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. casual obserer

    Like little john said hmmmm lets let Obama tax and spend the way out of this corporate democrat greed feast..fanny and freddy backed him right?????? think about that just for a second...!

    October 7, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  2. Wendy

    McCain may have fought in the war 30 yrs ago. But the McCain we've seen in the past month is not a hero, he is a liar and petty old man.

    He doesn't understand economy, and doesn't know average americans struggle or how to help us.

    McCain, we can't afford to have you get on the job training about economy.

    October 7, 2008 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  3. Denise OKC

    No doubt about it!!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  4. mitch

    president barack was awesome!!!!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  5. Matt

    Scariest part of the night was when Obama said that he would go to his wife for the answers of things he didnt know....
    if that is a sign of things to come...
    scary indeed.

    October 7, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  6. ltd1974

    GO OBAMA!! 08!!!!!!!!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  7. mb

    Obama extended his hand at the end of the debate and McCain refused to shake his hand. So much for reaching across the aisle. McCain was snarky and rude. Obama won by a landslide,

    October 7, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  8. Chris from NY

    Thank God for small mercies. Drip!! Drip!!! Drip!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  9. Deb, Allentown,PA

    Obama was wonderful tonight. Steady, calm, respectful.

    I thought at one point McCain became a bit erratic.

    Oh, and in regards to the "my friends' drinking game, my count was 17 occurrences. Was that the right count?

    October 7, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  10. Abeslom

    3-0 baby!

    October 7, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  11. Dem for Unity

    My vote goes to, "That one". The One. Obama!

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  12. cecil

    You Betcha!

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  13. Trina in New Mexico

    "That one" was more Presidential, less sarcastic, and more polished. McCain's age is showing, and his frustration is evident. His quick exit out of the hall speaks volumes.

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  14. Rohit

    Obama indeed WON .
    He was very specific and clear with his answers.
    John McCain on the other hand was same old ...........

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  15. Afraid For Americans

    Sen. Obama won the debate. Sen. McCain referred to Obama as "that one" and at the end of the debate he wouldn't shake Sen. Obama hand. Am I the only one that saw that?

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  16. soccer mom for obama

    of course he won hands down.
    he has all the good ideas, visions, plans.

    he is the leader that america needs.

    no mcbush and his pageant lady.


    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  17. 17 year old future politician

    obama clearly had more substance, and won this town hall debate, the very debate McCain suggested Obama was scared to face him in.

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  18. Tyree,LV-Independent

    Of Course He Did, And He Will Win The Next Debate By An Even Wider Margin, And Ultimately Win This Election.

    Obama/Biden 08'

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  19. Darrell

    No doubt whatsoever Obama was Presidential and McCain was angry,uncomfortable,condecending and no answers to boot.I kept thinking he was trying to sell me a used car "my freinds" that was a lemon.Obama just prooved again that he has thoughts ideas and answers.Sure he didn't answer everything and there were key questions that needed to be asked, but Obama was a clear winner.McCaina and Brokaw were not very good.

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  20. Democrat

    2 of 2!thats my president Obama.

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  21. Dee

    I like both of these men and I have a ton of respect for both McCain’s service to our country and to Obama’s work at a community level – both are to be commended and honored.

    I was a bit saddened while watching/listening tonight. McCain just seemed bitter. The GOP has tried so hard to play up his experience and Obama’s arguable lack of experience, but tonight it felt like ‘debate’ crossed the line into petty dislike.

    He honestly reminded me of the sterotypical old neighbor man waving his cane at kids taking shortcuts through his yard. And I think McCain is better than that – or at least he was better than that.

    If this campaign can turn an honorable war hero and revered servant of the people into an ambitious “Oscar the Grouch”, then I pray none of my children ever run for the office because I’ve raised them to treat *everyone* with more respect than he showed for Obama and himself during tonight’s debate.

    October 7, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    I'd like to thank CNN for not going into the god awful spin room like they did for the last debate.

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  23. Rightsaid

    That One '08!

    I can't wait to get the bumper sticker.

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  24. Robert

    Performance is one thing...........I wonder if it matters to the people who felt Obama did a better job care if he misrepresented and lied about pertinent issues. How shallow the American public has become!!!!!!!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  25. Dea Baldwin

    yes we can!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
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