CNN Poll: Most watchers say Romney debate winner
October 3rd, 2012
11:30 PM ET
2 years ago

CNN Poll: Most watchers say Romney debate winner

Denver, Colorado (CNN) – Two-thirds of people who watched the first presidential debate think that Republican nominee Mitt Romney won the showdown, according to a nationwide poll conducted Wednesday night.

According to a CNN/ORC International survey conducted right after the debate, 67% of debate watchers questioned said that the Republican nominee won the faceoff, with one in four saying that President Barack Obama was victorious.

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"No presidential candidate has topped 60% in that question since it was first asked in 1984," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

While nearly half of debate watchers said the showdown didn't make them more likely to vote for either candidate, 35% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney while only 18% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect the president.

CNN Fact Checks: What was truth, and what was not?

More than six in ten said that president did worse than expected, with one in five saying that Obama performed better than expected. Compare that to the 82% who said that Romney performed better than expected. Only one in ten felt that the former Massachusetts governor performed worse than expected.

"This poll does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans. It only represents the views of people who watched the debate and by definition cannot be an indication of how the entire American public will react to Wednesday's debate in the coming days," cautions Holland.

The sample of debate-watchers in the poll was 37% Democratic and 33% Republican.

"That indicates that the sample of debate watchers is about four points more Democratic and about eight points more Republican than an average CNN poll of all Americans, for a small advantage for the Republicans in the sample of debate-watchers," adds Holland.

Romney to deliver major foreign policy address next week

The poll suggests that the debate didn't change opinions of the president. Forty-nine percent of debate watchers said before the debate that they had a favorable opinion of Obama, and that number didn't change following the debate.

It was pretty much a similar story for Romney, whose favorable rating among debate watchers edged up just two points, from 54% before the debate to 56% after the debate.

The economy dominated the first debate and according to the poll, and by a 55%-43% margin, debate watchers said that Romney rather than Obama would better handle the economy. On the issue of taxes, which kicked off the debate, Romney had a 53%-44% edge over Obama. And by a 52%-47% margin, debate watchers said Romney would better handle health care, and he had the edge on the budget deficit by a 57%-41% margin.

From the spin room...

Debate watchers thought Romney was more aggressive. Fifty-three percent said Romney spent more time attacking his opponent. Only three in ten thought Obama spent more time taking it to Romney. By a 58%-37% margin, debate watchers thought Romney appeared to be the stronger leader.

"Romney's only Achilles heel may be the perception that he spent more time attacking his opponent than Obama, which may explain why two-thirds of debate-watchers said that Romney did the best job but only 46% said that he was more likeable than Obama," says Holland.

Dems: Today is a new day

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International, with 430 adult Americans who watched the debate questioned by telephone. All interviews were conducted after the end of the debate. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story

soundoff (314 Responses)
  1. Ann

    I asked this 4 years ago when Mr. Obama debated Hillary and I ask it again.. why do some people believe this guy is smart?

    October 4, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  2. Bhari

    Do you really need a debate to see that the economy is getting worse and we have no foreign policy?
    All The President had to work with were the same old lines, so of course he lost.
    I thought Romney missed a big chance when The Pres said, "Budgets are important."
    Romney's first sentence when next his turn came should have been, "Yes – budgets are important... why don't we have one?"

    October 4, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  3. mary_saff

    As an independent female voter. I found Mr. Romney a bit too aggressive, more rhetorics and not enough substance. I don't know how people think he has won the debate just because he attached president more instead of providing details on his plan. To me I felt Obama was more calm, and tried to explain his plan. I actually found president more caring, and attentive to middle class. Romeny seemed to have changed a lot of his words. Any way that was my 2 cents.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  4. Don

    CEO vs. Community Organizer. Romney showed that he was in command of the issues. He looked far more Presidential.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  5. drask

    i am a 43 year old woman and democrat through and through. But lets be real, we have gone nowhere, the last four years, but down. Romney showed me what I needed to see tonight. He is more presidential than our current president could ever hope to be. We need a strong leader who stands up for himself and his beliefs. Romney won my vote tonight and more importantly on election day.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  6. DjV

    BO was all over the place, didn articulate any of his points well, and why inthe heck is CNN using that picture?? Wow, CNN, wha bias. No way they use that sort of pic if BO was the winner.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  7. Nate

    Romney won debate hands down. I dont see through the glasses as many of you. Success, in business, life, leadership, debates...Bad?
    Obama is dropping the ball in every aspect of the presidency. He is more the celebrity in chief than the commander. Their is no leadership. No ability to work with others. His anger showed on his face tonight, he looked like he wanted to swear at Romney throw his hands in the air and meet with the Ladies on the View again.

    The thing I dont get is his base or followers are struggling the worst under his lack of leadership and they are still on his team.

