Dick Cheney prevailed in the vice presidential debate with help from a more Republican audience — and more support from his ticket's side than John Edwards got from his.
Among registered voters who watched the debate, 43 percent said Cheney won, 35 percent called Edwards the winner and 19 percent called it a tie. One factor is that more Republicans tuned in — 38 percent of viewers were Republicans, 31 percent Democrats, the rest independents.
But Cheney also did better with his side's backers. Among supporters of the Republican ticket, 80 percent called Cheney the winner. Among supporters of the Kerry/Edwards ticket, fewer, 69 percent, called Edwards the winner, and more called it a tie.
As is usually the case, the debate did not immediately change minds among those who watched. Viewers were divided by 51 percent-48 percent for Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards before the debate, and by 50 percent-49 percent after it, an insignificant change. Note, these preferences are among debate viewers only, not among all registered or likely voters.
Looking at it another way, compared with their pre-debate preference, 98 percent of Bush supporters stayed with Bush and 98 percent of Kerry supporters stayed with Kerry.
Who "wins" a debate among viewers depends in part on who tunes in. Political party allegiance of viewers of the first presidential debate between President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was evenly divided — 35 percent were Democrats, 35 percent Republicans, 24 percent independents. This time, more Republicans watched.
It's happened this way before; Republicans tuned in disproportionately to the second presidential debate in 2000 — 40 percent of debate watchers then were Republican, 31 percent Democrat. Viewers that night said Bush won by 16 points.
Among these groups, 70 percent of Republicans said Cheney was the winner, 68 percent of Democrats said it was Edwards, and independents split 42 percent-37 percent, Cheney-Edwards.
Men called Cheney the winner by a 12-point margin, women by a narrower five points. Viewers in the East and West were more apt to say Edwards won the debate, while debate watchers in the Midwest and South picked Cheney.
Cheney is now two for two in vice presidential debates, albeit this time around his margin of victory is much smaller. In 2000, debate viewers called him the winner over Joe Lieberman by 19 points.
This survey was conducted by telephone Tuesday night among a random-sample panel of 509 registered voters who watched the vice presidential debate. The results have a 4.5-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.