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. Rob

    How is a 7-point polling difference within the margin of error when the margin is +/- 4.5 points? Want to try again, CNN?

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  2. Glenn

    Hey John King!..why was Mitt stuttering and his lips went white? could it be he got whipped?

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  3. MN

    CNN you and Candy Crowley are so biased and so into Obama. Romney won the debate by a mile. Obama's answers were to repeat what Romney said. When are you all going to give credit where it is due? Obama lied in almost all his answers, especially about Bengazi, etc.......God help this country if this muslim is relected. The USA will become the United States of Islam within 4 yearts and that is what his agenda is!

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  4. wakeupamerica

    Clearly, Obama won this debate. Romney does not have what it takes to lead this country – rude, nasty, agitated. Mad respect for Candy but should have been better in moderating. Obama 2012

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  5. Robet

    @larry smith
    the moderator was dead on with the fact check. romney was wrong. dont believe me – watch the tapes. msnbc showed obama in the rose garden the day after saying exactly what Obama claimed.
    romney needs to check his facts before putting his foot in his mouth!

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  6. Catherine

    Obama looked like it was a big game show, Romney looked Presidential.

    We need to get this economy moving again and Obama and Biden had their chance. All they do is blame anyone and everyone.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  7. Micha

    What plans does Romney has? All he said was he has a plan, no mention to what his plan actually is. Fox and their followers can try to spin it all they want, but their candidate has no grasp of facts or how to actually do good for the middle class. People that say Romney stated his plan, what is it? Obama answered the questions straightforward, all Romney could say was he had a plan.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  8. JimfromBoston

    Candy didn't redirect any hard questions to Obama and she let him slide with the 'no acts of terror' comment even though he wasn't even referring specifically to the attack. I voted for Obama 4 years ago. Romney is a bad politician but he's a proven capable leader.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  9. Jill

    Obama clearly repeated his usual rederick, he lied to the american people again. Candy also helped Obama with the Liba issue. Obama will not get my vote

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  10. Frances

    Your polls are off..unless you are polling the binder of women Willard reference, the rest of the thinking world (please consult social media because your unscientific poll needs assistance). The realtime factcheck on "the record" was a turning point in the debate. Since I am able to state what occurred randomly, I obviously watched. CNN is the pseudo-foxnews.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  11. George

    I am a middle class republican but will vote Obama this time around. Romney tax cuts for the super rich are scaring me.

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

    I think on aggressiveness, Obama won. On being presidential, Romney won. I'm from Colorado and voted for Obama in 08, now I'll be voting for Romney. He comes off as a fixer and doer and not a speaker or politician like Obama. I just can't get over the fact that Obama had 2 years with a super majority in Congress and the only landmark legislation was Healthcare; what about immigration? Gitmo? Doesn't make sense. Voting for Romney for sure, this debate sealed it.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  13. Denis Kengere

    Obama had a very strong performance tonight.He made his case that Romneys ideas were bound to fail since he has not been consistent.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  14. Miikka

    Obama won this, no question about it. Romney has always been a liar and has changed his opinions many times. He has, for example, been against coal industry, but during his campaign he has changed his opinion of that. No way Romney. Obama for 4 more years!

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  15. INDEPENDENT VOTER

    LOL I love reading the post from the people that have no clue. We gave Obama a chance but we are worse off then we were almost 4 years ago. Time for some new blood and if he can't cut it. Then his butt is out in 4 years. Plain and simple folks. By the way Obama should have stepped up and taken the blame instead of letting his SOS fall on the sword. Bad move on his part and he knows it, especially with all the backlash. It just showed what we knew all along. No one is running this country

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  16. Kristi

    Obama won MY vote tonight.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  17. anybutbush

    Romney is so hard to see as a thoughtful person who can consider complexities with equanimity and arrive at an insightful solution. The job is simply way too difficult for him. If he's elected, he'll be on the defensive for the last 3-1/2y of his single term. He simply is not good enough or smart enough. He is a salesman with a single script.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  18. R Turner

    We had 8 years of Bush and now these people's think Obama should make it all right in four years. No one can fix this country in the next twenty years. Dem.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  19. jeff

    Did you see Robme get really angry from time to time. That is not presidential you know.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  20. demopublican

    "International survey indicates 46% of debate watches say Obama won the debate"... OK. But what about the debate clocks?

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  21. amazed@humanity

    What ever happened to the moderately Democratic stance that I relied on in CNN's reporting over the years? I noticed several weeks ago that suddenly CNN commentators started to lean towards a more right winged stance and support. I now only use CNN for the debate "undecideds" reactions that are shown during the debates. CNN you have truly lost my loving feeling.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  22. Middle Class

    Will any one person running for president do anything for the middle class or is it just more bull. Only the poor or rich are taken care of.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  23. Mattie

    I feel as someone else said that... you are danged if you don't...danged if you do...Others said in the first debate...His debate was lackluster...He didn't debate back...Tonigh he did...He debated the second time around and people said...Oh!!! He had daggers in his eyes!!! He was attacking Mitt...DUH!!!... IT"s A Debate!!! Obama talked about what he has done...and what he plans on doing...for all. If you open your eyes...Mitt is not for all...only if it suits him to get your vote...

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  24. America First

    Definitely Obama took home the prize tonight. I expect to see a 2 point bounce from this one. He had the better answers. Romney looked like he was sweating not only the numbers of his tax plan, but what his answers from prior debates were. They change too often to track.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  25. Ellie A.

    I think it was a toss-up. Obama won on facts as usual though. Romney looked like a petulant bully but (sadly) a lot of Americans dig that.

    I do love all the "I'm voting Romney – and I'm a democrat!" shills.
    *eye roll*
    Yeah – suuuure you are. Most of them are part of the keyboard brigade sitting in a GOP campaign office right now. This is an old tactic for the GOP – sending people out in sheeps clothing and telling them to vote to the wolf ("Look at me! I'm a sheep and I'm voting for the wolf!" BAAAAAH – go away trolls)

    Don't fall for it.

    Don't believe the lies.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
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