Greenberg Quinlan Rosner

National Public Radio


NPR Survey Results (PDF - 4 K)

NPR PowerPoint Presentation (PDF - 22 K)

Executive Summary

On the eve of the first presidential debate, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies conducted a bipartisan survey of the presidential battleground states for National Public Radio. The survey was based on interviews with 800 likely voters in the 14 states that will decide the presidency.

The survey shows intense interest and nearly universal intention to watch the upcoming debates: 62 percent are “very likely” to watch the first presidential debate (up from 51 percent in 2000 before the Gore-Bush debate). Expectations are high for Obama, as a near majority of 49 percent expect him to perform better, compared to only 34 percent expecting McCain to dominate. The full survey results can be found on our website, and the radio broadcast can be heard at

Key Findings

The first presidential debate is taking place at a time when the race is at a dead heat (44 to 46 percent McCain) in the battleground states and also a time when Barack Obama is making gains in critical areas:

  • The economy. Obama has emerged with a 9 point advantage on the economy — probably the most important comparison at this point. Obama also holds a 16 point advantage on “bringing the right kind of change.”
  • Obama has gained on authenticity and honesty: He made massive gains at McCain’s expense on who “has flip flopped on the issues.”
  • Obama has made important gains on leadership qualities: a 6-point gain compared to McCain on “has what it takes to be president”; a 7-point gain on which candidate is “too risky.” Indeed, the two candidates achieve nearly equal ratings on these leadership attributes.
  • Obama gained 6 points compared to McCain on “taxes” -- McCain’s signature economic issue. Despite these gains, McCain is maintaining a 7-point lead with independent voters — an important reason why this race is still a dead heat in the battleground states.


 These results are based on a bi-partisan survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in conjunction with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for National Public Radio. The survey fielded September 18th & 20th, 2008 in the presidential battleground states. It has a sample size of 800 likely voters and a margin of error of +/-3.4 percent. The battleground states included in this sample are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.