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 β€” 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. Julie-Washington State

    The media has always said that both campaigns were running attack ads. To me the attack ads that the McCain/Palin campaign has been running are "dirty" attack ads. In every election you have attack ads letting the people know on what the other candidate stands for and why it is wrong.....McCain has reached a new low with "Dirty" attack ads. I do not believe that John McCain has any control over his campaign. I think he has his eye on the "prize" and that is the only thing he sees and will do and say anything to get it. The John McCain I wanted to win in 2000 is not this man I see. He had moved too far to the right.
    Obama to be fair brought up the Keating 5 which I felt did not need to be done but he has far less "dity" adds out there and more adds showing why McCain issues won't work.

    October 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  2. Proud to be American

    McCain ads are not fair or truthful.... but then it is a McCain and Palin ad.... that is why a vote for McCain = Bush 3rd term!

    October 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  3. Indiana Joe

    We are all tired about the McCain/Palin ticket FEAR AND SMEAR tactics... that aim the most uninformed segments of the population.

    Hey Johnnie here is a HISTORIC FACT:
    The McCain/Palin ticket is the first in American history in which both candidates were found to have violated ethics standards before a national election.

    Now that is a FACT, is not a smear, is not a lie... For a united country, VOTE OBAMA / BIDEN!

    October 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. crystal mitchell

    If we as Americans put a person in the white house that will do anything say anything attitude, that will go so far as to lie , is crazy. We are our moral's and intergity. I think what McCain and his camp is doing is trying to divide the country. The problem is that most Americans are not interested in negative and racist comments. We just want to fix this problem and not be laid off our jobs. To be able to buy grocery, have health insurance and to be able to give our kids the hope of attending college. McCain you can not convince us that you are able to fix this problem by attacking Obama. You have spent most of this campaign attacking Obama, the American people haven't really heard what your plans are. What we do know is that you can attack on a negative level. We don't care . And it's sad that you have chosen to go this way. I will be supporting Obama/Biden ticket, it's the ticket for this season. Palin is not ready and McCain you are not ready.

    October 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  5. Jack Jodell, Minneapolis, MN

    This will go down in history as the filthiest, most dishonest campaign of all time. Nice job, McCain. You don't deserve even one vote.

    October 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  6. karen Raleigh

    Slanderous, desperate man. Obama/ Biden 08

    October 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  7. Judi, San Antonio

    As a teacher and a licensed counselor, it is unsettling for me to experience how irresponsible the McCain-Palin campaign has become with in their damaging rhetoric. We work daily to teach children to speak with good purpose and to be good citizens of this wonderful country. It is hurtful to see purported leaders demonstrate use of dangerous language at a time when our country faces so many serious challenges.

    October 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  8. Barnhardt in NC

    I was in Ohio last week and saw nothing but smears from McCain. Obama ran several different ads and only one was negative.

    McCain has run the worst campaign ever.

    October 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  9. SoniaGA

    Here's an idea McCain,

    State your own policies and let the people decide! Stop attacking Obama and say what YOU stand for, that might have helped you!

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

    Come on McCain and Palin!!!

    October 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  11. silence is golden

    good job CNN your polls are at last completely correct πŸ™‚
    someone tell th poll person that he did a great job πŸ™‚

    October 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. Lesley

    For those who think that Obama's attacks have been deeply personal and vile, perhaps you do not remember the attacks on McCain perpetrated by the Bush campaign, particularly the stuff that went out in South Carolina in 2000. Obama has overall spent more on ads of every type, but McCain's meager allowance for ads has been spent more on negatives against his opponent than positives for himself and that is probably why he is behind. His thought that attacking Obama the way he was attacked would work again is not happening for him. McCain spent too much time attacking and not enough putting out his own plans and positives, and it's too late now to do both negative and positive campaigning. He should have provided himself the leadership he is promising the country. It would have served him better.

    October 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. Ilona from Alberta

    Hey folks – it's a poll ie. what the people think!

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. Kate

    I am throughly enjoying the collective panic attack of the right wingers here. Brings a smile to my face, actually. It's about time that you nuts were marginalized. Welcome to the next 4 years, whackos. πŸ™‚

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. UMMMM...

    park more.............. it's SHAME not sham... a sham is a type of pillow case

    why don't you get on FOX news for being biased instead of CNN? Fox news is so right-wing and idiotic, CNN is not biased, grow up

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  16. Preco, NY

    McCain is NOT PRESIDENTIAL for the following reasons:

    He says things repeating them when they are obvious lies, because on some other occasion he has actually said the exact opposite, is he senile? Is that the onset of dementia or is that the real McCain!