    I think Romney cares for America. He does not need this crap, just like he did not need to totally turn around the Olympics for no pay. He wants to lead us back to prosperity and I think he has a track record of working with others enough to get it done.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  8. Lx

    So, winning generally means being more aggressive? Obama didn't lie, he spoke straight forward putting his agenda first. He looked calm throughout the debate. Maybe he lost because he not only pointed out the flaws, but presented what could be be good. What did Romney did? Has be answered any of the question as they were supposed to be answered? Heck no!! But of course he won because he is a businessman who knows how to create jobs, maybe that's why MA was 47th on the Nation in terms of job creation when he was a Governor!

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  9. Lynne

    Whoever prepped the president for this debate needs to be fired! They thought he could just go up the stage and be mr. Cool and "likable". Well, bad way for him to find out.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  10. Brian

    This is the beginning of the for the president get the big spender out he spent more then all past presidents combined he madkes even Bush look good

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  11. RPE

    I am loving the commentary here tonight. Obama showed who he is, a protected pretender who has no substance whatsoever. You die hard Obama fans are clearly rattled. Keep telling yourself whatever you want, but the truth is Obama is not the guy to help this country. It would be best if you just accepted the truth instead of rewriting it.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  12. Geordie

    Hilary was better in their debates in 2008 and so was Romney today , he clearly is the better candidate.
    Obama , the community organizer has destroyed the country and has to be stopped.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  13. Sanity

    Obama has zingers and slipups to use. Romney used actual reasoning. A first in a presidential debate. One things for sure, Romney is sharp.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  14. JG

    Yes in this battle Romney won hands down but war is not over yet. And yes, CNN, it seems that you did not like Romney won this round. Why not put his better picture up front?

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  15. Kirkussent

    The pundits can talk about aggression,smiles, and upbeat, but in the end he will lose because he is a paper tiger.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  16. d

    exactly what we need, a businessman who isn't going to add to the deficet and destroy our country. The president looked confused, unsure what he was doing. I must say, a record goes farther than talking. I feel romney express his plan and the president said what he said last year.

    October 4, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  17. Bhari

    Do you really need a debate to see that the economy is getting worse and we have no foreign policy?
    All The President had to work with were the same old lines, so of course he lost.
    I thought Romney missed a big chance when The Pres said, "Budgets are important."
    Romney's first sentence when next his turn came should have been, "Yes – budgets are important... why don't we have one?

    October 4, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  18. Tee C

    I don't think anyone will be able to tell who "won" until the figures both candidates quoted are meticulously checked and released. They can both say lots of pretty words, but if any whoppers were told tonight, let's see them squirm their way out of outright lies.

    October 4, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  19. Justin

    This CNN poll is based on only 430 people... This obviously doesn't mean Romney won the debate in all of America's opinion.

    October 4, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  20. Laura

    Total TKO for Romney.......heck, by the time that the debate was over, I believe that Obama was convinced that he should vote for Romney.....Mittens buried BO tonight!!!!

    October 4, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  21. Romney is the biggest liar ever!

    Romney has the nerve to say "your heart is where your money is" (SAYS THE GUY WITH HIS FORTUNE IN OTHER COUNTRIES!) when he refers to Obama for "Wasting" money on green energy to make USA less dependent on oil and the middle east!

    October 4, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  22. ShirleyAnne

    I am from Canada but thank goodness for the debate tonight. Finally the Americans are realizing what they have in Romney. Not the guy who goes on the View when all the leaders from around the world want to talk to him and the news of the day is Michelle Obama knows how to make the President mad. They should have had George Clooney on the View that day and then it would have been a real Hollywood Event instead of a take charge of America and Foreign Politics Event.

    Mitt Romney will keep your country safe in the years to come which in turn will keep our country safe!!!

    PLEASE VOTE ROMNEY – Your one vote can make a difference.

    October 4, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  23. Robert Wendell

    Wow!!!!! I thought I was watching Fox news after the debate. All the high fives and backslapping. Anyway here's by thought, Romney comes out as the aggressive, fast talking salesman that he is. Hardly taking a breath as he spewed out one statistical fact after another. Impressive command as stated by the CNN panel. Than comes the fact checkers, whoops, turns out most of his facts are false. So my question is, this is what it takes to be President, be aggressive, talk fast and lie. Very disappointing to watch the panel not talk content, just style. What's happened to CNN??????

    October 4, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  24. MEB

    Romney was extremely aggressive in the debate. Obama was polite. Obama did miss several opportunities to point things out about Romney (e.g. 47%, etch a sketch, etc.) but Romney repeatedly cut him off and Leherer did not interfere. Additionally, Romney kept talking at end of his time even when told to stop. He also interjected things even when it was not his turn. Romney may have presented better, but he told so many lies it defies description!

    October 4, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  25. Surfdeep

    This debate reminded me of Reagan vs. Carter . Romney trounced Obama....Romney's final statement made Obama shaking as a deer in the headlights. Romney never asked the question "are you better now than four years ago?...but I'm sure you will see this knockout punch in the debates to come. Obama was way out of his league! Romney won by a s/mile ;)

    October 4, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
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