A lot of people think the debate was pretty even. Obama supporters liked Obama, McCain supporters liked McCain, I assume (that is utterly obvious). But what matters is the effect on uncommitted voters. Aside from the effects of the three major gaffs that McCain made (the cost to him, to his party, and to our nation yet to be determined), the uncommitted voter reaction is the most important outcome of the debate. Now, we have the first indication of what this reaction was.
This is from a CBS/Knowledge Networks poll, the first major poll to come out regarding last nights debate. (PDF of poll is here)
Among uncommitted voters, given the question “Who won the debate?” we get:
Given that Obama is currently a little bit ahead of McCain in the polls, this does not change things, but it does potentially strengthen Obama’s position.
Again, among uncommitted voters, given the question of how the debate changed opinion of each candidate, the shift was, again, in Obama’s favor:
Better opinion 46% for Obama, 32% for McCain
Worse opinion 8% for Obama, 21% for McCain
No change 46-7 percent for all viewers.
In other words, the candidates shifted in “approval rating” among half the voters, with Obama picking up somewhat more positive than McCain, but McCain picking up a MUCH LARGER negative than Obama. That may answer the question: Did McCain’s refusal to look Obama in the eye and his generally dyspeptic attitude drag him down?
According to the poll, the improvement in Obama’s rating came because people were favorably impressed with his poise and knowledge of issues. McCain, it was felt, was not doing a good job of controlling himself under pressure, seemed angry and bad tempered, and talked too much about the past.
On the war in Iraq, somewhat more of these uncommitted voters tended to think that McCain would be more likely to make the right decisions than Obama. The reverse trend wast true, however, for the economy (which is acknowledged as the major issue at the present moment).
One of the biggest shifts resulting from the debate on the issue of who is most prepared to be president.
Is Obama prepared to be president? (Yes/No in percent)
Before the debate: 44/53
After the debate: 60/39
Is McCain prepared to be president? 79/20
After the debate: 78/21
No change for McCain, big move for Obama. McCain’s performance did not have an effect, Obama’s made a huge difference.
The bottom line question is, “who do you prefer to be president, even though you are uncommitted?”
Before the debate, it was Obama (36%) over McCain (34%). Very close.
After the debate, it was Obama (41%) over McCain (29%). Not too close.
Meanwhile, among the uncommitted voters, nearly a third do not express an opinion on this preference. Those, I suppose, are the Uncommitted Uncommitted.