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. Concerned Voter

    What kind of poll only let's you click on the Democrat. Typical.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  2. Suzy

    Strange I watched the same debate. Romney won, Obama lied about drilling, lied about his tax plan , and even lied about 9-11-12 (terriost attack). He even has money out of the country. Wow! Amasing.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  3. Voter

    Romney had no plan. He just made believe that he would reduce the deficit by cutting everybody's income tax. Romney is Alice in wonderland. Everything in his plan is simply imagination...

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

    Candy won the debate.

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  5. Namepsmith

    Cnn is starting to sound like fox!!! Obama clearly won. Was doesn't cnn question how romney has 100 million in his ira when average american has a limit!!!! He avoids paying taxes!!!!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  6. Dan

    Has American politics managed to hit a new low? And just when I thought it could not worse. Debates are now decided by who is more aggressive? We've already seen campaigns reduced to one line sound bites resembling the catch phrases the action movie hero says when he takes down a bad guy. Now the debates are about who interrupts who, who wins the stare down and who talks over the moderator? I suppose in 4 years the presidency will be decided in a UFC like match on TV. I suppose when both sides promise change and very little changes no matter wins (both Obama and Romney are rich men), we might as well decide by fist tight.

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  7. Rush

    Why have the CNN contributors taken a turn for supporting the Republican side a little bit more than what they used to? In 2008 they were all for backing Obama even though CNN is supposed to be pretty balanced but lately some contributors have been speaking about what Romney did here and how well he held his own and this and that about Romney and only a few have the courage to say that he is flat out lying. Come on CNN.

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  8. Undecided voter

    I thought Obama won, and Im a lifetime Republican. Mr Romney lacked details. Casting my absentee ballot tomorrow in Ohio

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  9. Maripil

    Obama won the debate hands down!!! It is so shameful that Romney compared women like a binder of women and that single parents are likely to have to have children commit violence!!

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  10. Jerome

    Candy Crowley was a joke. How in the hell did this woman get the job? I know every person has their biases, but if they cannot hide them while moderating a debate, they have no business doing the job. As an independent, I was trying to decide, but the way she ran to the president's rescue, especially on the Libya issue was a turn-off. If a president can't win a fight without the help of a moderator and has to wait until his Secretary of State takes the fall for his blunders, I have come to the conclusion that he does not deserve another four years. America doesn't need a wimp, we need a leader and I saw that tonight in Romney.

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  11. alex

    So, is the story about how obama lied on libya and the moderator backed up his lie, or is that just what limbaugh and the other right wingers bring up?

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  12. AgentProvoca

    Anyone who thinks Obama performance tonight won him a second term is loony. There are 23 million unemployed/under-employed Americans and the millions of others who have endured severe economic hardship during the Obama/Biden "CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN" era.

    No one should be surprised when Romney is elected on November 6.

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  13. MRLJBOYCE

    You idiots with your teleprompter remarks referring to the president can take the teleprompter and shove it up your you know what. Looks like Romney needed 3 teleprompters tonight. How bout that binder he has with all the hot women that he looks over to choose for jobs? How bout the idiot Romney on Libya? How bout Romney on anything?? He talked a hundred miles a minute about nothing. He embarrassed himself tonight...

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

    Can’t believe it was THAT close … President Obama smoked the liar !!

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  15. Gary Wright/

    How about a grammer check, the President said acts of terrorism, not act of terrorism. That is a big difference in specific or
    or generally speaking. Sorry, but the mod. got it wrong!!

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  16. nicholas

    Romney won for sure.
    Here is Why the president is wrong. He's openly said he plans on raising taxes on the rich to balance the deficit. What the president doesn't seem to understand is this: 1. Big businesses loan money to small business and individuals. If these businesses are taxed more they will begin to loan less. This will hurt the economy and the middle class. 2. Businesses are in business to make money. They will go where they can do that easiest. If large business is taxed more they will offset those costs by laying off workers, lowering the pay of workers, and or move their company to another country.
    The only way to grow the economy is to encourage our businesses to develop more than the rest of the world and the president has failed time and again on this issue. And by his own words he plans on continuing down the same road.

    October 17, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  17. Eliza

    A large majority feel that Romney would do better on the economy. That is the single question that will decide this election. I live in California, where Obama's kind of policies have been in force for decades. A quarter million people have left my state in search of greener pastures. Businesses are leaving in droves. Our schools are failing. But we spend billions on a bullet train to nowhere. Come see what four more years will look like in your state, and some of you who now support Obama may reconsider.

    October 17, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  18. Candy Obama

    How dare she adjudicate when her job was to moderate. And if she's going to make a ruling, make it correctly. If Obama thought it was terror day 1 in Rose Garden, why did he spend 2 weeks at UN, on Univision, and on national media via Jay Carney saying it was a video. The Rose Garden quote was NOT what Candy Obama said it was. Shame on her and on the network that employs her

    October 17, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  19. Greg

    Of course the libs would say he WON.... in all reality it was more of a draw from a show perspective... but I think when the fact checkers come out tomorrow, Obama will be proven to be the liar that he is. Candy Crowley was dishonest as well and should have kept herself out of it until SHE had the facts but we all understand who's hip pocket the CNN journalists are in.
    When the truth comes out tomorrow, Obama will continue to spiral.

    October 17, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  20. Michael

    Anyone here who can think this debate was even close must get paid to post by the RNC.

    October 17, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  21. Suzy

    I have no doubt it was already written (even before the debates) that Obama won. Its called liberal press.

    October 17, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  22. annieL

    Romney treated Crowley like a CEO treats a low-level employee. Just like he treated Lehrer. Once a bully, always a bully. I hate bullies.

    October 17, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  23. Romney gets MY VOTE!

    Romney is the man with a plan.....Obama, I've seen his plan for 4 years now and can say with certainity, IT AIN'T WORKIN, Neither is most of America!

    October 17, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  24. Keri

    Candy Crawly was awful.. Of course she would speak up to help benefit Obama. Does that surprise anyone???

    October 17, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  25. Mike

    Candy was clearly trying to boost Obama

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