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. McCrazy

    Obama may spend the same on negative ads, but McCain is 100% negative where Obama is only 50%.

    100% shows me he has nothing positive to say about himself.

    October 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. Denise....Boardman, Ohio

    The American public is not as "dumb" as Sen. McCain and his "side kick" think we are. We know a "pig" when we see one...especially one that wallows in the dirt...a dirty pig with lipstick....what an image...I will be glad to see these two "clowns" running off into the sunset of Alaska...16 days and counting....

    October 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Drew

    That's what republicans do, isn't it? Democrats spend, Republicans use fear as a weapon. This isn't anything new. I just can't believe Rush Limbaugh actually has fans.

    October 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  4. Shari, NY

    Trying to deliver a TKO to Obama is like Don Quixote challenging windmills, so they have no alternative but to sell their souls to the devil and call themselves "conservatives". What blasphemy!

    October 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. Shari in galesburg

    We have seen enough negative in the White House...and we all know how that pans out!!

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  6. sal

    MCCain has loss

    Obama Biden will get other GOP support soon

    Obama has raised the thinking of all

    It is starting manifest a more empowered America, in possibly transforming the world.

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  7. KenB, MI

    We are not surprised that the extremism of the Republican party would come out in a last ditch effort to gain ground. We will not waver, we will not falter, we will continue to pursue life and liberty through the course of change for the greater good of this great nation.

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  8. Matt

    Poor Barack Obama always the victim. I wonder if CNN will be able to stick up for him when the rest of the world pushes him around if he is the president.

    How about a president with a backbone who can stick up for himself and not some wimp lace curtain radical who cries to the press when people make fun of him for having no experience, no record, questionable friends and not a clue about what to do as president.

    Barack Obama deflate that bloated ego of yours. You are not the One. Has not finished even one term as a Senator and thinks he can be president. Fake flags, fake presidential seals. PATHETIC EGO MANIAC

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  9. Ken in Dallas

    Here's a fair one:

    Sarah Palin has, as governor of Alaska, imposed a windfall profits tax on oil companies producing in Alaska and used the money to issue checks to all the citizens of Alaska. Palin raised taxes in Alaska so she could spread the wealth. Evidently, socialism works for Sarah Palin.

    Obama intends to invest public money to get some necessary things done. Unlike Palin, he does not intend to offer handouts to the undeserving, as she did.

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  10. KG, Twin Cities

    Your policies are supposed to be your argument for getting my vote. John McCain couldn't get his party's nomination in 2000. He changed his policies to be more like the person that beat him then, George W. Bush. Now, if they (the polcies) weren't good enough in 2000 for Repubs, how could they appeal to independents or democrats in 2008? The answer is they can't so he is running on a campaign of fear and smear. It will not get my vote.

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. McCain Campaign will NOT discuss ISSUES

    McCain will not discuss issues, only slings mud, and just today I hear that they are "thinking about" bringing out Rev. Wright. I have lost all resprct for McCain. Its the ECONOMY STUPID!

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  12. TMac

    Wakeup !

    Mc Same & Palin are giving you the ole' 2 time switch.

    If they can keep you angry at their Rivals.. You'll forget about the real Crap that they themselves have been engageing in.
    All the Negativity is to take attention away from Sarah Palins Poor Character qualities of Abuses of power.
    Her Lack of Accountability & Transparency.

    Also to take attention away from the 2nd Major Economic catastrohpy that John Mc Cain was a KEY player in... 1989 Keating 5 & NOW 2008.
    His History of Charging on with no Regulation of wall St.

    Barack & Joe.. Go Cats Go..!

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  13. Sylvia

    "who" are they polling? The cartoon characters or the Dallas Cowboys????
    If all these "polls" are so accuarate then why isn't Obama ahead by 30%??????

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. A Senior Southern Lady - NC

    John McCain, a once decent and honorable man, has become caught-up in the tatics of Karl Rove. I expected better of McCain.
    My vote goes to Obama.

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  15. Independent but Leaning

    We need 4 years of Socialist "spread the wealth" coupled with an international crisis intended to test our nation. That will be great for the economy. Just great. Cut me off a slice of that, oh yeah.

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. My Border Collie is Smarter Than Pitbull Palin

    During that charity dinner it was like McCain was packing it in, he has nothing left but attacks.

    Pack it in Johnny time to go home and take Sarah with you.

    Voted early today!!! For Obama!!!!

    October 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. Peter (CA)

    Tracey says, "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."

    That says it all, doesn't it? The Republicans have nothing positive to say so they will settle for sleaze, lies, and fear to win. Look at the blogs....the right wingers keep foaming about socialism, terrorists, and "unfair" taxes. Real Americans will see through this.

    October 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  18. Lori

    I'm so irritated with the McCain attacks that I just contributed to the Obama campaign. I urge others who are as tired of the negativity to do the same!

    October 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. drone

    McCain/Palin are a bunch of hate-mongers that will do nothing but divide this country... The way they run their hate filled campaign will be the same way they run this country.. And the more we as Americans will be hated because of our evil leaders....

    October 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  20. Ann

    Well there's a no-brainer. Like Victor said, I can't believe it took a poll to come to that conclusion. Why do you think so many Republicans are turning to Obama?

    Obama/Biden 2008

    October 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  21. Eliot from Chicago, Illinois

    The shame is he is most likely a nice guy who is being manipulated by Karl Rove's "offspring" – who have convinced him that he needs to do the negative campaigning and pick Palin.

    October 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  22. malclave

    Too bad the so-called "journalists" aren't proving worthy of their first amendment rights.

    Maybe if CNN and (most of) the rest of the press actually did their jobs, people would see that the Obama campaign is just as negative as the McCain campaign.

    The worst attack ad I've seen is still the one by the Demcoratic Party misrepresenting McCain's "100 Years" comments. But, liberals that they are, the media is more interested in playing Monica to Obama's Bill.

    October 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  23. vince

    when you have no answers you have to go negitive john mcinsane will have to live with this the rest off his life he sold his soul to to the devil. maybe his buddy rush limboob has a few extra pills so that john will be able to sleep at nites after his sleezy message that he endorses

    October 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  24. jaye

    I use to be a supporter of John McCain and the republican party – I stood up for McCain during the primary election when Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were being very hard on him (my how things have changed). Anyway, I am now repulsed by JOhn McCain, Sara Palin, and any republican that supports them and their horrible campaign.
    Rudy Guilianni, whom I once thought a hero, is now just as repulsive as John McCain and Sarah Palin.
    I will never support any of them anymore.

    October 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  25. Lilarose in Bandon-by-the-Sea, Oregon

    If you support Obama, don't get complacent thinking because he is ahead in the polls that he is going to win the election.


    AND YOUNG PEOPLE–you are the culprits most of the time–lots of talk and no do!

    I have never missed an election since JFK–not a local, state, or national election. I worked on Robert Kennedy's campaign until the moment he was murdered.

    Obama is a special man like JFK and RFK. I was there then and I know it now!

    Do your duty and you will elect the best candidates! OBAMA/BIDEN

    October 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
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