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. Giovanni

    I have become a US citizen two weeks ago, I must say... unexpectedly and at a record pace. I am extremely glad, and couldn't have asked for a better maturalization present. I will be able to vote in this elecetion. I want to Obama to be my first president and bring a breath of fresh air to my new country. I believe that he has demonstrated to have all the qualities for the job, once again in tonight's debate.

    I used to like McCain, but in the midst of the race for the presidency he did turn his back to the principles in which he always believed, in exchange for a more secure support from an ultra-conservative base. John would not be in this position if he had remained truthful to himself, rather than to a greedy crowd. Viva Obama!

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  2. La Raza

    We have just seen President Obama!

    October 7, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  3. jason hollingsead

    Wow, and McCain says he's for change! Saying Reagan is your hero takes me back to the 80's. I'm changing too, for Obama!

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  4. monica

    McCain was amazing! He showed his expertise and preparedness to lead this country. I will be honored to have him as the President of my country

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  5. jim quincy

    No doubt it. YES WE CAN

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  6. BluCanon

    Of course Obama won the debate. I mean honestly, what do the people voting for J-Mc honestly see in two him and Sarah Palin? They don't even agree in some of the same issues. *SMH* McCain honestly needs to have a seat and let this one go. I don't think the man can hear. Obama NEVER said anything about raising taxes...however J-Mc continues to lie and say he did when Obama CLEARLY laid out his tax plan.

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  7. Tracy

    This one is voting for THAT ONE!!

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  8. McCain still suffers from PTSD

    McCain should have taken his meds. He looked like that PTSD was kicking in HARD tonight!

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  9. JP

    McCain seedmed rude and condesending as usual. Maybe it's an age thing.

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  10. Alan M

    Great poll. 2 points went up for Obama as he stood up, before he uttered his first word. You analysts should help people or look at real items than push buttons for who you like.
    Do anyone of you know or does either candidate have any knowledge of what the real healthcare crisis is? Do you just pour money in or give credits to fix a broken system.
    Medicine, is totally broken, and I am speeaking as a physician.
    Government is broken and corrupt.
    Analysts don't analyze, just try to sway people's minds.

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  11. punch, kick, smear, alaska, wasilia, pitbull, lipstick, maverick, POW, my friends, drill baby drill, terrorist and war.........STOP!

    I'm sure McCain WOULDA won, but he doesn't want to "leak" his ideas and plans to the American people. That's how they'll spin this one, get to work Leslie and Tucker!

    He aint done it in the past 26 yrs because he was workin on this "confidential" master plan.

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  12. JWR

    Crabby azz old man.

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Who cares?

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  14. db

    ...I've seen all I need to see, and I'm voting for "THAT ONE" !!!

    Obama/Biden '08-12

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  15. robin, SF

    john mccain makes my stomach hurt.

    October 7, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  16. irvin castilla

    i,irvin castilla personally think that obama has won the 2nd debate by far, he was smarter, he could really understood what peopole were feeling ,he definetely got his point accross and i strongly believe that he won by far. i'm amazed by senator mccain's contribution to this country,his service and experience have a lot to do on his favor,but although mccain has all of those qualities it still doesn't show his commitment to move this country forward to a better future.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  17. Linda Farrington

    Interesting that your viewer poll gave Obama the nod. I found when i was watching CNN that your analyst's distracted me from my own opinion. Also interesting that Fox is saying that their viewers gave McCain the win by over 80%. Without your network distractions on the TV screen, I also thought McCain was much more clear and specific on the issues (of course he couldn't go into great detail since he only had a couple of minutes), and Obama was playing defense all night. In all goes to the point that people are sheep. I hope that the American people start thinking for themselves and turn around this election.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  18. Vincent Spaulding

    The support behind Obama is now very firm. The polls indicate a daily widening between Obama and "that one". The debate and the opinions that followed it confirm that Barack is edging ever closer to the presidency.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  19. Jack

    CNN should put this headline in a different way.


    A loss for this old fox is a victory for America.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  20. Frank DiGiovanni

    Senator McCain is, hands down, the superior choice, even though neither is the perfect choice. Experience – McCain. Judgment – McCain, as evidenced by Obama still being unable to admit he was wrong on the Petraeus surge. Knowing what he doesn't know – McCain. Obama thinks he knows it all over everyone. Palin, with a similar knowledge and experience level to Obama, knows what she doesn't know and is willing to learn. Obama thinks he already knows everything and has nothing to learn, much as, admittedly, Bush thinks as well on many things.

    Vote McCain. He is the best choice for our country.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  21. Kate

    Obama won by a LANDSLIDE. Not only did he refrain from calling McCain 'that one' but he had the gumption to state that healthcare is a RIGHT. No 'civilized' country should make health care dependent on income.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  22. paul

    Obama rocked McCain's world!! Great to see, he schooled McCain and McCain was feeling it. Watching the old man get all frustrated, a pleasure to watch indeed! Go Obama!!!

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  23. Art

    Obama was the winner. McCain kept trying to throw barbs and tap danced around most issues.

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  24. emily

    Barack was great. McCain acted like a sore looser, couldn't bring himself to shake hands and left the hall early. I always thought he is a mean petty man. Now I don't think, I know.

    Go Obama/Biden – We need you desparetly!

    October 7, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  25. working republican

    I personally don't think either "one" won. Neither could answer a question with a straight answer. I'm still going for the lesser of two evils " the other one".

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