CNN Poll: Who will win the presidential debates?
September 11th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
6 years ago

CNN Poll: Who will win the presidential debates?

Washington (CNN) - The presidential debates: They're the next big thing in the race for the White House.

So which candidate will have the upper hand in next month's showdowns?

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- View more polls at the CNN Polling Center.

Most voters think President Barack Obama will have an advantage in the three debates, according to a new national survey. And a CNN/ORC International poll (PDF) released Tuesday also indicates Obama's approval rating at 51%, a gray area for an incumbent president running for re-election.

Fifty-nine percent of likely voters questioned in the survey say that Obama is more likely to do a better job than Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the debates, with 34% saying that Romney will beat Obama.

"Then Sen. Obama had the same edge over Sen. John McCain when voters were asked four years ago who would win the 2008 debates," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Going back even further in the history books, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore were all seen as more likely to win their debates."

While only five percent of Democrats think that Romney will have the upper hand in the October showdowns, 18% of Republicans say that Obama will have the advantage.

The debates are scheduled to be held on October 3 in Denver, Colorado, October 16, in Hempstead, New York, and October 22 in Boca Raton, Florida. CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, anchor of "State of the Union," will moderate the October 16 debate. Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee, face off on October 11 in Danville, Kentucky.

The CNN poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, entirely after last week's Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to the survey, 51% of adults nationwide approve of the job Obama is doing in the White House, with 44% saying they disapprove. The 51% approval is up three points from last week's CNN poll, which was conducted before the Democratic convention.

By a 55%-39% margin, women approve of the job Obama's doing, with men divided (48%-49%).

So how does Obama's approval rating two months before the election compare to the most recent presidents running for a second term in the White House?

Incumbents with an approval rating under 40%, such as Jimmy Carter in 1980 and the elder George Bush in 1992, lost their re-election bids. Incumbents with an approval rating hovering around the 60% mark, such as Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Bill Clinton in 1996, won re-election. Only one incumbent in recent history, George W. Bush in 2004 at 52%, has been in that territory in the middle. Bush narrowly won re-election.

"Remember that a president's approval rating is not necessarily a good indicator of his ultimate share of the vote. For one thing, the approval rating is based on the views of all Americans, but all Americans do not vote," adds Holland. "Also bear in mind that the group of Americans who disapprove of Obama include some liberals who have a negative view of him because he has not been liberal enough. That group may ultimately conclude that Obama is the lesser of two evils and reluctantly vote for him."

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International, from Sept. 7-9, with 1,022 adults nationwide, including 875 registered voters and 709 likely voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for likely voters.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC poll • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (250 Responses)

    The President will win hands down because he has FACTS on his side. Willard is going to have to explain his false and misleading ads about welfare and Medicare. I can't wait for October 3 for him to be exposed for the liar that he is.

    September 11, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. Bootstomper

    I don't know romneys pretty good at debating himself.

    September 11, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  3. Liberty&JustForAll

    Sure he'll probably win because alot of the sheeple believe his lies. Wake up you fools and take a good look at our country.

    September 11, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  4. Liberty&JustForAll

    Only fools will believe this liar again.

    September 11, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  5. Ed1

    Mitt no false or misleading ads about medicare Obama is talking about an old plan over a year old not the new plan that was presented as always Obama working in the past and you see what that will get you more of the same crap that we have now with Obama no leadership skills always blame and give me one more chance to really screw up this Country.

    No I am no better off than I was four years ago.

    Why don't you ask Obama why the medicare premiums will almost triple in the year 2014 didn't hear about that well welcome to the world of Obama and his secrets.

    September 11, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  6. ted

    Obama has the upperhand as he has done the job now for four years and has a lot of insight that Willard will never have. Willard the weathervane who can say that on every issue, he has held every position/opinion possible. CAn't wait for Obama to kick Willard's butt all over the place.

    September 11, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  7. jobdespair

    Again, CNN, a poll is *never ever ever* BREAKING NEWS !!!

    September 11, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  8. Brian in DC

    lol, yeah, I trust this poll's sampling.

    September 11, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  9. jobdespair

    A poll is NEVER EVER EVER breaking news CNN!! Get with it.

    September 11, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |

    Instead of breaking new on Egypt and the fact that Obama has turned down a meeting with Netanyahu you report about polls. Great job on 9/11/12

    September 11, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  11. Four and The Door

    Mitt Romney has a 2 to 1 advantage. Obama 2012 will be up against Romney 2012 as well as Obama 2008.
    But even better, on the important issues Mitt Romney has a plan, confidence and truth. Obama has a pile of excuses.

    September 11, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  12. z2cents

    Time for MItt to get negative. Ryan can do the dirty work. What a pair!!!

    September 11, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  13. Deb in MT

    The President does indeed have the facts on his side, whereas it is almost impossible to even find a 'side' for Willard.

    Willard "Mitt" Romney has taken more positions than the Kama Sutra.

    September 11, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. Terry

    A list came out this morning of the polls that were right on the money,(only 2) and those who were way off the mark, and showed bias . Guess who was at the bottom??? Anyone?? It begins with CNN....

    September 11, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  15. Dana Snoke

    The Presidents approval rating above 51%, are you kidding me ! Thats the best joke of the day CNN, do tell more jokes, please.

    September 11, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  16. Mark L.

    OBAMA / BIDEN 2012 !!!!
    (Hillary) CLINTON / (Andrew) CUOMO 2016 !!!!

    September 11, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  17. This would mean more

    if I had ever met or heard of *anyone* that acknowledges being part of a presidential poll.

    September 11, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. phactchecker

    No haters here?

    September 11, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. Johnny 5

    Two parties with one face.

    September 11, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  20. Darko

    No Teleprompters. Advantage Mitt.

    Liberal Moderators. Advantage Obama.

    Results? Let the actual voters decide and not skewed polling.

    September 11, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  21. Really21

    This is "breaking news"? This is what's taking priority over a real news worthy story CNN?

    September 11, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  22. Ron Martin


    September 11, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  23. Boo

    Can't wait for the debates....Obama will crush Robme.....

    September 11, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  24. David

    I think you are missing a few marbles!

    September 11, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  25. Travis

    Can you please indicate the percentages of those polled were Dems or Republicans. CNN and other Polls muddy the waters and try to dictate the direction of the races by not being clear of the demographics of these polls

    September 11, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
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