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. Turning the page

    This stuff is below you John McCain, used to be below you!!

    October 20, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  2. Wendy in NC

    What the McCain campaign does not realize is that each time they come up with a new negative slam, Obama supporters send in $5, $10, $25 dollars to Obama. It has become almost like a 'drinking' game only with donations. So as I see it, McCain's negative remarks are a huge part of Obama's fundraising.
    Obama/Biden all the way

    October 20, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. Rob Johnson

    Throwing in with the Rush Limbaugh crowd was a mistake, that is when McCain's campaign took a turn for the negative. It all started with picking Limbaugh's favorite Sarah Palin for VP, and it's been all downhill from there.

    October 20, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  4. Matthew

    Socialism is what has protected countries like Cuba from economic disasters and has provided relief to many third world countries. It is funny that many black civic leaders have been given this label including Dr. King. This is what divides the conquered.

    October 20, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  5. Griff

    Bully for CNN...............

    October 20, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  6. Oliver

    Life is unfair. Just deal with it.

    October 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  7. School librarian

    To Matt, and all others. Don't worry about the world pushing Obama around. Be confident that the world will rally around him.

    October 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. park more

    Sham on you CNN........ Why cannot you say that you want Obama ...... Sham on you...... I am democrat and I will vote McCain this term. I am just ugly with CP decision...... Like sun 100% RACE......... He did not do a smart move....... We will see on November......... CNN people wash brain......... weak up before it is too late.... Vote McCain

    October 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. Papa Gino

    Raising questions is negative? Not voting for someone because you feel their ideas are wrong is racist? Questioning a person's health and age as grounds for tiness to run the country is positive? Poking fun of a lady's commitment to her family and questioning whether she should have not aborted her Down's Syndrome child is is the epitome of virtuousness? I'm sorry, but "The One" is wrong for this country, Socialism is wrong for this country and we will all suffer the consequences if Barack is elected. Bad news, Barry, the end result of Marxism is that there IS NO WEALTH TO BE SPREAD AROUND!

    October 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  10. DMD, New York

    Crybaby BamBam followers! Didn't they whimper something similar about HIllary's campaign against him? I know I DON'T want to break my back bringing in hard earned money only to have the wealth spread around and my money goes to some lazy bum down the street who will just abuse the system and never gets off hs/her duff to get a job!!! And do you not think that if taxes are only going to be raised on the rich and corporations, that prices we pay as consumers will also rise, and so yes....the little tax payer guys like us are the ones where the money will come from. I am voting McCain/Palin as I say NO to Obama's socialism/marxism or whatever it is he's spewing.

    October 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. Arizonan for Obama

    Hey dallas, tx, how about those robocalls that have been going out by McCain and the RNC telling lies that have been publicly debunked numerous times by every major news agency including Fox? By the way, Obama has much more money than does McBush which makes it easier for him to buy advertisements.

    Sylvia B, there are a lot of us here in Arizona who are not willing to vote for McBush. I live in metropolitan Phoenix and I see way more Obama signs and stickers than I do McCain stickers.

    October 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. Mike, Fredericksburg VA

    Negative ads? This from the Obama camp? Yeah, right.
    Negative ads aside, why hasn't the public heard more about Obama's judgement relative to his economic advisors, the very same advisors that built the foundation of the current mortgage debacle. Good judgement. Yes, Obama has stayed above the fray of using racially charged comments against McCain; that's because he has had his minion, eg., Sen Lewis, Farrakhan et al, do his dirty work for him. Again, excellent executive decision making abilities.
    In the event that Obama becomes president, perhaps he'll represent the US in the same manner as he has Illinois by being "present."

    October 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. John

    CNN – A lot of voters know that CNN wants Obama to win and your polls are no longer accurate. YOU HAVE LOST YOUR REPUTATION AS A BIG DIRTY MEDIA COMPANY.

    October 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Joseph Turick

    Are you kidding me? Saying obama's position in the race may have some bearing due to his multimillion $$$$ war chest? Duh!

    October 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. mume

    McCain/palin kiss Ma bumper Obama all da way

    October 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  16. ARB

    It's a shame that CNN can't provide honest coverage and that they are biased toward Obama...I hope you Obama supporters know what you're in for if/when he gets elected.

    October 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. TJ

    Am very sick and fed up with McCain/Palin lies lies lies lies lies!! No offer of plans of how to get the US economy going...NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING. On CNN news, John McCain has some black ancestry and his brother Joe attends the reunion of the Black McCains every year except John McCain,

    October 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. Leah DiMarco, Texas

    The UNITED States of America – ONE NATION.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. Ann - Maryland

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a poll for that matter) to figure that one out! Make sure you all get out and vote on Nov. 4th!

    Go Obama!

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

    Wow I have read more positive comments for Obama than McCains!!! Good I see that obama is still up in the polls even though they are close! I have only read 3 or 4 comments for McPalin!!!
    Now lets get out there and VOTE!!!!! OBAMA!!!!!!!!!

    October 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. tulsa

    Did you watch the debates? I think McCain hit as hard as he could in the last one and Obama took it, responded with a calm, forcefull rebuke.
    He didn't have to raise his voice, or his eyebrows. He didn't have to bring up McCain's past. He was the better man with a stronger backbone.
    Too bad you can't see.
    lol,,,, Hope you like your life buddy.

    October 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. Undecided

    Just a turn around, and about time! First half of the campaign, the percentage was reversed! Just tells me, Obama can dish it out, but can't take it! Sounds like Kindergarten to me!

    October 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  23. mume

    McCain/palin kiss Ma bumper

    October 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. republicans hate america

    Yep and I just voted early for Obama so stick it McCain I am so tired of you!

    October 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. Obama is for UNITING of the PEOPLE

    Dear Jack October 20th, 2008 4:18 pm ET
    obama = WELFARE
    McCain = JOBS
    VOTE SMART: McCain/Palin – we can TRUST them
    Jack if this is true, you say McCain = JOBS…….WHY did hundreds of employee's at McCain wife millionaire beer company LOSE their JOBS within the LAST 20 months (while McCain has been campaigning)? TO SAVE HER and HER COMPANY MILLIONS to POCKET.........Don't you think McCain should have USED his claim of CREATE JOBS at HOME first to show the American voters he is telling the TRUTH for once????????

    The McCain'S – JOBS is more LIKE it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
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