UTICA, New York - Democrat Joe Biden won the Vice Presidential debate in St. Louis on Thursday, and his ticket, headed by Barack Obama, enjoys a four-point lead over Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin, the newest Zogby Interactive poll shows.
The survey, initiated after the conclusion of the debate between Biden and Palin, shows that 50% thought Biden won the debate, while 41% said they think Palin won. However, like the first Presidential debate between Obama and McCain, just 4% said they changed their minds about whom to support in the election because of the debate.
Overall, the Obama/Biden ticket leads the McCain/Palin ticket, 48% to 44%, the survey shows.
The poll shows Obama with a slight lead among political independents, 43% to 41%, which accounts for Obama's overall lead, which is statistically insignificant. Polling this year shows that, with such large percentages of Democrats and Republicans supporting their own candidate, the independents may well make the difference in the election. In this latest survey, Obama wins 88% support from Democrats, and McCain wins 87% support from Republicans.
In a key age demographic, those age 35-64, Obama enjoys a 50% to 44% advantage. This group of voters is important because, in addition to being the largest group, it is one that at once wrestles with many of the challenges facing the average American household. Among men, McCain leads by a five-point margin, 48% to 43%, while Obama leads by 14 points among women.
The online survey, conducted Oct. 2-3, 2008, included 2,873 likely voters nationwide, and carries a margin of error of +/- 1.9 percentage points.
Likely voters, by a wide margin, said they would be more confident in Biden's ability to perform as President, if that were to become necessary, compared to Palin. Three out of four people - 75% - said they would have confidence in Biden acting as President. Just 48% said the same about Palin, while the other 52% said they would have little or no confidence in her abilities.
However, Palin helped herself in the debate, the Zogby Interactive survey shows. Nearly four in ten voters - 38% - said they now have a more favorable opinion of her after the debate, while 17% said they now have a less favorable opinion of her. Another 44% said their opinion of her had not changed.
Palin clearly exceeded expectations for her performance: 57% said she did better in the debate than they thought she would, while 38% said she performed about as expected. Just 4% said she did worse than they thought she would do.
Biden also helped himself, the poll shows, as 40% said they have a more favorable opinion of him now, compared to 18% who said they now have a less favorable view of him.
And while 38% said he performed better than they thought he would, 49% said he did about as expected, and 11% said he performed worse that they thought he would.
Biden is seen, by double-digit margins, to hold a better understanding of both economic and national security issues than Palin, the survey shows. More than eight in 10 said they felt Biden demonstrated an acceptable understanding of the issues discussed in the debate, while 51% said the same about Palin.
Most - 84% - said Biden presented himself well in the debate, which held pitfalls in that it was only the second debate in American history to feature a woman - the first being in 1984 when Democrat Geraldine Ferraro squared off against Vice President George H.W. Bush. Asked whether Palin presented herself well, 72% agreed.
After becoming the center of a controversy over her authorship of a new book that includes Barack Obama in the subtitle and which is due out on Inauguration Day, 2009, debate moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS acquitted herself well in the minds of debate-watching voters, as 72% approved of the job she did on stage Thursday night. Another 24% disapproved of the job she did.
Still, voters were split on whether she had a conflict of interest in moderating the debate, as 43% said they believed there was a conflict, and 51% disagreed that a conflict existed.
Not surprisingly after two weeks of tumultuous news, likely voters said the economy is far and away the most important issue to them in deciding whom to support at the ballot box - 67% said it was the top concern, while 10% said that terrorism was most important. Another 8% said energy and fuel prices were most important, while the war in Iraq was cited as the top issue in the race by just 4% of voters.