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. FactCheck

    What next? Polls show that sky is blue, fire burns and Bush is an idiot??

    October 20, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  2. Bob Indianapolis IN

    They aren't just unfair, they're stupid! Obviously Gen. Poweel feels confortable with Obama as president. This "paling around with terrorists" stuff just incites low information voters and further divides a divided America. WAKE UP OLD MAN AND RECANT!

    October 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. ber6964

    There is hope for the majority of Americans..

    October 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. Commonwealth of Virginia

    Duh. They're down right rude and false.


    October 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  5. Sylvia B

    McCain's campaign is despicable! How can he have any dignity left by supporting these tactics. If I was a resident of Arizona, I would not vote for him as my senator. He is so low that it is really offensive.

    October 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  6. mitch

    they are unfair and they incite hatred. i voted early for barack, today. he has integrity. and im white,too!

    October 20, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. Victor from MI

    It took a poll to figure this out? Seriously?

    You just need half a functional brain to figure it out after the third negative add or the first rally.

    October 20, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. TX Independent for Obama

    Those who lack substance criticize. This is good for publicity and ratings, but that provens the man's craven cynicism. He has plumbed to the depths of Ann Coulter.

    Don't gloat, vote! Obama/Biden

    October 20, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. Nat

    John McCain: Symbol of a glorious past

    Barack Obama: Symbol of a hopeful future

    Isn't that clear enough?

    October 20, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  10. Dallas, TX

    Do your homework, Obama's campaign has spent more on negative ads than any other campaign!

    Their attacks have been deeply personal and vile.

    America needs John McCain as President, he is the man to lead this country: war hero, experienced senator, challenger, and reformer!

    McCain/Palin '08!!

    October 20, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. Sue

    Yes he lost me and my husband when he and Palin started on Ayer's and Obama connection and now with the "Socialist" I wouldn't vote for him now if he did go more positive, because after listening to Obama I think he bring a clear picture of how he will be the better President.....

    October 20, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |

    This has to be the "NO DUHH" poll of the month.

    October 20, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  13. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    McCain is certainly raising his own negatives. Good job John.

    October 20, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  14. Rorschach

    First day of early voting in Texas and I have proudly cast my vote for Obama/Biden.

    Let's get this done and get this country back on track.

    October 20, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  15. Sammy Joe the plumber

    Can't wait for election day to give McCain and Palin a strong message that I despise them. I'll be voting BO and Joe

    October 20, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. Bill Charlotte,NC

    People are either waking up or becoming fed up!

    October 20, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  17. Chuck

    Of course they are unfair. Senator Obama would have this election wrapped up if it wasn't for "Racism". Pure and simple. There are millions of racist in this country. Only they don't call themselves racist anymore, they call themselves Evangelical Christians.

    October 20, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  18. Fatima

    PEOPLE- We are down to the last 2 weeks!! Don't get distracted with the he/she said....OBAMA was right! You dont know what is going to happen on Nov. 4th (God forbid). Urge everyone you know to GET OUT AND VOTE!!!! I believe Obama is our guy and I'm fighting harder than McCain to make sure everyone gets their voices heard!~!!

    Obama/Biden 2008

    October 20, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  19. Independent but Leaning

    Higher corporate taxes = inflation. Bad idea in the current environment- especially with the promised international crisis that we will get in the first 6 months of an Obama presidency.

    Scary stuff.

    October 20, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  20. Lisa

    John McCain has taken a sad, negative attitude in this election. Of course this nasty turn did not start till he got behind. At the end of the day McCain is just another dirty politician, what a way to try and win this election. I could of understood a lot of things he might of said, but the whole lets paint Obama as unAmerican is pitiful, so below you JM, shame on you.

    October 20, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  21. becky in Ohio

    Wow, no sir, it did not have to do with the debates, although McCain did come off testy and a little confused.
    McCain's suspension of his bid for presidency during the economic meltdown and his apparent lack of intelligence on what he should do at a time when our country needed some rational thinking showed many that he clearly cannot handle crisis. Therefore, in a nutshell, he cannot be trusted with the presidency.

    October 20, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  22. Charlie Bradley

    and that, Alexander Mooney, is the reason Obama will triumph.....the people speak for him instead of him espousing hateful, vile, and potentially libelous statements. If I were Soon to Be President Obama, then I would SERIOUSLY consider filing a libel suit against both McCain and Palin.

    October 20, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. Sukka MC

    it's electric!

    October 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  24. KJL

    I think McCain is following Palin like a lost puppy, and she's a nasty, self-righteous politician who will do anything to win.

    October 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  25. Suzy

    What McCain has forgotten is America is not stupid. He can't put us on a string and tell us how to think. I can tell you what I think? Joe the plumber is not effective because it doesn't mean anything to me. It is not about what you can have. It is about the here and now. It is about Joe the Hurricane victim, Joe the unemployed citizen not Joe the millionaire. Actually, Joe is really John the millionaire who is blindsiding his own party making them think it is about them when it isn't. Talk to the voters standing in line.

    October 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
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