CNN Poll: Split decision on debate
October 16th, 2012
11:46 PM ET
2 years ago

CNN Poll: Split decision on debate

Hempstead, New York (CNN) – Give a slight edge to President Barack Obama.

Forty-six percent of voters who watched Tuesday night's presidential debate said that the president won the showdown, according to a CNN/ORC International nationwide poll conducted right after Tuesday night's faceoff here at Hofstra University on New York's Long Island. Thirty-nine percent questioned said Republican nominee Mitt Romney did the better job.

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Obama's seven-point advantage came among a debate audience that was somewhat more Republican than the country as a whole and is within the survey's sampling error.

The president's edge on the question of who won the debate appears to be the result of his much better than expected performance and his advantage on likeability. But the poll also indicates that debate watchers said Romney would do a better job on economic issues. And the two candidates were tied on an important measure - whether the showdown would affect how the debate watchers will vote. Nearly half said the debate did not make them more likely to vote for either candidate, with the other half evenly divided between both men.

Tuesday night's poll only reflects the view of voters who watched the debate, not the views of all Americans. The reactions of all voters across the country to the second presidential debate must wait until polls are conducted in the coming days.

Nearly three quarters of debate watchers felt that Obama performed better than they had expected, with just one in ten saying that the president did worse. Only 37% said that the former Massachusetts governor did a better job in the debate than they had expected, with 28% saying Romney performed worse than they had expected prior to the faceoff, and one in three saying he performed the same as they expected.

According to the survey, Obama had a 47%-41% edge on which candidate was more likeable. But on some key issues, Romney came out on top, including an 18-point lead on the economy.

"Mitt Romney was seen as better able to handle the economy, taxes, and the budget deficit among the debate audience, but it seems that issues were trumped, or at least blunted, by intangibles, including the expectations game," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

By a 49%-35% margin, debate watchers thought that Obama spent more time attacking his opponent. The president was expected to be more forceful in attacking Romney following his lackluster performance in the first presidential debate in Denver two weeks ago.

Other questions showed little daylight between the two candidates among debate watchers on some key characteristics. Romney had a 49%-46% edge on which candidate seemed to be the stronger leader and 45%-43% margin on who answered questions more directly, while Obama had a 44%-40% advantage on which man seemed to care more about the audience members who asked questions.

Debate watchers were divided on whether Romney offered a clear plan for solving the country's problems, with more than six in ten saying the president didn't offer a clear plan.

What will it all mean in November?

On that measure, the debate can best be described as a tie. One-quarter of debate-watchers said the event made them more likely to vote for Obama, and an equal amount said it made them more likely to vote for Romney. Half said it would have no effect on their vote.

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

"That indicates that the sample of debate watchers is about eight points more Republican than polls taken among all Americans throughout 2012, so the debate audience was more Republican than the general public," added Holland. "This poll does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans. It only represents the views of people who watched the debate."

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC, with 457 registered voters who watched the debate questioned by telephone after the end of the debate. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

By a 37%-30% margin, a CBS News poll conducted after the second debate also indicated that Obama won the showdown.

– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Also on the CNN Political Ticker

– Colbert says he can't tell differences between Romney and Obama

– All tied up ahead of second Obama-Romney showdown

– Obama ad makes case for economic policies

– Romney message this week: 'A clear choice on debt and deficits'

– Largely hidden away, Obama reports debate prep 'going great'

soundoff (1,208 Responses)
  1. Tim Evens

    Very clear win for The President tonight. Did not hear really any detail from Romney.

    October 16, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  2. brianhut

    33% Democrat and 33% Republican sampling. With the remaining 33% being what and who? And no effort to poll likely voters? This 'poll' means nothing. We'll find out the real poll results from Gallup, Rasmussen, Pew and others in a few days. I have a hard time believing that Obama 'won' anything with the actual electorate tonight.

    October 16, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  3. Abrria coney

    I think Obama will be a way better president then mitt Romney , Romney doesn't know what he's talking about at all #TeamObama

    October 16, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  4. Luke

    Notice how after Candy fact checks the Act of Terror remark she stops the discussion? Romney got in about 3 sentences and didn't even get to ask Obama the question about why Rice and Obama went around for 2 weeks blaming the attack on a video. Obama began interrupting and Candy like a good dog helped the president by changing the subject. The single most important topic on Americans' minds right now and Candy cuts it short right when it gets to the heart of the matter. What a crock. This debate was fixed from the start.

    October 16, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  5. dante

    Obama comes in as the underdog, when we all know America loves an underdog, and wins? BIG SURPRISE

    October 16, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  6. Andy

    Not sure what these people watched. Just because you did better than the first time doesn't mean you won. For Obama, stalemate at best.

    October 16, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  7. Rain McManis

    73% said Obama did better than they expected?

    What does this say about voter's confidence in the President of the United State?

    October 16, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  8. dan

    Please, Obama had nothing to lose because he lost the last one, Romney played it smart and did well. No game changer. Obama should be afraid, very afraid........

    October 16, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  9. joeinFL

    What planet are you on CNN? Candy was a virtual teleprompter for Obama, and Romney was way better than Obama, and I am a democrat!

    October 16, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  10. tips1660

    as expected

    October 16, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  11. Name

    Romney was better

    October 16, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  12. N

    Debating is a bit easier when you have the moderator up your sleeve.

    October 16, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  13. Dc

    actually, this was 8% more republican voters in this panel...in terms of their statistics..Obama won every news network..period. Romney is fake, has no plan, and people know he has absolutely no substance..saying 'trust me' isn't a strategy.

    October 16, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  14. Jason

    BS.....How can you say Obama won the debate? Because more people said Obama attacked Romney more?

    October 16, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  15. Sue

    Wonderful job by Candy...was a difficult task but well done. A great come back by President Obama. Seems to be the clear winner...

    October 16, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  16. joshu

    Debate was relatively equal slightly in Obama's favor until Libya came up. Romney was knocked out completely on this, after that the debate solidly went to Obama.

    October 16, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  17. obamaCares

    Go obama!

    October 16, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  18. Sam SUm

    My 2 questions for Obama are: What is your plan for the next 4 years? And, what are you going to do to save Social Security and Medicare? I got no answers tonight.

    October 16, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  19. John Lovell

    Romney won the first debate, Obama won this one.

    October 16, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  20. Christy

    I felt that President Obama demonstrated his leadership and once again, his classiness, especially during the discussion about the events in Libya. I am voting for President Obama; I predict he will continue to pull the country together, including the economy.

    October 16, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  21. Scat398

    Set the bar low enough even obama can do well. I like romney's tax plan better than obama's and i didnt like obama using socialist key words like " paying fair share".

    October 16, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  22. E

    Romney won because he gave specific items he would do to fix the broken US. Obama did nothing but attack Romney - Obama did not give a single thing he do to fix it, just 4 more years going down hill.

    October 16, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  23. Well...

    46% of debate watches say Obama won the debate, while 39% say Romney fared better. The seven-point margin falls within the poll's sampling error.

    So in other words, it was a draw... a statistical tie.

    October 16, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  24. VCMD

    President Obama just acted like a school boy and he barged into Romney's space a multiple times and was rude to interrupt him! Instead of focusing on what he would do differently in next four years to give him another chance, he was just trying to explain what Romney would do and why that would be bad. It's not going to help him in the polls. Liberal base may feel energized but it's not going to sway independents.

    October 16, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  25. www.kazurisana.com

    The good thing is that after Former Governor Romney loses the elections in 21 days, at least we will not have to see him running for office again.

    October 16, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
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