

    Man, you GOP zealots are really blind. Everyone is hammering McCain for playing politics with this one. There have been other crises and the debates have gone on before.

    In the meeting yesterday McCain showed no leadership and was a nonentity. Why did he go back to Washington is he wasn't going to be helpful and isn't part of these negotiations?

    September 26, 2008 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  10. Independent in NC

    You know, there are other reasons to vote for or against a candidate other than their skin color. Not everyone who does not support Obama is a racist, although if it makes you feel better to believe that, then get down with your bad self. It just shows hatred is alive and well in this country for everyone who is different from you.

    I'm more worried about the people who support their candidate so completely that they never question anything about them. Both have lied, both have some questionable activities on their records, and both have done some good. If you can live with it, fine, but stop acting like your guy is perfect and the other person is evil incarnate.

    September 26, 2008 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  11. Jim

    Let's face it. Obama is a smart guy. After hearing Paul Begala last night refer to Bush as a "high-functioning moron" (a comment heard a lot outside of the US) it would be refreshing to see someone in the White House who can solve problems through intelligent analysis and reason.
    Look up the origin of the word "Maverick." It's an old cowboy term for a lost stray that didn't belong to anyone. There wasa rancher named Maverick who increased his herd by branding everyone's strays as his, therefore any lost stray was "Maverick's". Watching McCain over the last few days, or Palin's interview, and I'm thinking yes, absolutely, these are two lost strays, "Mavericks" in the real sense of the word.
    Unfortunately all McCain will have to do to "win" tonight is to speak in complete senteneces, and mention a hundred times that he spent 5 years in the Hanoi Hilton.

    September 26, 2008 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  12. Bobby from MS

    If the number one issue to the American people is the economy and John McCain wants to work on it and Barack Obama wants to have a debate tonight after ducking and hiding all summer long who looks more presidental???

    That's right. John McCain!

    September 26, 2008 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  13. Texans for Obama

    There are higher expectations for Obama because he is the new guy on the block but after the shennigans we have seen this week that John McCain pulled. Obama is going to crucify McCain at the debate that is if the (chicken )shows up. If he doesn't show with his failing poll numbers he is toast.. Country first my only takes 90 minutes to debate, and if you cannot multi-task, you need to remove your name from the ballor period!

    September 26, 2008 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  14. tws1906

    Susan,,,u are right, if u are SUSPENDING ur campaign...why run ads, have offices and do the same thing u have been doin...hmmmmmmmm.

    Smells like a political stunt.

    September 26, 2008 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  15. simp

    I have no idea where CNN got these numbers from, was it someone in mccain's camp. These numbers are a joke. mccain has screwed up this country long enough and these polls are LIES. I wish you people would stop using these polls to try to influence the people, hell nobody in their right mind will vote for mccain, he is a bomb waiting to go off, look at what he did with throwing a monkey wrench in the negotiations yesterday, the hell with the polls they are totally off.


    September 26, 2008 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  16. Living in the USA

    Good morning everyone. Will McCain be reading from indx cards like Palin. McCain was the one who kept pushing the debate and now he is trying to bail out. I will count how many times he will use the word "American" and "terrorist" as if our greatest threat are from overseas. When we have our "American terrorist" right here in the US that is causing the economy to be as bad as it is.

    September 26, 2008 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  17. Judy

    SM John McCain went there only to be seen and when ask for an opinon he gave none. So why Obama is wrong for trying to help solve the problem. All Republicans want is to give McCain the upper in this crisis but what will each gain except a big headache. The parties was doing fine until McSane came. Now if that was a democrat the party would be saying why is he here and for what purpose. The same should be asked of McCain. You don't neglect to read policies and then offer a 5 line items speech in the middle of negotiations. McCain should have been working with his party just like Obama. McCain main concern is getting votes without working to ensure the people he is the right man. Yes McCain can't chew gum and walk at the same time. Multitask is not in his vocabulary.

    September 26, 2008 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  18. Jeremy

    I asked this question yesterday.


    These negotiations can take whole of next week or even fail? The house is adjourning next week as well.

    Mcain is behaving like a desperate political activist.

    September 26, 2008 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  19. CR

    Where was McCain at that WH meeting? All the reports say, he said NOTHING. Obama gave proposals, sought critique and took control. McCAin is not a leader AT ALL.

    September 26, 2008 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  20. Anonymous

    Why is no one talking about what spending cuts will be made? In this time of financial crisis do we really need to know what is on Mars? We need to focus on helping Americans and cut foriegn aid. We can't keep spending money we don't have. We can't keep raising taxes when we can't make ends meet now!

    September 26, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  21. R. Cooper

    What's "Personal qualities"? Race?

    September 26, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  22. Jessica

    As for the economy…

    I think McCain’s attempt to postpone the debate proves who truly puts their “Country First.” I’ve always felt that candidates neglect their current responsibilities to run for higher office. Understanding the demands of a campaign I can overlook some of that disregard. However, during a crisis such as this and considering what it could cost the American people who haven’t overspent the candidates need to get their priories straight. In this situation Senator Obama has shown me that his career is more important than the people. Even if it is, “just a 90 minute debate.”

    September 26, 2008 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  23. sharon,ny

    Is McCain capable of mulit-tasking? Do we want a president who is going to suspend one issue over another? We need the debates to see who has a plan to bail us out of care, fuel, jobs, global warming and rising taxes. Time is running out on "selling" themselves to the voting public. McCain's suspension means only one thing to me.....he's not ready to debate! His party got us into this financial mess...always for the rich (why are the CEO's of these companies able to walk away millionaires while thousands lose their jobs and pensions?) Keep stalling, McCain.....just like you'd do if you were elected and Palin make a good pair. One is a bull dog and one is a puppy!

    September 26, 2008 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  24. PALIN can I ask you a question? Yes, after the election.

    McCain came to the table, smiled, listened, made a couple of comments and never took a leadership role with these meetings.

    I've been involved in a lot of meetings and never had the person who demanded the meeting not take a leadership role. Therefore, I conclude this is all show.

    Also, looks like Obama is right. You can multitask this. Appears the debates will take place as scheduled.

    September 26, 2008 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  25. nil

    Why is it that CNN says Obama is ahead in the polls when ALL THE OTHER polls say that he and McCain are TIED? Could it be that CNN is "in the tank" for Obama? Oh, what a surprise!!

    September 26, 2008 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
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