Saturday, September 27, 2008

Who won the first presidential debate?

By George Harris, Kansas City Star Readers Advisory Panel 2008

September 27, 2008 at 5:40 a.m.

Ignore all commentators' opinions expressed without evidence. The winner is determined by the numbers, especially the votes of the undecided. Here are some preliminary answers:

A CBS Insta Poll of 500 uncommitted voters shows Barack Obama won 39% to John McCain's 25% with 36% saying the debate was a draw.

Insider Advantage reports those polled say Obama won 42% to McCain's 41% with Undecided 17%

CNN reports voter opinions that Obama "did better" 51%, McCain "did better" 38%

The CNN poll showed men were evenly split, but women gave Obama higher marks 59% to 41% for McCain.

The CNN pollster noted a slight Democratic bias in the survey. Well, there are more Democrats in the country, so more Democrats watched. However, this may also suggest Democratic enthusiasm which will help turn out the vote.

The MSNBC on-line (non-scientific) poll showed Obama winning the debate 52% to 33%. (But this is what one would expect from such a poll at MSNBC because of the nature of its viewers.)

Some free analysis: McCain appeared angry and dismissive of Obama and generally impressed as someone who would slap colleagues across the aisle if reaching over to them. He said several times in the debate that he hasn't won the Miss Congeniality contest in the Senate, and he proved why during the debate.

I suspect that women voters especially would be turned off by McCain's sarcastic tone because women do tend to be the conciliators in our society and saw Obama display those conciliatory qualities very well in the debate. Obama looked at McCain, and McCain wouldn't return the eye contact but rather glared or displayed a tight and angry expression.

I also suspect (but don't have the data to support) that older voters were also turned off by Senator McNasty. I believe older voters will also be reassured that, though McCain has been around longer, Obama has a good grasp of foreign affairs and can learn quickly. He impressed as a statesmen, in marked contrast to McCain's warrior demeanor.

McCain referred to Obama as naive or as not understanding on many issues when the listener probably saw a mere difference of opinion. McCain's condescenion felt annoying; to the listener who might agree or disagree with Obama, Obama nevertheless was making good points, not naive ones.

In general, I think the country is tired of negativity, and McCain's performance didn't give anyone the impression that age has mellowed him. In fact, he seemed rather proud of his continuing bellicose manner. The country seems ready for a change from the "fighting as first choice crowd."

Watch for new polls over the next week. Things can shift for a variety of reasons as people reflect on the debate.

Poll Results Suggest More Uncommitted Voters Saw Obama As Debate Winner
by Brian Montopoli

CBS News and Knowledge Networks conducted a nationally representative poll of approximately 500 uncommitted voters reacting to the debate in the minutes after it happened.

Thirty-nine percent of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. Twenty-four percent thought John McCain won. Thirty-seven percent saw it as a draw.

Forty-six percent of uncommitted voters said their opinion of Obama got better tonight. Thirty-two percent said their opinion of McCain got better.

Sixty-six percent of uncommitted voters think Obama would make the right decisions about the economy. Forty-two percent think McCain would.

The margin of sampling error could be plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

Keywords: debate poll who won the debate Senator McNasty abrasive Obama won

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