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(CNN) -- A moving graph at the bottom of the CNN screen during Tuesday night's presidential debate measured the reactions of uncommitted voters in the swing state of Ohio, and it seemed to bear out the theory that negative campaigning draws negative voter reactions.
Analysts say undecided voters don't like negative attacks, from either side.
Nearly every time one candidate threw a jab at the other, the voter reaction dipped measurably.
The dips were minor for small digs but slipped further if a candidate continued criticizing his opponent.
For instance, reactions of both men and women voters slid into negative territory when Republican Sen. John McCain said that trying to nail down Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's tax policies is like "nailing Jell-O to the wall." Watch the criticism and the reaction
Similarly, the reaction line took a dive when Obama discussed McCain's votes in the Senate against alternative fuels. Watch the graph go down at this point.
Such negative reactions are typically seen in voters who are undecided, said Merle Black, professor of politics and government at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
"They don't like negative campaigning," he said. "It doesn't matter whether it's one side or the other."
But while each candidate saw dips when criticizing his opponent, voters' reactions were more positive when each began talking about specific plans and ideas regarding the national economy, the war in Iraq, the environment and other issues.
Voters are "worried about real issues," Black said. "They want the candidate to address that. ... That's what the voters are interested in. They know it's a big mess out there, and they want to know what the alternatives are."
With less than a month to go before the general election, McCain's campaign said before Tuesday's debate that he planned to "take off the gloves." In addition, both campaigns have launched negative advertising campaigns against the opponent in an effort to win over undecided voters.
The stakes for McCain are high, as most polls show him trailing Obama.