    He is a mean-spirited and irritable man; he behaves like a child whose toys have been taken over by another. is his juvenile behavior and mean spirit ness an onset of senility or dementia? or is that the real McCain?

    He claims he is an expert on foreign policy and national security, my friends I have only heard contradictory, mixed up lies regarding past events, names and actions on these policies from McCain. Is this the onset of senility or dementia or is this the real McCain.

    My conclusion is that he is either at the onset of senility or dementia or HE IS CLULESS ABOUT THE REALITIES OF THE CHALLENGES FACING AMERICA AND THE REST OF THE WORLD IN THE 21st CENTURY. I will settle for clueless!!!

    God bless America.

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  17. Former Republican in Texas

    I was a die-hard Republican for many many years (I'm 60 now). I've worked on many a Republican campaign– right now to knocking on doors & takling face to face with people.

    But I can NOT support the continued failed policies; the lies & deceit & corruption; the spreading of hate, bigotry, & fear; and the ignorance all now exhibited by the GOP as a whole.

    I've already voted, and while I voted for a couple of local Republicans, I cast my Presidential/VP vote for Barack Obama & Joe Biden. I sincerely hope a majority of Texans will finally see thru the filth we have been subjected to by George Bush & Dick Cheney & Karl Rove & Newt Gingrinch & Rush Limbaugh & all the rest of their disgusting GOP machinery, will stand up and say enough-is-enough! It's time to say "yeah, it's broke, let's try to fix it" and give Obama & Biden the opportunity.

    Yep, I'm going to get hit with higher taxes (being in that mythical 5%), but ya know, we're ALL going to get hit with higher taxes no matter what we make.... why??? ..... because of the fact that George Bush has run up a 10 TRILLION DOLLAR national debt (and still climbing). So remember that when doing your taxes for the next 20 years– you'll still be paying off the Bush/Cheney debt!

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. Zach

    Why would Warren Buffett support Obama if Obama is a "socialist?"

    Please, someone explain that to me...

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. Unfair Really?

    Obama has spent more money on negative adds and has put more on the air than McCain!
    I't because of the vast amount of money and adds make it look different than it is. Obama is out spending him 6 to one on adds so if Obama puts out only 30% of his adds as negative it will still be more than McCain.
    ALSO Lets be honest about the Powell endorsement,
    Powell is the one who sold the American people the Iraq war as the right thing to do! when it comes to polices Colin Powell is lock step with McCain. He is a true republican BUT, he is an AFRICAN AMERICAN 1st then a republican.He sees the writing on the wall and rightfully so, this may be the only time in his life that he will have an opportunity to support a black candidate.

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  20. mere

    I still don't understand why the media is just now questioning a Republican's tactic, when Republicans did the same thing to Kerry with the swift boat. That was unfair. And the writer of swift boat even said that it was not based on actual factual documentation but on just the opinions of a few. Republicans are big at lies and inuendo and have been for decades. In fact if all of the Republican Campaigns from Nixon's to McCain's were examined on what they said of the other guy and what was factual, It might surprise everyone to see just how the lies, small lies, and half truths became the power of the Republicans.

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  21. C A

    About time you placed a story in front of the one with the picture of that fat-faced loud mouth bigot Limbaugh. Why do you waste your time even giving this guy ant attention at all. The very sight of him along with his racist tirades on the radio make most sensible people sick.

    No one needs a poll to understand that Mccain has attacked Obama unfairly. Naturally there will be a war of words against politicians running against one another. But everyone knows that McCain's attacks have been deeply personal and filled with innuendo that Obama is not one of us, that he is not an Amercian, with a touch of racism in all these attacks.

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  22. Greed is not good

    Time for some blowback in the face of McWarmonger and Caribou Barbie

    October 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  23. Jude

    NO suprise here. We all knew this already!!! Signals another nail in the coffin!!!

    October 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  24. Oh Please

    How about the unjust and unfair remarks about Hillary and Palin. Poor little Obama!! Listen, this campaign has been about "race" not "negativity". The media, Oprah, now Powell want Obama in for obvious reasons. Powell might be smart (although I no longer view him in the same way since he slapped the people who gave him his start in the face) but Obama is NOT SMART. He most likely will get in and we are all in big trouble if he does. Powell is not running for President – Obama sadly is and his color is going to get him in – not his leadership or his being intelligent. Sad day for America if he gets in. His wife can go back to being unproud of America like she always has been.

    October 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. Praetorian

    Once he unleashed Palin–who lacks credibility anyway–it was all over.

    After two years of this stuff–I'll be glad when the campaign is over and President Obama–can get to work .

    October 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
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