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. Duke

    I think it is unconscionable that Wolf or Anderson did not "fact Check" the statements Obama made about the comments in the Rose garden on the Libya affair. Nor did they admonish Candee for inserting herself as on-air "fact checker" when in fact, she was wrong, nor was it her place to insert herself into the debate (at any point). She was the (ineffective) moderator, and her peformance was way below professional standards. The Libya gaff was an amazing breach of trust in her role, but early on she made some comment about if she doesn't get control she will be "skewed" in the media... like this debate was even about her.

    Double bad for CNN.... sorry performance when one of their own deserved some spotlight.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  2. You guys are nuts!

    Nice headline and poll results CNN. I can't believe all the bias over here. Romney was clearly the winner and has a proven track record for managing business and success. Why is it so tough for Obama lovers to see that Romney is much more capable of fixing this economy and leading this nation? Romney had the edge the whole time. Anyone that knows about the issues, knows that Romney wiped the floor AGAIN with Obama. Let's see what happens when the independent fact checkers chime in. But, we know though that most of you guys don't care about facts and won't listen to fact checkers. Boggles my mind really. The Obama campaign will flood the media with how great he did and say that Romney had to specifics. Well, all you heard from Obama was "Not true." Did you hear any specifics from Obama? What does he plan to do?

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  3. sam2777

    Obama did a great job tonite. He articulated his plans and it was clear what each man stood for and what their different visions are. I still don't know how Mitt's plan adds up and was disappointed he still won't answer the "deductions" questions;( ie., which ones, for whom and how much). I think Obama has done a good job despite the lack of cooperation he's had in the House of Reps. I agree with his plan and his vision and hope Congress will support him this time around. Country before politics.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  4. Jeff

    Well, I wish my TV had a lie-O-meter , It would have been beaming tonite everytiime Obama was talking !
    How can people still believe this guy???
    It is sad to me, to have him as our president. Wake up people !!!!!!!!!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  5. Clouds9

    And that! Ladies and gentlemen is how you win a debate! That is why I voted for Obama! I will vote for him again!

    Who let the dogs out!! Whoof! Whoof!!

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  6. BCInNV

    Polls you're quoting were majority republican

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  7. Ehimoni s j moni

    Obama has it all besides the whole world was not expecting president Obama to fulfill all his promises during his 1st campaign in just a single term of office. He is therefore plus or minus, the next president. Though I salute the courage Romney has to challenge Obama on this race but I seriously think he is not ready to fit into obama's sheo yet.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  8. david lopez

    ROMNEY HAS MY VOTE! The American people WILL NOT allow four more years of reckless policies! The Obama Administration is destroying this GREAT NATION! ROMNEY/RYAN ALL THE WAY!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  9. KJ

    Candy Crowley made a horrible mistake and had to back track after the fact. Shame on CNN for not putting a muzzle on their Obama lap dog for stepping out of line during the town hall meeting.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  10. cindyc1954

    After he hogged the time in the first debate, he spent tonight whining that he wasn't getting his fair share... I'm so impressed. I also read tonight that after all the time he spent denying that 9/11/12 was a terrorist attack, he NOW is considering a strike against Libya? the big 0 is NOT in touch with reality...

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  11. JD

    Obama did what he had to it's a shame he has to lower himself at all to deal with GOP BS. Any Gop'ers read facts?

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  12. amazed@humanity

    MATT~ I guess you like the ever changing "king of Flip Flip" Mitt instead? Always an answer for everyone and yet no substance behind a majority of his statements.

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  13. Jeremy

    ...MN...Just because he is Muslim, doesn't mean he is a bad guy. I agree I think he isn't fit to lead this country, and the past four years prove it. Lets get out, and vote and change the course the country is heading. GOD BLESS THE USA

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  14. Purp Dic

    As a republican stay at home mom I am very disappointed in Mitt 2nite. I will stay at home and not vote . If I am goin through that time, I will vote for Barack

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  15. ina

    CNN is in LALA land or they just want to flatter Obama. He had 4 years and he still blames Bush for the economy. I came in States from a communist country, so I detected his agenda: not socialist is 100% COMMUNISM. I take from some and give to more. Till you run out of wealth. After that you go and borrow money!

