Likely voters nationwide who watched Friday’s debate in Mississippi between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain gave Obama the win by the slightest of margins, a new Zogby Interactive survey shows.
The poll shows that 44% believed Obama won the debate, while 41% said McCain did. Another 16% said they watched the debate but were unsure who came out on top.
Women gave Obama the nod, while men said they felt McCain won the first face-off. But some partisans had doubts. Just 78% of Democrats felt Obama won the debate, and just 80% of Republicans felt McCain won. Independents, by a four-point margin, said Obama won the debate.
By a 47% to 34% margin, debate-watchers said they felt Obama was better prepared for the event than was McCain. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that both candidates performed better than expected.
A Zogby Interactive survey before the debate showed that, by a 4-3 ratio, likely voters believed Obama would win this first presidential debate.
The online poll included 2,102 likely voters nationwide and carries a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points.
Said pollster John Zogby: “Some observations from our latest polling - Obama leads by 11 points among likely voters who hold at least a college degree. McCain is ahead by five among those without a degree.
“Obama scores big with a 30-point advantage among moderates, and edges into a five-point lead among independents, including a five-point lead among independent women. McCain, meanwhile, has strong possession of recent Republican stalwarts like frequent Wal-Mart shoppers (leading by 25 points) NASCAR fans (leading by 40 points), and the self-described investor class (leading by 15 points). We’ve got a lot of campaigning to go here yet.”
The survey, which went into the field almost immediately after the conclusion of the debate and came out Saturday late afternoon, also showed Obama with a statistically insignificant 47.1% to 45.9% lead overall in a head-to-head “horserace” question. Voters nationwide also said they felt, again by a narrow margin, that Obama has handled himself better than McCain in dealing with the current financial crisis.
Obama’s tiny edge comes from independent voters, who favor him over McCain by a small 44% to 39% margin, while Obama wins 89% support from Democratic Party voters, the same level of support he has won in the last several Zogby surveys.
The survey shows that McCain helped himself a little among his base Republican voters since the last Zogby Interactive survey taken just a few days ago. He now wins 92% support among Republicans, up three points from mid-week last week.
Considering the support of the independent voters, Obama’s five point advantage is one of the largest he has won in head-to-head contests against McCain since June, when he led by 21 points. Since June, independent voters have largely been up for grabs. Because both candidates are now winning very high percentages of their own political bases, the independents become a key group in the election.
Among women, Obama leads by 10 points, but among men, McCain leads by nine points. Obama leads among voters under age 30, while McCain leads by a slightly smaller margin among voters age 65 and older. Among those voters age 30 to 64, the two are essentially tied.
In a five-way horserace including Obama, McCain, Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, Green Party Cynthia McKinney, and independent Ralph Nader, Barr wins nearly four percent support.