Published: October 20, 2008
As voters have gotten to know Senator Barack Obama, they have warmed up to him, with more than half, 53 percent, now saying they have a favorable impression of him and 33 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. But as voters have gotten to know Senator John McCain, they have not warmed, with only 36 percent of voters saying they view him favorably while 45 percent view him unfavorably.
Even voters who are planning to vote for Mr. McCain say their enthusiasm has waned. In New York Times and CBS News polls conducted with the same respondents before the first presidential debate and again after the last debate, Mr. McCain made no progress in appealing to voters on a personal level, and he and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, had alienated some voters.
Personal appeal is an intangible element in voters' decisions. Each voter has a personal reason for connecting with a candidate or not. But the percentage of those who hold a favorable opinion of Mr. Obama is up 10 points since last month. Opinion of Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Obama's running mate, is also up, to 50 percent last weekend from 36 percent in September.
In contrast, favorable opinion of Mr. McCain remained stable, and unfavorable opinion rose to 45 percent now from 35 percent in September. Mrs. Palin's negatives are up, to 41 percent now from 29 percent in September.
Mr. Obama's favorability is the highest for a presidential candidate running for a first term in the last 28 years of Times/CBS polls. Mrs. Palin's negative rating is the highest for a vice-presidential candidate as measured by The Times and CBS News. Even Dan Quayle, with whom Mrs. Palin is often compared because of her age and inexperience on the national scene, was not viewed as negatively in the 1988 campaign.
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Sept. 21-24, with re-interviews completed Friday through Sunday of 518 adults, 476 of whom are registered voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus five percentage points for all adults and voters.
Among the voters who said their opinion of Mr. Obama had improved, many cited his debate performance, saying they liked his calm demeanor and the way he had handled the attacks on him from the McCain campaign.
Of those who said their opinion of Mr. McCain had been tarnished, many cited his attacks on his opponent, the choice of Ms. Palin as his running mate and his debate performance.
"Even though I am a Democrat, there was a strong possibility I would have voted for McCain," said Yolanda Grande, 77, a Democrat from Blairstown, N.J. "What pushed me over the line was McCain's choice of vice president. I just don't think she is qualified to step in if anything happened to him."