CNN Poll: Who will win the presidential debates?
September 11th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
2 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. ttt

    Obama will win...Mitt is a very highly flawed candidate even among Conservatives.

    September 11, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. southernwonder

    romney wants to turn this around in his favor. but he can't decide which issue to flipflop on next.

    September 11, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. Marie MD

    Anyone who thinks that the twit and the lying altar boy are the answer to the US should move to Cuba or China. That way you don't have to worry about voter suppression.

    September 11, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. Ram Riva

    The President will win hands down....he's more articulate, intelligent and in touch with the lives and struggles of normal middle class people....Romney is far ahead into how to manage wealth and hide them from fiscal policies worldwide...can't wait for the national security and foreing affairs debate....Romney will throw Israel's theme all over the debate with Netanyahu playing dirty politics alongside just before the debate....hell he's doing now!!.....

    September 11, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. Reality Check

    Still not breaking news.

    September 11, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. Danna

    So accurate...as the ABC Polls...surveyed 33 democrats and 23 republican....nobody believes this biased polls...

    September 11, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. nibiro

    Obama wants four more years to FINISH YOU OFF PEOPLE .

    September 11, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. Kevin

    Go Go Go! Obama, you have my vote because of Obamacare!

    September 11, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. TheTraveler

    Romney and his, "I would do it differently" just isn't going to cut it. I haven't heard a SINGLE credible word from either Romney or Ryan on dealing with taxes, the economy or our military involvements overseas ... What I have heard are a bunch of half-truths and false assertions and a lot of unfounded and unsubstantiated blame put on the Obama Administration.
    Look, I don't think President Obama has done a perfect job, but I'll give credit where it's due. The economy is moving up, albeit slowly, and there is still a lot to do. Electing Romney/Ryan will halt what progress we're making and shift us back into reverse ... We can't afford it.

    September 11, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  10. bb

    Got to love dumbocrap bias media, how could his rate be up??? must of been the wonderful job #s. or the wonderful way he does NOTHING !! Of , did he eagle a hole on the course, take your misleading polls and sh*** **

    September 11, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. Facepalm28

    These are certainly all good indicators for Obama. However, the election is not being held today, and there's still plenty that can happen in 2 months. The key is for the Obama campaign to keep building on what they accomplished at their convention: rev up Democratic enthusiasm to turn their registered voters into likely voters, continue to connect with key groups, and gain ground on the major issues. Up next: stomp on Romney's lies in the debates.

    September 11, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  12. Patriot Awesome

    Romney barely held his own during the Republican primaries and he was debating lunatics and/or idiots. He's going to get crushed by Obama. He's also flip flopped and pandered to his crazy base so much, that he won't be able to keep his answers straight.

    Now the Biden Vs. Ryan debate should be good, especially since Biden won't have to hold back this time around and Ryan at least isn't a dummy.

    September 11, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  13. LMAO58

    Obama's approval rating will go back down. The President will NOT win the election. The Colorado professors have NEVER been wrong, EVER. They predict Romney will win and he will.

    September 11, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Brain.

    WHOOPEE DOOPEE – the poll 2 weeks out is what matters – there haven't been any debates – this is meaningless. Besides – show the break down of the poll – how many of whom were asked what

    September 11, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. Fredrick

    I dont understand America want to go to war with Iran when we just came from a war that's been going on for 12to 13 years china is right there where they at why do united state have to keep putting our people threw this.

    September 11, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  16. gmenfan54

    Whoever is the best confidence artist.

    September 11, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. Lauren

    Obama/Biden 2012! I'm very excited to watch the debates.

    September 11, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. Bolaji09

    You can't go wrong with the truth.

    September 11, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. Not my fault

    Polls are just that, Polls, move 2 streets East or West and they can be 180 degrees opposite.
    Take them for what they are ... A survey of people willing to take it....

    September 11, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. Malory Archer

    President Obama – hands down! While debating the other rethug candidates during the primaries, mittens got flustered, defensive and downright angry! It'll be fun to watch his head exploding while President Obama debates circles around him!

    September 11, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. Rachel

    Of course CNN thinks Obama will win absolutely every single issue against Romney. CNN shills for Obama

    September 11, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. Ed in Reno, Nevada

    Watching these debates should be very entertaining.

    September 11, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. Javier

    Romney is cooked, he is on both sides of many issues, no backbone on what he believes!

    September 11, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  24. Hunaker

    Sure, CNN, sure. Your ratings are nose diving and you guys just keep twisting the truth. You tell us Obama is leading in YOUR polls, but how do you conduct polls? You all you can to see to it that Obama is "ahead" in your polls. Thanks for the lies. Wake up America.

    September 11, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  25. widow

    pretty sad... Is this the expectation of our nation? 51% like to see less jobs being created than lost? We like the debt Obama has put on the laps of our kids and grand kids? I really don't understand how a speech can motivate people to think things are better now than 4 years ago.. We have a ton more debt and a President who needs to lead and doesn't... Why doesn't he sit down with congress and resolve this? Why does he let his own political wants outweigh the needs of our country? I have never met a great leader that constantly puts blame on someone else or something like Obama has.. The most powerful leader in the world is supposed to find answers to near insolvable problems not place blame on others.. He had 2 full years of complete control of congress and he could have raised or lowered the debt ceiling then but he played the "game" and is constantly pulling one over on the American people. He spent trillions of our tax dollars to help his buddies companies who contributed to them.. then instead of fixing the economy he went into full blown government regulated healthcare when we have NO WAY of paying for what we have now in Medicare and Medicaid or Social Security. So he wants to make healthcare the responsibility of the government during a time when we are in the biggest economic crisis since the 30's? how does that make any sense. He should have made it so there is no chance any insurance company can deny coverage to anyone.. but besides that he should have focused on the economy or maybe not.. when he did that with his stimulus packages he cost us trillions without any sustainable jobs. He had his chance and failed miserably. Then everyone loves the Bill clinton speech but that jerk lied to the american people.. then made arguably the biggest financial error in U.S. history when he signed the dodd/frank housing bill that gave banks stiff penalties if they didn't have a % of high risk loans.. which were fully insured by us the tax payers so they had nothing to lose until the whole thing collapsed and even then made a ton of money foreclosing properties after only missing 1-2 payments.. why? because then they can hold it for a year and get FULL market value from us the taxpayers. Crazy.. just like the 51% that think he is doing a good job. a guy that does community service has no business whatsoever being president.. We need a leader someone to sit down with congress and work. Not just sit and ask congress to do work like they have done in the past. A ton of people voted for this guy b/c he promised he was going to work in a bipartisan way when he hasn't.. He hasn't brokered anything with Congress. and you can say what you want about the blockade congress has on him.. truth is he had 2 years of total control and made things worse even by democratic economists standards.

    September 11, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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