The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x22 or (703) 517-6273

Ifill Gets High Marks from Citizens Media Panel


Moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS received more plaudits from supporters
of Barack Obama than from supporters of John McCain for her conduct
during the vice presidential debate in St. Louis on Thursday night.

2,500 volunteers joined an online panel to rate the debate using
Free Press' "Citizens Media Scorecard." The two groups of partisans
were loyal to their own candidate: 80% of McCain supporters thought
Sarah Palin won the debate; 89% of Obama supporters gave the nod to Joe

"The differences emerge in how satisfied they were with Ifill's performance," said Andrew Tyndall of, who devised the survey and performed the analysis.

Praise for Ifill

Ifill received higher marks from Obama partisans for conducting an
extremely serious and relevant debate (74% vs. 56% for McCain's), for
showing no favoritism (94% vs. 52%), and for overall excellence (55%
vs. 23%).

By wide margins compared with McCain backers, more Obama supporters
found Ifill to be extremely intelligent (65% vs. 33%) and plainspoken
(71% vs. 46%), and saw her avoiding the pitfalls of being controlling
(93% vs. 63%) and opinionated (95% vs. 62%).

Both groups tended to criticize her for being too reticent (70% of
Obama voters, 75% of McCain's) in challenging the factual accuracy of
the debaters' statements.

The Issues

The debate covered a wide range of domestic topics. Large majorities
of both groups of supporters approved of Ifill's choice of questions as
giving just the right amount of time to six major issues: nuclear
proliferation (76%), global warming (74%), war and peace (73%), the
global war on terrorism (73%), tax policy (70%), and energy policy

But both groups scolded Ifill for skipping the topics of Social
Security (84%) and immigration (81%). The major disagreement was on the
topic of poverty: Half of the McCain voters in our panel thought the
topic's treatment was "just right" (53%); most of the Obama voters
called it "not enough" (83%).

McCain supporters were less likely to believe that Palin won the
debate in its foreign policy section (71%) and on economic issues (73%)
than on social policies (84%). Obama supporters believed almost
unanimously that Biden prevailed in all three topic areas (96%, 92% and
96% respectively).

Questions of Experience

About half of Obama's supporters (51%) criticized Ifill for failing
to spend more time questioning Palin about her readiness and
qualifications to be vice president, whereas far fewer McCain
supporters (29%) offered equivalent criticism concerning questions
about Biden.

"Given Palin's relative inexperience on the national stage, this
asymmetry should come as no surprise," Tyndall said. "It would have
been hard for Ifill to maintain a neutral role and at the same time
explicitly address the experience gap."

McCain supporters were more likely to find the debate "extremely
helpful" in learning about their own candidate's policy positions (68%
vs. 57% of Obama supporters learning about Biden) and were twice as
likely to have found the debate useful in helping them decide whom to
support than an equivalent group of supporters was last week (39% vs.
20%) after hearing McCain debate in Mississippi.

Although Free Press extended outreach to all parts of the political
spectrum, Obama supporters considerably outnumbered McCain's. To
correct for that imbalance, these results have been reported by
contrasting the ratings of the two groups rather than combining them.
Consisting of volunteers rather than a random sample, these results
cannot be projected to the population at large.

Where They Watched

The two groups of supporters tended to watch the debate on different
outlets. MSNBC (27%), PBS (22%) and CNN (17%) were the favorite outlets
for Obama partisans. Fox News Channel was the favorite for fully 54% of
the McCain voters in the panel.

Both McCain and Obama supporters said that the Internet was their
primary source of election-related news (52% vs. 52%), but they were
divided in their view of which news source offered the best quality
coverage. Obama supporters chose public radio (52%) and public
television (50%) as "excellent" sources for election coverage. Only 12%
and 6.2%, respectively, of McCain supporters agreed.

Andrew Tyndall and Free Press experts are available to comment on
these results. To schedule an appearance, contact Jen Howard at (202)
265-1490 x22 or

For more information, visit

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