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. nysoxer

    Obama claimed he identified the Libyian attack as being terrorism the day after while speaking in the Rose garden. Candy Crowley backed Obama's cla im saying she had the transcript. The fact is, Obama lied. He never mentioned the act being specifically terrorism. He lied and Candy Crowley swore to it. She owes the Nation an apology. And, although Obama was better in this debate simply because he proved he could walk and talk at the same time, he lost. Let's face it, if he lied about that speech in the Rose Garden, what esle has he lied about? Take your time on this one.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  2. Tristan

    CANDY CROWLEY SHOULD BE FIRED. I read the transcript in its entirety. Pres Obama did not call the attack in Benghazi at "Act of Terror" on Sept 12 in the Rose Garden. SHE GOT IN WRONG.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  3. Scott A.

    Obama didn't win. Once again he backed down from the debate with his leg between his legs. When the clarity of Romney's statement came out about Obama blaming the video and riots, and not about an Absolute Terrorist attack. He turned tale and ran instead of answering why he blamed the video for so long. That is a loss in my book.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  4. Terry

    Every other poll I am seeing including a couple of live focus groups have Romney winning the debate, and shame on CNN's Candy Crowley whose attempt at saving Obama from the blatant lie he told on national tv was embarrassing.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  5. Jeremy from NC

    Romney was the clear winner!

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  6. SPPP

    Eh, tie.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  7. Zak

    If it's within the sampling error of the poll, then there is insufficient evidence to say that Obama edges Romney in the debate. That's why we have sampling error.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  8. Lilly

    I think when it came to substance, Obama had it where as Mitt Romney did not. What really caught my attention was when the young lady asked about economic fairness in the workplace for women. Obama not only personalized his answer but referred to a policy that he signed whereas Mitt could only say that he hired women in his cabinet and that his state had the most women in jobs or something like that. The question did not ask about just hiring women but payment EQUALITY.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  9. aicohn

    Romney won the debate. It was closer than the last one, but he won it.

    It was predictable the media would continue its slobbering love affair with O.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  10. Louise

    I thought Romney won on substance. Obama fudged the truth on jobs, his energy policy and Libya. He was way to aggressive. Noone asked about underemployment either. It was dissapointing. I am voting for Romney. Thanks to Obama I have gone from making 30$ an hour to a PT job where I make 12$ an hour. I have two master's degrees so I am not under educated. We need a new president.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  11. Kristi

    Obama won my vote tonight as well. I found myself nodding my head and really felt like he knows what he's doing.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  12. Stella

    Mitt Romney won–in spite of the BIASED moderator, Candy Crowley. She corrected Romney on one of his points–and SHE was wrong. Barack Obama NEVER characterized the murders in Libya as a terrorist attack the day after in the Rose Garden. He continued with the lies about the video for the entire week! No matter, Romney will be our next President.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  13. Mike

    IObama lost my vote.... His campaign so far has concentrated more on what Romney makes. Trust me if everytime I go to a doctor and have to find out how much he makes, then I will be never be able to get any treatment. Doctors are judged based on how good they are at their job.. same holds here. Is Romney competent for the job based on his track record as Mass Gov or running olympic committee. and the fact that Obama has never mentioned any of this tells me very clearly that Romney is clearly a very able administrator and fit to run this country. How much Romney makes does "not" get me any money. I care more about who is competent to get us out of his mess we are in.....

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  14. Dr Nasrat Hijazi

    If the poll had more Republicans (8%) than Democrats, then President OBAMA 46 to 39 is a MASSIVE WIN not a slight edge as Wolf Blitzer has been saying!

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  15. Name michael

    Mr flip flop lacks substance
    Obama clearly was superior
    Has more substance , he will win
    In Nov

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  16. Johnny

    Jenny the president is tired of Romney's lies and that's why he probably looked mad to you or "off putting" as you put it, but I think he had just the right demeanor during the debate and he showed that he can be cool under pressure and he is also a fighter also. He's not the angry black man that many want to imply him to be and maybe that's what you are trying to imply also. He was more aggressive and rightfully so since he gave Romney a free pass on all his lies during the first debate but he called him out this second debate on his lies. Just accept that Romney lost round two and President Obama won this one.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  17. sonia santiago

    you know I can't believe that such so call intellegent people in CNN don't remember how hard these tea party people and you know who else have made it for barack Obama president of the united states to do his job he has been fought on every corner every thing from so called obama care to immigration Please get real Romney was the one every time asked on what he was going to do diffrent he attacked the president and never answred the question CNN seems to be trying to sway the people to see it like they do we think for ourselves.. thank you and will vote Obama

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  18. Bill

    Obama lost my vote tonight.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  19. Lose With Obama

    What kind of sane person would want four more years of stagnation? Obama is a loser who is championed by losers.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  20. Kyle

    where are the poll results showed on tv regarding the economy, debt, and jobs showing romney winning those?

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  21. Rick

    Romney won on his own merits. You have to adjust for all the assistance Crowley gave to the affirmative action guy. Obama talking about his record was a broken record of lies.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  22. dem209

    All i can say is WOW. How many times did Obama lie? How does he have the guts to call him self a coal and oil guy. If you like coal and oil so much, why are the gas prices almost 5 bucks here in Modesto California where i live? HUH? Why?

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  23. Jacob

    I am sorry, but it was obvious tonight that President Obama won the debate. The President dominated the section on immigration and then dominated again when it came to the discussion on women's equal pay in the work force. "Binders of Women" was such a pathetic attempt at answering a question.... All of these republican Romney lovers need to just bow out and admit that Obama DOMINATED in round 2.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  24. Lacie

    We know what Romney can do, he has shown in his own state and business he can turn things around. Obama has had 4 years and we have done nothing but gone down. I really didn't know anything about Obama and to tell you the truth I don't think the American people really know him. I watched Obama 2016 and that was a wake up call. I watch everything about both parties now and I am happy to say that I will be voting for Romney!

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  25. Stacey G.

    I was hoping that Romney would back off the lying he did in the first debate and give us some real plans to back up all his promises, but the falsehoods continued. Obama stopped being polite and called him out, and reminded me why I voted for him four years ago. My family is better off now, so Obama will get my vote once more.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
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