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. higherforce

    This romney guy really needs some serious mental evaluation before he has major mental breakdown and embarrass not only himself but also this great country. Just the other day he said he is going to keep the backbone policy of Obamacare when he gets elected!! !Did he already forget that he swore to cancel Obamacare fully ASAP if he enters the White house??? It must be extremely difficult for him to keep track of everything he's been saying because everything must have been improvised depending on who he is giving speech to. And guess what? A few hours later he withdrew what he said forced by his own strategists. It is so tragic that this jellyfish with no spine is the one that republican can come up with at their best. REALLY? That's all you got?

    September 11, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  2. mikey

    Just saw an article that Harvard has an endowment of 23 billion. As a token of Obama's fair shariness, they should share the wealth they did not earn with the poorer schools around the country.

    September 11, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  3. Walter

    LMAO! This is the same poll that oversample Dims and undersampled both Repubs and independents.

    In further breaking news, a recent survey of workers at the DNC ALSO found Obama with a high approval rating!

    What a bunch of maroons!

    September 11, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  4. ATL_Voter

    A Lesson for Obama: When you have a SURPLUS, do ARITHMETIC with your HEART & when you are in DEBT, do ARITHMETIC with your BRAIN. We are in a lot of DEBT.

    September 11, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. BillZ

    Does the Obamanator get to use a teleprompter and wear a headset? If not I put odds on Romney.

    September 11, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  6. joshu

    Romney cannot debate to save his life. He got his butt kicked by Ted Kennedy. He had a difficult time against idiot radicals like Gingrich and Santorum. Obama will floor Romney in all these debates.

    September 11, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  7. Pritch

    Ha, what, did they ask 100 people from CA? Polls mean little unless they are honestly and evenly done. Most are not, and no CNN poll fits the smell test. The race is very close right now. Probably Obama by a point or two, but that is not significant and could be skewed his way based on those that just aren't really ready to say that they are bailing on him. The pulse of the country is definately trending Romney, apparent by contributions. That is the real indicator of excitement for a candidate. People being willing to part with their money.

    September 11, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  8. Ann

    Hey, Bill Clinton will not be at the debates to help Mr. Obama! what is he going to do?

    September 11, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  9. Val

    I think its amazing how Bush bankrupt the US and they allowed Eight long years for him to do that, President Obama comes in and trys very hard to clean up that eight year desaster but people wants him to clean it up in four. I am tired of people saying quit living in the pass, what they need to do is realize the pass has a lot to do with this messed up future that we are facing and the republicans are asking to allow them to do it again for what eight more years, I do want our president to win again but then on the other hand I want the republicans to win so all of the POOR literealy POOR people that don't fit in his financial circle can get just what they ask for. Republican said from the begining they would not vote or work with this President, they wanted him to be a one term President even at the risk of throwing the American People under the bus, have you all seen any of this or have you been sleep these past four years, UNBELIEVABLE.

    September 11, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  10. achepotle

    I trust Romney...he obviously puts the interests of middle class working people first...and he knows who are real enemies are...Russia and Canada.

    September 11, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. cm

    The tough questions need to be asked to Mitt; he needs to explain all his off-shore accounts while he wraps himself in the flag. He needs to be able to give specifics on how he intends to balance the budget and prove his plan will not impact middle class families. Throwing softballs at this clown will provide no value for Americans to analyze.

    September 11, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. Independent Voter

    By a 55%-39% margin, women approve of the job Obama's doing, with men divided (48%-49%). OUCH!!!! Our Prez is going to win, plain and simple. Thank goodness.

    September 11, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. Olaf Big

    Huh? Mikey, what does Harvard endowment have to do with Obama? This is not government money. You understand endowment?

    September 11, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  14. zoyster1

    This is a CNN poll and can be taken with a grain of salt at most since CNN has zero credibility due to the fact they are extremely liberally biased. At any rate, Carter held a big lead before Reagan trampled him. The debates will be Obama's undoing since he will be forced to talk about all his miserable failures.

    September 11, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  15. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    To me this is shocking that this President even has a shot at a second term! I feel like I'm living in bizzaro world nothing seems to make sense anymore.

    September 11, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. Miguel

    I don't quite understand American people. We were stupid to vote for G. Bush second time and even more stupid to vote for Obama second time.

    September 11, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  17. searayshea@gmail.com

    Oh My God! Today is 9/11 and this is the breaking News according to CNN. WOW! 51% approve of Obama. With polls sekwed based on the 2008 electorate, Romney still wins.

    September 11, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. Anna

    And the pozer in chief has hit another low – refusing to meet with Netanyahu at the end of this month, bows to the Kings, bows to the islam leaders, bows to to everyone but won't meet with an friend of the US, gee count me as not surprised. Don't know who scares the pee-brian more, Putin or Netanyahu – this man does not deserve to be president of the United States – wake up people and if we have chance at all DO NOT vote fo this little boy who is trying to live out his father's life (read his book, don't buy it, go o the library – it will make you nauseous when you read about all of his daddy issues)

    September 11, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  19. streetheat

    What did Obama do in the last three days to bump up his approval? Maybe it's liberal press spin! Nah, no way, not in America.

    September 11, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  20. Malory Archer

    That's interesting TJ. I drive around theTampa Bay area as well, and I don' see signs or bumper stickers for either candidate. Still a lot of local candidate signs hanging around from the recent primaries though.

    September 11, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  21. GI Joe

    Romney will be all sweaty and snarky. Maybe a lot condescending. It's all he knows.

    September 11, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  22. Marie Dowdle

    I wish for CNN to remove themselves from facebook, You are in Obamas hip pocket just like all the other News Media. It's sickening the way you fawn all over him.

    September 11, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  23. GI Joe

    @Anna
    He can come and pick up his yearly welfare check. He doesn't get to control the schedule of OUR PRESIDENT.

    September 11, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. roxk

    Obama will kick Romney in debates. I am so thrilled that Obama will be the president for the next 4 years. I will get my foodstamps and welfare for 4 more years. he he he.

    September 11, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  25. ll

    Romney has no plans for the masses – therefore Romney will lose.

    Conservatives have every cause to be worried. They are supporting an obsolete organization. The sooner they learn that it takes representation of the masses to earn a position of leadership of the people, the better off they'll be.

    But yet – it increasingly seems as if they don't give a rip about the people. It's all about self-gain.

    September 11, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
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