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Sep 27 08 4:33 PM
In the meter-market overnights, Friday night's 90-minute debate in Mississippi received a preliminary household rating of 33.2, according
to Nielsen Media Research.
That's 16% lower than the national number from the 2004 debate, which aired on a Thursday -- generally TV's most-watched night of the
week. Friday's number is only slightly above George W. Bush and Al Gore's first debate in 2000 and the Clinton-Dole debate in 1996.
The McCain-Obama rating represents 55 of the 56 largest TV viewing markets in the country and includes cable and broadcast networks. A firmer
sense of the debate's popularity will be available Monday when Nielsen releases the national numbers -- including total viewers -- so the debate's
overall rank could shift. The St. Louis market had the largest debate audience, with a household rating of 52.1, while the Phoenix/Prescott market had the
lowest rating, 24.8 (top markets
The first 1980 bout between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter still holds the record as the most-viewed televised presidential debate, with a
58.9 household rating and 80.6 million viewers.
Ratings expectations ran very high for Friday's event, given that Obama's and McCain's convention speeches set Nielsen viewership
records, and all the will-he-or-won't-he suspense over whether McCain would participate. If last night's numbers are maintained in the nationals, most
will probably blame the debate being scheduled on Friday night for the relatively average tune-in.
Media observers generally say the debate was a draw: "Few hits, no errors" says the LA Times. "Obama showed leadership, McCain proved experience," says
Bloomberg. "It was clear throughout that they didn't like each other, but the new debate format kept
them from ever really getting into it," says THR. "Neither candidate won," says Slate.
"The big winner was America," says Forbes.
Though polls by CNN and CBS gave the edge to Obama.
On Friday night, ABC's coverage tentatively averaged a 7.1 household rating/11 share while NBC averaged a 6.2/10, CBS a 5.0/8 and Fox
3.1/5. Fox News Channel led way among cable networks with a 4.7 rating for the debate, with CNN getting a 4.1 and MSNBC getting a 2.2. Also: PBS said their
telecast of the debate earned a 1.7 HH rating, which isn't normally included in the Nielsen report, but if added brings the overall total to
National household ratings for earlier presidential debates (each year's first debate only):
2004: Kerry-Bush: 39.4
2000: Bush-Gore: 31.7
1996: Clinton-Dole: 31.6
1992: Clinton-Bush-Perot: 38.3
1988: Bush-Dukakis: 36.8
1984: Reagan-Mondale: 45.3
1980: Carter-Reagan: 58.9
1976: Ford-Carter: 53.5
Sep 28 08 6:06 AM
Sep 28 08 11:22 AM
Sep 28 08 6:22 PM
By Heidi Przybyla
Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- The presidential debate changed the preferences of few voters, reinforcing previous perceptions about the candidates' strengths
and continuing to give Democrat Barack Obama an advantage over Republican John McCain.
Voters who watched the Sept. 26 debate preferred Obama, 49 percent to 44 percent, according to a Bloomberg News/Los Angeles Times poll of 448 respondents
over the weekend. Obama scored much higher among these voters on the economy, as he did in a national poll last week, and McCain reaffirmed the perception that
he is better on national security.
One potentially important finding among these debate watchers is that while McCain retained his advantage on experience, voters said Obama seemed more
presidential by a 46 percent to 33 percent margin. Among those uncertain about their vote -- those who are either undecided or declaring they may change
preference -- Obama was more than 2-to-1 ahead of McCain on this question.
``The thing that helped Obama slightly is that he seemed more presidential,'' said Susan Pinkus, who conducts the poll. ``He passed the presidential test.'' By a small margin,
more people said they thought Obama ``won'' the debate.
Both the debate and the poll were conducted in the middle of high-level negotiations over a controversial plan to have the federal government rescue
financial firms. Illinois Senator Obama, 47, continued to do better than his opponent on the question of who would best handle this crisis next year, by 48
percent to 36 percent.
Michael Henderson, a 42-year-old database programmer and Democrat from Mooresville, North Carolina, said he is voting for Obama. ``It seemed like McCain was
still going for a little less regulation,'' said Henderson. ``That's what got us into that mess.''
Likewise, Obama remained the clear favorite on who has the better ideas for strengthening the nation's economy, which people said is the most important
issue in the campaign. He was also preferred on dealing with rising gas prices.
Obama saw an increase in the percentage of voters who view him positively after the debate, and a decline in those who view him unfavorably.
The Democrat also succeeded in closing the gap with McCain, 72, when it comes to who voters have trust to deal wisely with an international crisis. One
negative for Obama was that slightly more voters said he made a blunder during the debate than those who said McCain had done so.
McCain was the leader on the issues of knowledge and experience. More than three-quarters of the voters expressed confidence in his ability to deal with an
international crisis, higher than Obama.
Arizona Senator McCain also, by a 3-to-2 margin, was preferred by these debate watchers on the issues of achieving success in Iraq and protecting the
country from terrorism.
McCain is ``going to finish the job in Iraq,'' said Jimmy Pound, a 53-year-old power-plant operator from Moyers, Oklahoma, and registered
While the majority of respondents in the post-debate poll didn't see a difference in which candidate was more negative, those who did targeted McCain by
a large margin. That may have contributed to the small drop in his personal ratings from those debate watchers. However, they also seemed to remember more
negative specifics about Obama than about the Republican nominee.
On the personal qualities, the weekend survey suggested Obama retained or even increased his margin on questions such as who is more honest, who will
substantially change the way things work in Washington and who cares more about ordinary people.
On the question of McCain's decision to suspend his campaign last week to address the financial crisis, by 46 percent to 38 percent, more voters in the
post-debate poll said they thought he was playing politics rather than acting for the good of the country.
Only a little more than half of respondents said they watched the whole debate. In the poll after the debate, more people identified themselves as Democrats
and independents than as Republicans.
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