October 7th, 2008
11:45 PM ET
14 years ago

CNN Poll: Obama won the night


[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/07/art.win.jpg caption="Polls suggests Obama has won tonight’s debate."]
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) - A national poll of debate watchers suggests that Barack Obama won the second presidential debate.

Fifty-four percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey conducted after the debate ended said that Obama did the best job in the debate, with 30 percent saying John McCain performed better.

Watch: Debate analysis

A majority, 54 percent, said Obama seemed to be the stronger leader during the debate, to 43 percent for McCain. By a greater than two to one margin - 65 percent to 28 percent - viewers thought Obama was more likeable during the debate.

"Obama had made some gains on the leadership issue even before the debate," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "McCain's advantage on leadership shrunk from 19 points in September to just five points this weekend. If Obama can use this debate to convince Americans that he is a stronger leader than McCain, he may be difficult to defeat."

Watch: Reading the candidates' faces

A majority of debate watchers polled thought Obama was more intelligent, by a 57 percent to 25 percent margin over McCain. Twice as many debate watchers also thought Obama more clearly expressed than McCain, with 60 percent giving the nod to the Democratic nominee and 30 percent to his GOP opponent.

Hands down, debate watchers questioned thought McCain rather than Obama spent more time attacking his opponent: 63 percent said McCain went more negative, as opposed to 17 percent who pointed to Obama.

Half of those polled say Obama answered questions more directly, 13 points ahead of McCain, and by a 14 point advantage debate watchers thought Obama seemed to care more about the probelms of audience members who asked questions.

McCain did come out on top in one category that neither candidate wants to win: By a 16 point margin, debate watchers thought McCain seemed more like a typical politician during the debate.

According to the poll, 64 percent had a favorable opinion of Obama after the debate, up four points from the pre-debate result. McCain’s favorability rating remained unchanged: both before and after the debate percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of the Republican nominee both before and after the debate.

"For McCain, the key finding may be that his favorable rating did not change at all," Holland said. "It's unclear whether Obama will gain any momentum from Tuesday night's debate, but it looks like McCain will not do so, and for a candidate who has consistently been a few points behind in national polls, that's not a good sign."

The poll suggests that independent voters thought Obama won the debate. Fifty-four percent of those identifying themselves as independent say Obama performed best, with 28 percent saying that McCain did the better job.

Among Democrats, 85 percent say Obama won, with just 5 percent saying McCain was the winner. Among Republicans, 64 percent say McCain won, with 16 percent saying Obama won the night.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted by telephone with 675 adult Americans who watched the debate. All interviews were taken after the end of the debate. The audience for this debate was 38 percent Democratic and 31 percent Republican - very close to the partisan breakdown among all Americans nationwide. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

(Updated with additional poll results)

soundoff (124 Responses)
  1. Walt

    That old, nasty, mud-slinging old man needs to come to accept that "that one" will be the next President of the United States. He will not.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  2. Karen

    Obama was once again more articulate, and proved that he can not only debate well, but he is capable of leading the country through the mess that it's in.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  3. W O W WO W

    P R E S E N T,,,,,,,,,,A N D,,,,,,,,,,D O D G I N G,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,W H A T,,,,,,,,,,

    A N,,,,,,,,,,EM P T Y,,,,,,,S U I T

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  4. Catherine E. Johnson

    With the economy crisis at present time, our troops still over in Iraq, job loss, including mine for past five months, am a nurse. I do not believe that either candidate won in tonights debate. Both candidates went back too who raised them, their past life. These things are not what the United States Of America citizens want too hear for remedies of the crisis's occurring at the present time. And, neither candidate had remedy for health insurance problems. I am 54 years old, I have had too use all my retirement funds in the past. What banks in the future can the american citizens truly trust with our retirements. Neither candidate won tonight.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  5. Unshrub


    That was a little humor. Boy, you McCain people sure are getting touchy.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  6. Debbie

    I was absolutely appalled when McCain referred to Obama as "that one" . This only further bolsters my opinion of McCain as being arrogant and out of touch. It appears that he is becoming desparate in his bid to win the presidency which raises a lot of red flags in my mind. Obama has always managed to remain calm, poised and very much in control.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  7. Citizen

    This was a useless poll, because all you had to do was watch McCain shoulders slump when Obama ripped him for singing about bombing Iran. McCain now even knows that this thing is over.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  8. Rhonda CO

    That one has NEVER talked to the American people as if they were uncomprehending morons. McCain;s performance and strong ability to talk down to the voters has cemented my vote. OBAMA!!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  9. AJ

    Obama, Great job! I already voted absentee, and you got it! Best choice ever!

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  10. Raj

    Excellent debate Obama won it.....

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  11. Nancy

    McCain was old, tired, and cranky. He was also incredibly rude and condescending when he referred to Sen. Obama as "That One." His time is over. Obama won this debate and he'll win the Presidency.

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  12. Judy K

    Did you notice how Cindy M held her hands behind her back as if she was afraid someone might touch her? And Michelle O comfortably interacted with the audience?

    No question – O won it big!!

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  13. Way Cool

    I can't wait to get an "I'm voting for That One" t-shirt!

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  14. JohnWinNC

    No Contest! Obama won the debate going away. Obama appeared to be the President of the United States, while McCain seemed like a condescending grandfather trying to tell "that one" the way things are in the world. Guess what? Obama needed no lectures from McCain, the most confused, erratic and deceitful politician around (except for Palin).

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  15. jen1041

    Obama clearly won all the debates so far. McCain is condescending, doesn't focus on specifics, and just rambles. McCain is just ridiculous with his comments and pacing back and forth. I used to be a Republican but Obama is clearly the better choice. GO OBAMA!

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  16. fe

    i can't believe that the nation is so divided.


    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  17. creatyrdream

    I believe Obama will be the next president of The United States. He has proven to be a more effective leader, orator and strategist as well as his partner Biden. My personal views are set aside for what is best for our economy and well being as AMERICANS.

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  18. Brenda Clark

    "That one" will surely win!!!!! The physical comparison was amazing, the frustrated elderly MCain was no match for Obama.

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  19. Brian

    That one will get my vote. Not too sure how stable the other one is.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    I'm getting goosebumps at the thought of Obama becoming President. He's a fighter.

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  21. AH

    Obama won hands!!! you don't have to be a political scientist to have figured that!! A note to Obama supporters: Please do not sit back and relax. Obama is not letting us down so we should not let him down. Please come out to vote and bring three friends with you.

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  22. lex

    obama my president!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  23. teritao

    OBAMA: Clear and Presidential

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  24. William

    McCain wins on substance, Obama wins on style. Popularity contest in the election favors Obama and if he wins, it will be one of the greatest marketing scams not only in political history, but in all of history.

    October 7, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
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