The conventional wisdom has already declared BK II a draw, and it may be too late (only 24 hours later) for data to change that verdict.
But Democracy Corps did a big (1150) nationally representative sample of debate-watchers who are also likely voters, interviewing them both before and after the debate. (The sample was evenly split by party and Bush had a 4 point edge in self-reported votes in 2000).
In that sample, Kerry was the clear winner.
— The sample thought he won, by a margin of 45-37. Independents gave it to Kerry by 44-33, and undecided voters by 39-30.
— Kerry gained a point to 49% in voting intentions, while Bush lost one to 47%. (Again, this is among debate-watchers only, so it’s not a horserace prediction.)
— Kerry’s favorability/unfavorability goes from -2 to +5 (42-45 becomes 47-42).
— Kerry’s likeability goes from 55-45 to 60-40.
It’s not that Bush got hurt; his favorability improved a little, as did the “right track” number. But Kerry clearly helped himself.
Hat tip: Ruy Texeira