Viewers of the presidential debates on CNN have a novel feature on their screen -- a box at the bottom showing the real-time reactions of a focus group of undecided voters. Should we take it seriously?
Viewers of the presidential and vice-presidential debates on CNN this year have a novel feature on their screen -- a box at the bottom showing the real-time reactions of a focus group of undecided voters. The results are undeniably bewitching, even for those who don't believe them. "I knew it was completely unreliable and irrelevant," wrote screenwriter Nora Ephron at Huffington Post, "and yet my heart sank and rose according to it."
Christopher Orrhighlights some numbers from the insta-polls after last night's debate that are even more favorable to Obama than the overall "who won the debate" figures:
Those surveyed thought Obama was more intelligent than McCain by 57 - 25 and expressed himself more clearly by 60 - 30. Obama reversed a prior weakness as well, leading in the "stronger leader" category 54 - 43. McCain, for his part, prevailed in the categories you'd rather lose: "attacked more" (a whopping 63 - 17) and "more like a typical politician," which he took by 16 points.
Especially on foreign policy, this debate is deeply repetitive of the previous two debates, even though the questions are supposedly more diverse since they come from ordinary people (maybe that's because they were all screened by Tom Brokaw). For McCain it's that he opposed sending troops to Lebanon, that Obama opposes the surge, and that Obama wants defeat in Iraq (also sometimes that we need a surge in Afghanistan and Obama wants to invade Pakistan). For Obama it's that McCain supported the war, we have to end the war in Iraq, and we need more troops in Afghanistan (and sometimes he says McCain wants to invade Iran).