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.

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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.