Obama Won: Gallup/USA Today Poll; 52% Say Obama best to Fix Problems, vs. 35% for McCain

In addition to those two snap polls done just after the debate on Friday by CNN and by CBS, there is now further evidence that Obama won the first debate handily.

A Gallup/ USA Today poll of 701 viewers of the debate done on Saturday found that 46% of viewers said Barack Obama did better; 34% said McCain did. Obviously, there is still a big group of viewers who saw it as a tie or could not decide.

But it is not so important who they thought was the better debater. The big news in this poll is about economic competence, on which over half of viewers gave the nod to Obama while only a little over a third did to McCain

Obama picked up 16 points on the question of how favorably the public views him, whereas for McCain it was a wash. And in this poll viewers were overwhelmingly more enthusiastic about Obama as a steward of the US economy than about McCain

Other scores:

Which candidate offered the best proposals for change to solve America’s problems?

Obama 52%
McCain 35%

Obama made great strides in public acceptance according to this poll. Although a little over half of viewers said their view of him did not change, 30% said they became more favorable toward Obama after seeing the debate. He lost ground with only 14%

The poll did not advance McCain’s campaign. 56% said it did not change their view of him, and 21% said it gave them a more unfavorable view of him, while he improved with another 21%. Since McCain was already behind in the polls going into the debate, this result is very bad for him.

While McCain was dead in the water on favorability, he actually lost ground on perceived economic competence. %37 percent said they had less confidence in his ability to fix the economy after saying the debate, while only 24% said they had more. These figures were almost the reverse in Obama’s case, which is to say, he gained 8 points on this issue while McCain lost 15.

On national security issues it was a tie, which is, again, very bad news for McCain! Not so long ago the Republicans were attempting to portray Sarah Palin as having more executive and foreign policy experience than Obama! It was their hope that McCain would come across as a wise elder statesman and Obama as uninformed and naive. Instead, Americans see Obama as McCain’s peer on foreign policy issues!

The poll has a plus or minus margin of error of 4%. That means that the overwhelming margin of victory for Obama on competence in problem-solving and ability to deal with the economy, and the massive loss of confidence in McCain on the economy, are very solid findings.

It seems to me likely that the stunt McCain pulled, of trying to cancel the debates, raised questions in the public’s mind about his competence. His pick of Palin as running mate (about which he unwisely boasted in the debate) might have shored up the Republican base a little, but that is now only 33% of the electorate, and she will hurt him with everyone else. That 52-35 spread on competence in my view is the big takeaway from this poll.

Gallup is a fine polling agency and I am sure it did its best to weight the respondents by age, income and region. The USA Today article did not provide that information. But the likelihood is that they in fact over-represented the Republicans, because youth and African-Americans are harder to poll, with many of them first-time registrants, and they may well come out for Obama this year, voting in unprecedented numbers because they now finally feel they have a stake in the system, with this candidate.

These results should not make Democrats sanguine. Kerry won his debates with W., but W. went on to destroy Iraq further and then bring down the whole American economy around our ears.

We could still be at war with Iran next year this time, with Captain McCain lobbying nukes at Isfahan from his sub in the Persian Gulf, with all the unpleasant backlash that would entail.

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