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. mirrorlogic

    ROMNEY foreign policy – what foreign policy...??? He went to England and got embarrassed at the Olympics...my goodness how hard was it to strike out on that softball. His complaint, OBAMA hasn't solved the entire Middle East problem... REALLY????

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  2. Michael54

    Romney got his head and hindquarters handed to him. No poll I have ever seen has a 7% sampling error, CNN. Ever.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  3. Joseph B

    Romney must think voters are really stupid if they are going to buy in a tax plan that he doesn't explain to voters how it would actually work when it calls for 20% tax cuts but does not define what deductions will be eliminated. Romney is obviously a person who will say whatever people want to hear, but does not stand for anything.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  4. Michigan_Joe

    Obama won hands down. Mitt came off as angry arrogant rude Republican. My republican neighbors called me and said they are changing parties after to night. They said they just couldn't support Mitt any longer even after donating $500 to his campaign

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  5. Greg

    C-mon CNN! Your headline reads as though Obama had the greatest debate in the history of the world! Pathetic but expected!

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  6. cdb

    debate was a tie, with Crowley clearly in Obama's corner. Now she admits Romney was correct about the Libya "terror or riot" issue. Obama had nearly 10% more time to talk. I truly wish these moderators would realize no one cares to hear them, or care what they think...it is about the candidates.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  7. ann

    I am not sure what debate others were watching, but I did not feel that Obama won. I think he did better than his last debate, but I really didn't see anything about his performance that led me to believe he did enough to be declared the winner.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  8. Uhbama

    Close debate, but it doesn't change my view about Obama and his record over the last 4 years. All his failed promises and lies to cover them up. He still took no accountability for anything, typical Obama factor. I felt Romney lacked a little composure, tonight, which made it close. Obama can't run from his record, this debate is meaningless, even if Obama won it, his record still loses, and that's what people will vote on.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  9. Not this time

    Only Wolf can look at a poll that shows Obama winning by 7 % and call it a tie. Shows once again that Wolf and CNN want this race to be close.. they need the ratings.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  10. Johnson Chellappah

    Why CNN is still trying to be more loyal to Mitt Romney...? This is a very different CNN discussion group. More participants are pro Republican..On top of it, every single anchor speaks in favor of Repub's and speaks for Mitt Romney. Why CNN is so biased....Hope Ted Turner is watching this program....

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  11. amazed@humanity

    Oh my Gosh "ON THE FENCE"!! You must have another alternative veil of reality to make a statement that Romney is a fixer when he is representing the party that were severely known as obstructionist in the entire 4 years of this Administration. These individuals( Republican) vowed from day one of 2009 to make this president have only one term. How can anyone overcome such a demented and destructive stance and how can this country move forward with so many want to see this man(Obama) fail?

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

    The overall numbers are irrelevant. What matters is who did better among independents and undecideds. I want to see what those numbers look like. I'm guessing Obama doesn't shine in that poll.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  13. John

    everyone always wants to know what romneys plan is why is no ne asking obama what he plans to do differently the next four years than he has previously and what would he do diffrrent he could go back four years ago. Romney wants people to get jobs many americans are out of work as we all know honestly i think alot of people want to stay on welfare any free load off of the goverment until we change how that works it gonna be hard for anyone to turn our economy and the well being of america in the right direction.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  14. Jamie

    It amazes me how people on hear are claiming that they are pro-Obama after this debate. He spouted the same rhetoricl he did 4 years ago, and has accomplished NONE of those promises during his term. Anyone who claims they/we are better off now than we were 4 years ago is delusional. Obama has NEVER run anything in his life, and the last four years prove this. We need someone in office that at least has a clue on how to run a business, or has a plan on how to move this company forward- not offer excuses and point fingers at prior administrations.

    October 17, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  15. azmy

    I hope Mitt might go back to tea party position tomorrow, You never no what this guy might say next time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  16. mrpopular

    You didn't count me... I think Romney won. I loved it when he told Obama to "sit down" and he did. Priceless!

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  17. Bob

    Obama 2012!

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  18. 1of thecynics

    I saw the same thing I've seeing for the last 4 years. The President blaming everyone else, needing "4 more years" and the media (ie;Crowley. who has as recently as 10 minutes ago admitted she was wrong about Obama's Bengazi statement) Sticking up for him. I've had enough. Time to "downsize" and let this President go. That way he can go spend as much time as he wants w/ the ladies "The View."

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  19. HUSSEIN OBAMA = LIAR

    Romney was EDGED?

    Romeny killed it in the economy. Obama lost that one yet again.

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  20. shayvoter

    What is America saying to the world when it disrespects the president in such an egregious way. People don't even respect the office anymore....Racism is alive and well why do we try to pretend. Sickening

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  21. LB

    Obama won hands down. I live in the middle class and Obamas plan to lower taxes on the middle class is great for me!
    Romneys plan is a bunch of Bull. Obama for the win!

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  22. ChitownDoc

    I voted for Obama in the last election and still undecided. I will say that as pathetic as Obama was in the first debate, he did do better in this second one. I thought Romney did very well in both of the debates. Debates are only part of the equation. I do not care for either left or right wing nuts that lie and distort and frankly, neither candidate is very strong. I thought Obama was a unifier, a moderate and a leader in 2008 and now he is none of these (he is a die hard extreme liberal). Romney is too focused on upper income Americans and I think is out of touch with most Americans (he is a die hard rich conservative). It seems to leave little room for middle of the road American families. Who is for us?

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  23. texcal68

    Romney gets MY VOTE! – Romney lost the election tonight. With the President's much improved debate performance, a must win state for Romney, Ohio, will stay in Obama's win column.

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  24. OMG

    ROMNEY Won damn it. He has 100 million in his IRA account. Do you?

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  25. Florence

    Obama did GREAT ! and won by a mile. Candy did a great job. Obama is a kind and caring man whose main goal is to help people. He deserves to be re-elected. Other polls have Obama leading in much larger numbers at different news stations

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
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