October 20th, 2008
05:45 PM ET
14 years ago

McCain's attacks are unfair, CNN poll says


A new poll shows a growing number of voters believe McCain is attacking unfairly. (AP Photo)

(CNN) - A growing number of Americans believe John McCain has attacked Barack Obama unfairly, a negative perception of the Arizona senator that could cost him at the polls come Election Day.

According to a new survey from CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation, nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe the Republican nominee has unfairly gone negative in his bid for the White House. That percentage is significantly higher than it was last September, when just 42 percent thought the Republican Presidential nominee was running an overly negative campaign, and is also considerably higher than the percentage of Americans who feel Obama has gone unfairly negative.

In recent weeks, both campaigns have stepped up spending on negative television ads and launched attacks at each other's record. But comments from both McCain and Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin questioning Obama's relationship with former 1960's radical William Ayers have drawn particular scrutiny, as has the GOP ticket's recent suggestion Obama will seek to carry out 'socialist' policies.

Obama's image may also be benefiting from his huge financial advantage, which has led to a massive imbalance in the number of ads he is able to air compared to McCain. Campaign Media Analysis Group's Evan Tracey, CNN's consultant on ad spending, says Obama has the luxury of running both positive and negative ads — simultaneously softening his own image and hurting McCain’s.

"McCain can't afford the positive ads Obama can," Tracey said. "It's not likely McCain can raise his own positives with only a couple weeks left - but he can hope to raise Obama's negatives."

But the clear perception that the Arizona senator has run a more negative campaign than Obama just may hurt the Republican presidential nominee's chances of a comeback in this long race's dwindling days.

"In previous elections, both candidates have been viewed as attacking the other unfairly, so the penalty for doing so has tended to cancel out in past years," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "But this year McCain faces that problem all by himself, so any blowback affects only him while Obama seems above the fray."

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Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (187 Responses)
  1. Chris

    Why is it "unfair" to call Obama's programs socialism, WHEN IT IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE. That's not negative, that is a FACT. Obama is a joke! Apparently you CAN put lipstick on a pig and transform it into something else because that is exactly what Obama has done. He has lipsticked his ideas with so called "eloquence" and charisma. Eloquence and charisma does not make his ideas good, it makes the people that fail to look beyond that idiots, for not being able to see what his programs really are.

    October 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. Max M

    Is this the same poll that shows McCain tightening the race?

    October 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  3. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    One definition of socialism, since both Palin and McCain seem to lean Obama that way is: a society where there is no PRIVATE property....Obama does not say he wants the government or the whole of a society to control all property. However, McCain, in his economic wisdom would like to have the US Government buy up mortgages at current value, then "sell" them back at a lower price to the same homebuyers (maybe) making those "homeowners" now owing the government the mortgage (or should we call it now rent) payment. Bush is already going ahead with buying shares in banks nationwide; Bush gave an "economic stimulus" to the citizens twice since he took office in 2001...hmmm, is this "spreading the wealth" around or is it just trickle down economics ala Reagan? McCain has "lived off" the Federal Govt all his life with govt paid housing, college, retirement, disability and social security, and oh yes, health care. So, who is the one calling "the kettle black?" The same goes for his and Palin's "elitist" statements about Obama. I don't think McCain or Palin would give any of us the time of day, much less be called "my friend" to our faces.

    October 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  4. Doniel Andrew Bea

    do not 4get bout 9/11 and itz conspiracy. not 2 4get hurricane Katrina's aid takin over a week.lots have died.. dont let them die n vain under the republican operatives. how hard is that
    vote obama 08

    October 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  5. 30-m-PA

    Please. Obama has been running the dirtiest campaign I've ever seen. He did it against Hillary and now McCain. The people in this poll have been brainwashed by the media.

    October 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  6. Ezra

    I am so happy that McCain does not have the money for all the negative ads that he would like to run. America would be totally covered with mud by election day. We would not be able to recognize each other.


    October 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. Lina

    Talking about attacks aparently a McCain campaign bus has been hit with gun fire. hello is this news enough for you or is it just a McCain bus?

    October 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  8. Mico

    Palin is bringing back McCarthyism and anyone voting for her should be SCARED!!!!

    That woman changes words and meanings to suit her and how she thinks.

    She may accuse Obama of being a socialist, but she should be accused of being a follower of McCarthyism!

    Be weary people! If McCain/Palin wins, you will have to be careful of what you have said since the day you were born and you will have to know everything of anyone you have ever known or sat beside at a traffic light.

    Palin is brining blacklisting back!

    October 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  9. CM

    It is a fact that McCain/Palin have conducted a much more negative campaign than Obama/Biden! They're hoping the American public won't be able to see through the campaign to get at the truth!!

    October 20, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  10. Bob M

    I'm so fed up with "Desperation Politics". McCain and Palin have nothing positive to say about things we want to hear. All they spew is venomous unfounded negative comments about their competitors. It proves to me that McCain and Palin are losers.

    October 20, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  11. Grandma

    an exceptional president Obama 2008

    October 20, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  12. No Longer Amused, Las Vegas

    It's not that they are "unfair" so much as blatantly untrue.

    As to the socialist comments, they are based on the refundable tax credits (that can result in bringing the taxes below $0):

    The CENTRAL TENET of McCain's health plan is a $5,000 refundable tax credit.

    It is wholly inadequate to cover the average cost of a policy for a family; it still results in the same type of tax credit that McCain is deriding.

    But the truth does not seem be particularly important to the McCain campaign.

    October 20, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
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