POLITICS
10/12/2012 05:31 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2012

VP Debate Rallied Democrats, Changed Few Minds: Survey Panel

WASHINGTON -- Few minds were changed by Thursday's debate, but Democrats rallied around an aggressive performance by Vice President Joe Biden, according to a panel of debate watchers polled just as the event ended. Republicans stood by their vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, by a large but less overwhelming margin.

The survey, conducted for The Huffington Post by OverTheShoulder.com, was dubbed a "Smartphone Town Hall" and drew on a sample of 367 voters, who were recruited to answer questions from a smartphone app. Although participants were recruited from around the country, the survey was not a random sample, nor should it be considered representative of the U.S. population or debate watchers. For example, although most national surveys find President Barack Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney now tied, 200 of the participants entered the debate supporting Obama, 125 said they planned to vote for Romney and 42 were undecided.

At the end of the debate, 96 percent of the Obama supporters said Biden had won the night, and 84 percent of Romney's backers thought Ryan had done a better job. Of the 27 undecided voters who answered the question, 20 thought Biden had won, while seven preferred Ryan.

Almost none of the participants who had already made up their minds switched sides: After the debate, 98 percent of the Obama supporters said they'd still vote for Obama if the election were held that night, and 99 percent of Romney's supporters remained on his side. Among the previously undecided, 22 said they would now opt for the Democratic ticket, and five were persuaded to vote Republican.

A similar panel, before listening to last week's post-presidential debate spin, decided that Romney had thumped Obama by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent. Nearly half of Obama backers gave the night to Romney.

Going into Thursday's debate, the survey participants expected Biden to be more aggressive by 58 percent to 42 percent. He delivered: 78 percent said he was more aggressive, compared to 22 percent who said Ryan was. But Biden's forcefulness might prove to be something of a double-edged sword. Participants were split on his noticeable laughter while Ryan spoke, with 46 percent calling it annoying and 54 percent finding it amusing.

For better or worse, Biden's folksy rebuttals stuck with the survey panel, who said his most memorable line came when he interrupted Ryan to say, "With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey."

Participants also remembered Ryan's quip that Biden "very well knows that sometimes words don’t come out of your mouth the right way,” but said Ryan's most memorable moment came when he told a story about Romney's generosity toward a family that had been hit with hard times.

Across the political spectrum, the participants agreed on one performance: that of moderator Martha Raddatz. Midway through the debate, 95 percent of Obama supporters and 80 percent of Romney supporters said she was doing a good or great job. Less than a quarter of the panel last week was that complimentary of presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer.

Scientific polls taken after the debate found mixed reactions. A CNN survey of registered voters who watched the debate found that more viewers thought Ryan had won, although the percentage difference was within the margin of error. A CBS online poll of uncommitted voters found that half thought Biden had won, a third thought Ryan did, and 19 percent considered the debate a tie.

An online poll by Reuters/Ipsos found that Biden won the debate among registered voters, with 42 percent preferring him and 35 percent favoring Paul. But both candidates' favorability ratings stayed roughly the same.

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