CNN Poll: Split decision on debate
October 16th, 2012
11:46 PM ET
1 year 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. Zinj

    hey Folks look at the internals of the CNN poll!!! Who will best handle the economy?

    Romney 58%
    Obama 40%

    This will decide the election.. all the other blah, blah.. will mean little on election day

    October 17, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  2. Dave

    All that matters is who shows up on election day. Mitt's got the momentum.

    October 17, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  3. Mary

    Why was Obama looking so pleased? This country is struggling, millions out of work, and he and Biden are smirking and smiling like kids who got away with something. Time for the adults to take over.

    October 17, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  4. The Future

    Romney's policies will foster growth and lead to more jobs. We need sustainable businesses in this country and policies that support them, not one time wealth transfers and big government spending supported by Obama. Let's go back to our roots America. Vote Romney

    October 17, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  5. Urban Dweller

    Romney was the clear winner particularly on the economy. Crowley was out of line injecting herself into the debate by falsely fact checking the president on Libya. I do not believe your poll tallies as I attempted to vote in the poll and was unable to submit my vote when I highlighted Romney. Our Facebook threads backs up Romney as a clear winner.

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

    landslide for Obama tonight, the clear winner!

    October 17, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  7. Donkey Party

    Funny reading the lame excuses from the right-wingers on how badly Romney tanked. You're all more pathetic than Romney himself.

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

    Romney sure is one serial liar, isn't he. Even for Republicans, it has got to be the pits to have him as their candidate that they have to try to promote.

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

    I love all the repubs complaining about "lies". So hypocritical:
    Obama doubled debt: fact checkers say- he actually LOWERED it. LOL.
    Don't even try for a "half true" statement Mittens. Just go for the full "FALSE" ratings.

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

    Obama said nothing new tonight, he is repeating the same rhetoric hes been spewing for 4 years....nothing that would move an undecided....

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

    Crowley now admitting she was wrong and Romney was right.

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

    Obama is done. My wife which is a moderate dem admitted she is done with Obama. Now i gota convince her to vote for Romney :)

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

    Four years later, President Obama is still running on hope and change! He has no record to run on and instead of telling what he would do differently in next four years, he drinks red bull, interrupts Romney, speaks out of turn and worst lies about Libya/Drilling etc. This is not going to help him.

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

    Romney is still trailing in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa,..... Romney needed to keep up the momentum and he failed. Obama will get a small bump from this and with almost 2 weeks left.....that could be it.

    October 17, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  15. Jim in Kentucky

    I was not impressed. I thought he drifted. He was churlish, vitriolic, and acrimonious, but he did not answer the questions directly. I don't blame him. He had a hard time selling because his administration has been incompetent.

    Petulance will not sell to the undecided, especially when there is so much at stake.

    October 17, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  16. chet darin

    I find it strange that CNN can show poll results that Obama won by 53% and yet ever comment after the fact is pro Romney... I think I'll go to bed now!

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

    How long does it take you to turn around your personal financial situation? How about your family's? Now, do you think it is realistic to expect a President to turn around the world's most complex economy in 4 years having inherited a massive deficit, two wars, a sagging international market, and an opposition that not only was unhelpful but indeed challenging? The indicators show slow but positive change. Just like in time share sales, if it's too good to be true, it isn't true. Slow but steady, stay the course, and give the man a seoncd term.

    October 17, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  18. just sayin

    obama was the winner of the debate even before it was held. after his first debate disaster, all he had to do was show up and everybody was ready to declare him the winner. this is what happens when you set the bar so low all somebody has to do is fall over to beat expectations. sort of like obamas 4 years. we have just gotten used to high unemployment, high gas prices, no growth. pretty depressing.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  19. Pete

    I watched the debate from Australia. Romney was far clearer in his answers, less on the big rhetoric, more on the substance. America I think you'll have a new President this year.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  20. Kevin

    CNN: Your own site's poll shows Obama with 68% to Romney's 32%. How many polls are you conducting, and why would you choose the single one that shows a close result?

    Also, a 7-point margin of error is inexcusable. That's about as good, in terms of polling, as flipping a coin.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  21. myintx

    People keep asking for Mitt's plan, but NO ONE ever asks for Obama's plan. Is that because they know it's going to be the same plan from four years ago that FAILED? Even though Mitt hasn't given all the details (reminder – we never the details on Obamacare until after Obama was elected!), I have still seen and heard MORE about Romney's plan than Obama's.

    Romney/Ryan 2012.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  22. danny k

    "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"

    talk about not having a clue......

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  23. joepac

    the man did the greatest Job . Obama Beat him very well and Candy Crolly talso had to get check!!

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  24. Brian

    Obama is an idiot! worse the people that voted for him and are considering voting for him again are idiots! America cant stand one more day with him let alone another 4 years! Wake up people vote Romney!

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  25. Allen Hoggard

    President Obama came out swinging.... and I am proud to have him as our Comander and Chief.....

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
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