There seems to be a disconnect between the way the pundits and the politically active class saw the debate and the way the average viewer saw it.
Since I’m in the politically active class, I definitely had a different take on it than the other people who were watching it with me. McCain exceeded my expectations, given his actions of late on the campaign trail. Obama, on the other hand, came across as the man I’ve come to respect and admire over the long course of this election cycle. I fell into a trap, because of those views.
Because Obama came across the way I expected, he gained no points from me for performance, while McCain did better than expected. This boosted McCain in my view. Uncommitted voters saw it differently.
Parsing the CBS post-debate poll (pdf) of uncommitted voters shows some interesting findings.
The poll respondents gave Obama a clear margin of victory – Obama 39%, McCain 24%, Tie 37%.
When it came to whether the voter’s opinion of the candidates had changed, 46% said their opinion of Obama had changed for the better versus 32% who said the same for McCain. More significantly, in my mind, 8% had a more negative view of Obama versus 21% who had a worse opinion of McCain.
While McCain saw an improvement on the question of whether he “understands the needs and problems of people like you”, those numbers are still in negative territory – 41% v. 58%. Obama’s numbers were already positive before the debate, yet they soared upwards after the debate – 79% now answer that question, “Yes” compared to 58% who said the same before the debate. This is a huge 21% jump. The largest of either candidate on any question.
Another place where Obama showed improvement was on the question of whether he is prepared to be President. Pre-debate, the respondents had Obama at 44%. Post-debate this number was at 60% positive.
On the key question of the economy, 42% said McCain would make the right decisions on the economy compared to 66% who thought Obama would make the right decisions.
Now for the real biggie – who would you vote for if the election was held today. The voters were pretty well split on this prior to the debate – 34% pro-McCain, 36% for Obama, and 29% uncommitted. There was a clear 5 point swing after the debate. Obama’s numbers went to 41%, McCain’s dropped to 29%. The undecideds stayed at 29%.
This was only one poll of 483 uncommitted voters. The tracking poll movements over the next few days should show whether it was accurate. I, for one, am anxious to see those polls.
More good news from a USA Today/Gallup poll.
In this poll, Obama had a 12 point advantage on the question of who did better in the debate – 46% to 34%.
When asked who gave the best proposals to solve the country’s problems, the difference was 17% in favor of Obama – 52% to 35%.
Obama also gained from the overall impression people got from the debate. While McCain gained nothing in this poll with 21% saying it made them view him more favorably and 21% saying less favorably, three of ten voters said they viewed Obama more favorably compared to 14% who said less favorably.
McCain continued his negative numbers with 37% expressing more doubt that McCain had the right answers for the economy compared to 23% who had more confidence in him. A negative swing of 14 points. Obama gained in this category with 34% saying more confidence against 26% who said less confident – a net gain of 8%.
This poll showed a wash on foreign policy and national security with each man getting about 1/3rd of voters who felt more confident in them and slightly less voicing less confidence.
It appears that the CW is that Obama came out ahead in the debate. This is great, given the state of the race going into the debate. There should be a clear bump in Obama’s numbers in the polls that will be released over the next few days.