Uncommitteds Tab Edwards Winner

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John Edwards continued the Democratic ticket's winning streak in Tuesday night's vice presidential debate. He was judged the winner – at least among uncommitted voters who watched the debate, just as John Kerry was last week.

Immediately after the debate, CBS News interviewed a nationally representative sample of 178 debate watchers assembled by Knowledge Networks who were "uncommitted voters" – voters who are either undecided about who to vote for or who have a preference but say they could still change their minds.

Forty-one percent of these uncommitted debate watchers said Edwards won the debate tonight. Twenty-eight percent said Cheney won. Thirty-one percent thought it was a tie.

WHO WON THE DEBATE?
(Uncommitted Voters Who Watched Debate)

Edwards
41%
Cheney
28%
Tie
31%

Both men and women who are uncommitted in their vote gave the win to Edwards tonight.

In the days right after the 2000 vice-presidential debate, by 47 percent to 22 percent, voters said Cheney had won the debate over his Democratic opponent Lieberman; another quarter said the 2000 vice-presidential debate was a tie.

Edwards also greatly improved opinions of him among these voters, and Cheney also made some gains. Nearly half of these uncommitted voters said their opinion of Edwards has changed for the better as a result of the debate. Just 14 percent said they have a lower opinion of Edwards after tonight, and 37 percent didn't change their views of Edwards.

As for the Vice President, 32 percent of uncommitted viewers said that their image of Cheney changed for the better as a result. Fifteen percent say their opinion of Cheney got worse. But a majority, 53 percent, did not change their opinions.

Before tonight, most of these uncommitted voters were undecided in their overall evaluations of either Edwards or Cheney.

OPINIONS OF THE CANDIDATES AFTER DEBATE
(Uncommitted Voters Who Watched Debate)

Edwards
Changed for the better
49%
Changed for the worse
14%
No change
37%

Cheney
Changed for the better
32%
Changed for the worse
15%
No change
53%

Uncommitted voters came away from the debate believing that both John Edwards and Dick Cheney could be an effective president if needed.

The North Carolina Senator is better liked among uncommitted voters than the Vice President. Eighty-two percent of men and 72 percent of women of this group of voters said they would like Edwards personally, while half of both men and women said Cheney was likeable.

Eighty-two percent of tonight's uncommitted viewers said Edwards shared their priorities for the country, nearly twice the number who said this about Cheney. The Vice President did receive higher scores on leadership qualities from tonight's uncommitted viewers, but majorities said both candidates had strong qualities of leadership.

Most of uncommitted voters watching tonight said the vice-presidential candidates would have a great deal of influence on their vote for President in November. Forty-three percent said the vice-presidential candidates would not affect their vote on Election Day. But these individuals had just watched (and reacted to) 90 minutes of the candidates.

Kerry was widely viewed by as the winner by voters nationwide in a CBS News poll following last week's debate. He improved his likeability with uncommitted voters, especially on the issue of Iraq in the first debate. In a post-debate CBS News/New York Times national poll, the horserace tightened after the debate to 47 percent to 47 percent among likely voters, changing from the Bush-Cheney ticket's pre-debate nine-point lead over Kerry and Edwards.

THE DEBATE: MOMENT BY MOMENT

Uncommitted voters in this poll graded the candidates with a sliding scale using their remote controls during the debate. In the real-time evaluations of tonight's debate, John Edwards scored well with uncommitted voters when he talked about the Administration not capturing Osama bin Laden, and in discussing the war in Iraq, when he critiqued the Administration for not having enough people on the ground to secure that nation and hold an election. On other foreign policy matters, Edwards did well when he talked of putting pressure on Iran and the Saudis in order to help make Israel safe.

The Vice President did especially well – and especially well with women – when he talked about the events in Afghanistan and the opening of schools there and the upcoming vote. Cheney scored some of his best ratings when he talked about international sanctions and their effect on Libya and other nations.

When Edwards described his account of Cheney's tenure at Halliburton and that company's dealings with Iran, he registered very high with the uncommitted voters. Other than that exchange, neither candidate did especially well when they attacked each other directly.

Both candidates scored high points when they talked about the need to limit lawsuit and keep frivolous lawsuits out of the system, Cheney when he mentioned that doctors were being driven out of practice – especially OB-GYNs, which gave him very high ratings with women. Edwards did well when he said lawsuits must be limited and when he talked of his own experience fighting in the courts.

On the tax issue, Edwards scored very high points when he said there was a moral responsibility to keep poor children out of poverty, and when he said that the Bush Administration was for outsourcing jobs.



This CBS News poll was conducted online by Knowledge Networks among a nationwide random sample of 178 uncommitted voters – voters who don't yet know who they will vote for, or who have chosen a candidate but may still change their minds – who have agreed to watch the debate. Knowledge Networks, a Silicon Valley company, conducted the poll among a sample of adult members of its household panel, a nationally representative sample given access to the Internet via Web TV. The questions were administered using the Internet.

This is a scientifically representative poll of undecided voters' reaction to the presidential debate. The margin of sampling error could be plus or minus 7 percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.


  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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