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. death of the republican party?

    to Matt:

    He wasn't talking about making important political decisions. It was an attempt at a joke, which Brokaw and the crowd laughed at. Unlike McCain's many failed attempts at laughs.

    Obama took this one. It is clear that John McCain has completely lost his mind.

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  2. Gerry

    That one was clearly the winner and the only one who looked, acted and talked like a president. I couldnt beleive McCain actually talked down to the audience.

    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  3. Tariq Saeed


    There is no doubt that Mccain is loosing this election. Obama is only hope for what has been left of America. Left over of USA after being devoured by the religious fundamentalists like Bush-Palin, and the War Mongers like Bush-Mccain.


    October 7, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  4. db

    (unless you want an angry old war-happy man in charge...)

    October 7, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  5. Jon Stewart

    Barack Obama was awesome and very presidential and showed significant leadership against some of the worst, racial attacks of Palin and McShame

    October 7, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  6. Fraser

    I did not like when McCain referred to Obama as "that one"–I thought that was very rude. I did not like when McCain condescendingly told one of the questioners that the questioner had never heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before–everyone has heard of them. And I did not like when McCain refused to shake Sen. Obama's hand at the end of the night–he should at least have done it for appearance's sake.

    October 7, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  7. Kate Fergus

    It was clear that Obama won the night; was more presidential; gave more detailed answers. Obama's attitude was warmer and he appeared more approachable. McCain was defensive and antagonistic, talked in circles, and lacked the demeanor required to be a president who will build bridges.

    October 7, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  8. Vanessa Pombo

    Obama certainly made me understand in "common language" all the issues discussed on this debate. Thumbs Up!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  9. hunter

    Why did senator McCain at the debates end not want to shake senator Obama's hand when they crossed paths while mingling with the audience? McCain literally moved his hand away and pointed Obama towards his(McCain's wife) to shake her hand. Interesting interpersonal interaction with a fellow American for someone who wants to be the leader of the free world.

    October 7, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  10. mardi

    McCain portrayed himself as an angry old man who contradicts himself. In one breath he suggest the government buy up the bad mortgages, in the next breath he says we have to cut spending. So where is the money for the mortgage buyouts gonna come from? And, would this mean that those of us who haven't defaulted on our mortgages, will be compensated for the decline in our home value because of the mortgage meltdown? How about compensating us for our devalued retirement plans. Wow McCain, sound like you're a big spender after all!

    October 7, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  11. Jaybee

    Obama's remarks were predominately specific and reasoned, thoughtful. He was calm and appeared to be comfortable with the questions and the interaction with the people present.

    McCain's were repetitive, general for the most part, and rambling. He relied on platitudes and seemed flustered. My husband and I were struck by how he seemed to struggle to express himself.

    October 7, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  12. Kent D

    As a teacher, if I referred to an African American student as "that one," I would be suspended if not fired.

    If you have no respect for the man, McCain, at least have respect for his office. He is a U.S. Senator.

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  13. Gireesh

    Obama was very impressive tonight. Town hall meetings are McCain's forte, but Obama, being out of his element, proves he is able to adapt to any situation. He trumped McCain on almost every question. Obama/Biden '08

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  14. Simone Kibbe

    I thought John McCain made a bigger impact by telling "the truth."
    Obama was just boring!

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  15. working republican

    The results don't surprise me. Most of the blogs I read were from liberals. Probably 5 to 1. It would make sense that Obama would win a CNN poll.

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  16. Jeff

    Obama is running on his good looks and speaking ability. McCain is running on his record. The fact that both are virtually tied says volumes about who is the most qualified candidate.

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  17. Eyes Wide Open

    To be honest we need to look a little deeper. McCain is ill if he win Sarah Palin will be President. She is not ready she has a lot of baggage in Alaska

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  18. Don

    Obama looked fresh and confident. McCain looked tired and worn out. Obama looked like he could work all night on any problem facing the nation. McCain looked like he would not hear the phone if it rang at 3am.

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  19. justlloyda

    John McCain should retire and take the not-too-bright Sara Palin with him. It's time for new blood. Kennedy and Clinton were new comers to the presidential position; American should leave the color issues behind and continue with turning this country around.

    Sara Palin should be sued for character scandal. (excuse my spelling)

    New York City

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  20. Sondari

    President Obama. Get used to it.

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  21. Chris

    McCain says he will freeze the government which is the problem we already have. I the government totally stops to only engage in War we become a Military government like some other foreign countries. That is chilling.

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  22. I suppose...

    The McZombies are not going to claim that this is a liberal poll or something.

    I think Sarah Palin is going to say that polls shouldn't be questions, and that polls are where we tell you who won.

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  23. Terri

    Mr. Obama gave to me the answers I needed answered tonight. Especially on healthcare. Mr. McCain was unappealing to me with constantly having to make statements in regards to Mr. Obama's record. I applaud Mr. Obama in his answers and ask that he continue to do as he is, speak to the American people as he has...honestly and forthright. I am proud that he has not stupped to the level the McCain campaign has in slander and in letting hecklers become out of control. Thank you Mr. Obama you will be an excellant President!

    An Ohio Voter

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  24. Jackie

    I wish someone in the audience would tell Senator McCain that we are not his friends!

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  25. Uncle Fester

    That one won.
    McCain, you are not "My friend"

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
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