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  16. Rob

    Democrats call the moderator a Democratic backer. I call her someone who is respectful to our commander-in-chief.

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  17. Ricky

    Romney's policies will take us back to Bush era, because economy-wise they are the same. If you want to go back to a recession, or even a depression, vote for Romney. The guy was governor of Massachusetts and nobody will vote for him there. He does not understand that in a country, you cannot just fire Americans and hire cheap Chinese workers to reduce the deficit.

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  18. Dave in Iowa

    Not sure where all this talk about Obama ahead in Iowa. I see Romney signs all over the state and talked to several people that voted for the president last election and will not be this time.

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  19. LILY

    Obama thought he was on the offensive–but his refusal to answer question and just spouting his campaign retoric–was just OFFENSIVE! Our PRESIDENT cannot
    distinguish between leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness,
    co-operation, trust, integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness,
    aggression, manipulation, distrust, deceitfulness) and neither can Candy Crowley!

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  20. Anonymous

    Okay.. i am going to put in my two sense.. Isn't it funny that people are so very opinionated that they try so very hard to get others to switch to their way of thinking. I think that people will go with whomever they think that will benefit or do better for them. In my opinion, i think obama has my vote, I do not think that romney is capable of acting like a commander in chief not to mention that if anything were to happen to him, that Ryan would sit in his place.. what a fiasco that would be.. ryan is a Yes man, and a puppet on romney's strings... Now this is all just my opinion.

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  21. Jessie P.

    Romney once again was rude to the moderator. Romney will never be able to create jobs as all he has done all of his life is lay off people, shut down companies only to outsource jobs overseas. He did the same thing as Governor of Massachusetts. He will tax the middle class as he did in Massachusetts. He will outsource jobs. He lies. He flip flops. He has money in bank accounts overseas and I am not talking about "blind trusts"............he knows about his money overseas. I don't want a President to have money overseas. He does not pay as much taxes as I do and as most of the people writing comments. He will do away with medicare, social security, and he is in bed with the insurance companies who will drop people with pre-existing conditions. He is not a person who should be President. If you care about the future of your children and or grandchildren.............vote for Obama. Join me and my family who are registered Republicans voting for Obama. Thank you.

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  22. stan

    Romney got beat badly.

    He stumbled badly on a lot of issues. His plan for taxes doesn't add up. He is a shapeshifter on pretty much every issue.

    You right wingers don't admit defeat. Romney has a foreign policy debate left where he has 0 experience.

    October 17, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  23. L Waiters

    I think most of your staff is against Obama. I don't think it's fair to Mr. Obama. I think you should have equal amount of Dem. and Rep. staff. That help to keep things fair to both men. It is so sad to see such prejudice in this day and time.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  24. John

    CNN needs a overhaul! I saw Obama destroy Mitt Romney tonight. I think John King, Alexis C, Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett and many others need to be given the Lou Dobbs treatment and shown the door. They keep on throwing around these fixed poll numbers as if they're the gospel truth. I didn't see not one minority voter in that alleged group on "undecided Ohio voters". After saying Obama won, they totally down played it and threw out several other polls claiming Mitt had won. I guess we will know who wins on election night. CNN is the new faux news. I'll now get my reporting from MSNBC.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  25. Stan

    We've now had two debates and not one candidate mentioned the bottom 1%. The poor people with homes or rents. They treat us as if we pay no taxes. We are almost irrevelant. Everything we buy is taxed. Whether it's beer, wine, scotch or chicken, it's taxed. I just think the bottom of the list, not JUST middle class and top 5% should be addressed! It's bad to feel like a "burden" to the taxpayers for various reasons, but we ARE americans too......that vote.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
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