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Viewers give Santos the victory in debate, barely

Vinick gains ground in new poll, but most think Democrat will win election
/ Source: msnbc.com

Rep. Matt Santos, D-Texas, edged out Sen. Arnold Vinick, R-Calif., in Sunday night's live fictional “West Wing” debate, according to a post-debate Zogby International-MSNBC.com poll.

The snap poll of the show's viewers who had participated in a pre-debate MSNBC/Zogby poll was conducted immediately after Sunday night’s debate. And while participants gave Santos (Jimmy Smits) the victory (54 percent to 38 percent), Vinick (Alan Alda) made gains on the Democratic congressman. In the pre-debate poll, 59 percent favored Santos while 29 percent liked Vinick. And while viewers thought Santos won the live debate, he didn't necessarily seem more presidential. Santos narrowly edged Vinick on the question of who appeared more presidential (42 to 39 percent with 15 percent calling it a tie).

Despite Vinick's gains, almost 81 percent of those polled said the debate did not change their preference in the election.

An estimated 9.6 million viewers watched Sunday night's live debates, up from the 8.2 million “The West Wing” had been averaging this season, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research figures.

Debate moderator Forrest Sawyer received passing marks from viewers, with 35 percent saying the real-life newsman did an excellent job and 43 percent saying he did a good job.

Viewers, however, are not mistaking Sunday night’s live debate for the real thing. Seventy-two percent said they thought the events of the debate would never happen in real life, while 26 percent said it seemed realistic. Despite the lack of realism, however, “West Wing” viewers would prefer watching Sunday night’s debate to the real thing by a 67 to 28 percent margin.  In fact, 77 percent said that real presidential debates are too predictable, while just 19 percent considered them a critical factor in their voting decision.

The interactive survey included 1,208 respondents and was conducted immediately following the broadcast of the debate. It carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.