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)
  1. cali girl


    September 11, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  2. Magic Underwear

    $400,000,000 polishing Romney

    Now he's a shiny 7urd. Not matter how hard they try or how much money they spend, they will never get the stink off.

    September 11, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  3. kay

    my President obama, mitt going to lie again

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

    Just heard about Obama REFUSING to meet with Netanyahu. Bibi said he'd even travel to DC for the talk but Obama refused!!!!! What, he's got more important things to do - like fundraising!! This is an outrage. He needs to do the job he's being paid to do. Israel is on the verge of war and Obama has his head in the sand – BECAUSE he's on side of Muslims. How any Jew or American can vote for Obama is beyond me!

    September 11, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  5. No Amount of Lies from Clinton will Save Obama

    Obama's awful record on the economy and the nation debt will consume him before the election.
    Unemployment continues to rise, gas prices continue to rise, the national debt soars so much we are threatened again with a downgrade from Moody's.
    Clinton and Obama can spin a web of lies that makes you forget reality. I know because they got to me in 2008. But no amount of spin can hide Obama from his complete and total failure as president.
    The middle class is taking the worst of it, and it only gets worse with Obamacare, which is why he didn't want that to kick in until after the election.
    He's just in way over his head, and trying to divide us now. And all you hear from him is Romney bashing.
    It's time for a change, so we can again have hope.

    September 11, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  6. otheym

    Horrible economy? yawn. Massive debt? boring. Banksters running amok? who cares. Civil liberties? toss 'em!
    America no longer cares for its freedoms, it finances, nor its future.
    Time to surrender to the Emperor's inevitable coronation.

    September 11, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  7. murcielago

    its funny the DNC raised his approval ratings. Maybe they should have one every week till election

    September 11, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  8. truth hurts

    Most voters think President Barack Obama will have an advantage in the three debates, according to a new national survey.
    of course he'll have an advantage. every one of the moderators will be a democrat obama supporter looking to make romney look bad while tossing obama softballs to hit out of the park. even so, romney will dismantle obama and his record of failure.

    September 11, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. Chris

    Neither if Gov. Gary Johnson was included.

    September 11, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  10. Lucy

    Oh, and Romney will win the debate because Obama can't talk coherently without a teleprompter. And I really can't wait for Ryan vs. Biden - that should be funny. ROMNEY/RYAN 2012.

    September 11, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  11. Just Me

    From my vantage point, it looks like a lot of deep pocket Citizen United fat cats are going to come up short and little less rich come November which will be a good thing for America and it's democracy.

    September 11, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. Todd in DC

    Still a LOOONG time before the election. But my guess is that unless Obama really flubs the interviews, it looks like "that one" will that the White House.

    I can only wish the democrats take the House of Reps.

    September 11, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  13. Dave

    America is doomed if Obamao wins.

    September 11, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  14. blake

    This confirms it. The American people are morons. It will be a very different world in 2016 and Obama will be principally responsible for it. FYI, not different in any positive ways.

    September 11, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  15. The Real Deal

    huh? The POTUS has an established losing track record over his tenure. THAT is a fact!

    September 11, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  16. Jim

    Just look at their repsective performances at the conventions. Sure people will complain that neither presented anything of substance, but Romney still looks wooden and uncomfortable. Obama may not have said anything more substantive, but he sure made it sound a lot more interesting.

    September 11, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  17. BLKMANinAmerica

    Hands down the President (Obama) not only will win it will be with won because he WORKED for it and won.

    September 11, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  18. Wimp Lo

    Let's remember the basics people. The president could cure cancer and eliminate poverty in the world but he is still a blackman therefore half of the good ol USA will still vote against him. This will be a very interesting race.

    September 11, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    America has added 4.5 million private sector jobs since the Obama took office
    Stock market back to 13,254.29, which has saved peoples 401K
    Here’s what Bush freefall left us yes America is better off today!

    Aug 2008 – 334,000 net JOBS LOST
    Sep 2008 – 458,000 net JOBS LOST
    Oct 2008 – 554,000 net JOBS LOST
    Nov 2008 – 728,000 net JOBS LOST
    Dec 2008 – 673,000 net JOBS LOST
    Jan 2009 – 779,000 net JOBS LOST

    September 11, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  20. LtGenRob

    Poor Chicken...

    September 11, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  21. Mike

    Nobody knows who will win the debates! But I know who's losing BIGTIME in Ratings! CNN! Why because of your obvious attempt to do everything in your power to re-elect Obama as a news organization! Whether it's fraudulant polls or just plain biased articles and tv reporting, you guys won't get the clue that your ratings are horrible because viewers no how to call bull... when they see it now! Your days of pure manipulation on the majority are done and it's gotta be driving you nuts that you don't have the influential power that you used to! Get used to it!

    September 11, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  22. Jimbo

    Romney can still win.

    September 11, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  23. Pat

    Romney is not smart enough to be President. He does not have facts, lies, flip-flops, and has poor judgement in hiring (evidenced by choosing Paul Ryan as running mate). Mr. Ryan has not impressed me at all and any positive opinions of him have been erased. Romney did a poor job – should have picked someone more presidential. I honestly cannot picture Romney as President and surely cannot picture Ryan having to step in the event somehting happened to President. Currently I feel very comfortable with Joe Biden so I will stick to Obama this time. The GOP is confusing as they change everyday. GOP need to regroup and get back in this century. We are a diverse nation and will stay that way no matter how hard they try to suppress women and the rest of the middle class.

    September 11, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Hmmm.. bet they polled more democraps. Like saying who is better, Steelers or Ravens, then making 65 percent of your calls to Baltimore and saying "Baltiomore by 65%!!!'

    September 11, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  25. Obama Lies, Blames, Attacks, and Fails

    Obama literally has nothing left but to lie about taxing the rich, which by his own admission will solve nothing, and blame everybody else for his failures, attack Romney, and ultimately fail to lead us out of this mess.
    I supported him in 2008, but this guy has nothing left but to beg us to forget the last four years and give him another four.
    No chance or this place is toast.
    Romney is not perfect, but his experience according to president clinton makes him qualified.

    September 11, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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