The vice-presidential debate delivered something the top of the ticket could not: a clear winner, in Republican nominee Dick Cheney.
Among a random national sample of 539 registered voters who watched the debate, 43 percent called Cheney the victor, compared to 24 percent for Democrat Joe Lieberman — a 19-point Cheney win. Twenty-seven percent called it a tie.
That’s a dramatically different result compared to Tuesday night, when viewers divided about evenly on who won the first presidential debate — 42 percent picked Al Gore, 39 percent George W. Bush. It’s also a surprising outcome, because it’s Lieberman who’s received rave reviews for his performance on the stump — and Cheney tepid ones.
But did it change vote preferences? Again, hardly any. Among viewers who supported the Democratic ticket going into the debate, 91 percent still felt the same afterward. And among those who went in supporting the GOP ticket, 96 percent stayed right there.
The horse-race result hardly changed. (Again, this is among registered voters who tuned in, not among all likely voters.)
Cheney satisfied his rooters, while Lieberman did not. Among supporters of the Republican ticket, 74 percent said Cheney won the debate. But among supporters of the Democratic ticket, only 51 percent said Lieberman won.
Similarly, more than three-quarters of Republicans called Cheney the winner, while only about half of Democrats picked Lieberman. And independents picked Cheney by a two-to-one margin, 38 percent to 17 percent, with 37 percent calling it a tie.
So thorough was Cheney’s win that he even overcame the gender gap. Men picked him as the winner by a much wider margin — but he beat Lieberman among women, as well. On Tuesday night, by contrast, more men called Bush the winner, more women picked Gore.
Cheney also got the edge among all age groups, and in each region of the country.
METHODOLOGY — This survey was conducted by telephone among a random sample panel of 539 registered voters who watched Thursday’s debate. Respondents were initially interviewed in the week leading up to the debate. The results have a 4.5-point error margin. Fieldwork by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.