Bush's edge comes from a strong response among independent voters: 56 percent choose him as the debate winner. Partisans on each side said their party's nominee won.
With an early focus on foreign policy, Bush was able to showcase a newfound confidence in addressing such issues. Viewers responded positively: 54 percent of viewers say they trust Bush to handle international crises wisely, a jump of 14 points from a national pre-debate CBS News poll of registered voters. Fifty-six percent believe Gore could handle such crises well, nearly the same number who said so earlier this week.
But the impact the North Carolina debate will have on voting behavior is questionable. While an impressive 58 percent of viewers say that they learned something in the debate that helped them make up their mind whom to support, only 10 percent say that the debate actually changed their mind.
As a result, the presidential race remains a dead heat among debate viewers. Before the debate, 49 percent of these viewers were supporting Gore and 46 percent were supporting Bush. Now, 47 percent say they would vote for Gore, and 48 percent for Bush.
This CBS News Poll was conducted online by Knowledge Networks among a nationwide random sample of 669 registered voters, including 553 debate watchers. Knowledge Networks polled a sample of registered voters in its household panel, which is a nationally representative sample of households given access to the Internet via Web TV. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on the entire sample, and the sample of debate watchers.