After looking at the snap polls taken immediately after the debate by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation and CBS/Knowledge Networks (.pdf), I think it’s safe to assume Sarah Palin has kept her job even though Joe Biden won the debate in the eyes of most voters.
As for who won: In the CNN poll of people who watched the debate, “Fifty-one percent of those polled thought Biden did the best job in Thursday night’s debate, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job.” In the somewhat more relevant CBS poll of uncommitted voters, “Forty-six percent of these uncommitted viewers said Biden won the debate Thursday night, while 21 percent said Palin won. Thirty-three percent thought it was a tie.”
As for Palin keeping her job: In the CNN poll, “84 percent of the people polled said Palin did a better job than they expected”, and 54 percent thought she was more likable than Biden. In the CBS Poll:
“Fifty-five percent of the uncommitted voters said their opinion of Palin had changed for the better as a result of the debate; just 14 percent said they had a lower opinion of her after tonight, and 30 percent said their views of her did not change.”
The uncommitted voters were also asked whether Palin was prepared to be vice-president. Thirty-nine percent said she was qualified before the debate, and 55% said she was after the debate. All of the above seems to indicate she didn’t flop, which is everything the McCain Campaign appears to have been hoping for. Hence, it would be surprising if McCain fires her after this debate.
Mark Blumenthal makes an excellent case, however, that these vice-presidential debates historically have not been of much importance to who wins the election. His thesis seems to be born out by the CBS poll, which found that 71% of uncommitted voters did not commit to either candidate as a result of the debate. Of those who did commit, 18% went to Obama and only 10% to McCain. But the poll has a margin of error of 5% — consequently, there’s no statistically significant difference between those percentages. In short, the debate was a wash in moving uncommitted voters.
The Obama/Biden Campaign went into the debate at a time when they have been rising in the polls. So, the real question, which I don’t think anyone can authoritatively answer for at least 3 or 4 days, is whether the debate boosted, slowed, reversed, or had no impact on their rise. My hunch is it had very little if any impact. But I’m always guessing wrong about these things — so what do you think? And what did you make of the debate?