Debate polls

DEBATE POLLS…. Everyone who watched last night’s debate came to their own conclusions about the candidates’ performances, but there’s that other question to consider: what did everyone else think?

Reiterating a point from previous post-debate wrap-ups, snap-polls aren’t the most reliable measurements, but for those of us anxious for data, the surveys at least offer a guide to public opinion.

CBS News conducted a poll of uncommitted voters, and it was even more one-sided than the first two. A 53% majority said Obama won the debate, followed by 22% said McCain won, and 24% who thought it was a tie. The same poll showed Obama enjoying big gains on the candidate who shares voters’ values and his ability to handle a crisis.

CNN conducted a quick national poll and found that 58% of debate viewers thought Obama won, while 31% thought McCain came out ahead. The CNN poll also found that Obama’s favorability rating went from 63% before the debate to 66% after, while McCain’s favorable actually dropped — 51% before the debate, 49% after.

McCain did win on two questions in the CNN poll, but in these cases, the results still weren’t good news for the Republican — a whopping 80% of debate watchers polled said McCain spent more time attacking his opponent, and when respondents were asked which candidate seemed “more like a typical politician,” McCain beat Obama by 19 points.

Politico/InsiderAdvantage did its own poll, which showed far different results — respondents thought Obama won, but by a smaller 49%-46% margin.

Frank Luntz’s focus group sided with McCain Obama, with four members of the 23-person group moving to the Democrat. None moved to McCain. Stan Greenberg’s focus group also really seemed to like Obama.

I got the sense that quite a few of the on-air pundits wanted to side with McCain last night. Obama’s support from actual voters seemed to mess up the media’s preferred narrative.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.