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. smithgween

    JoeinFL-What debate were you watching!??? Why don't you get your ears and eyes checked.

    October 16, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  2. Ms

    Unskewed polls has Romney winning by 67 points.

    October 16, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  3. pbernasc

    losers always have a hard time believing they have lost ... Romney got beat to the pulp ... smashed like a rotten watermelon ... Tonight Obama won the election, and Romney has gone down the road of Romney who?

    October 16, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  4. Zon

    Obama clearly had a better grasp of the facts and stood up for them more effectively. I caught Romney stammering a few times.

    October 16, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  5. Vern

    I'm watching it right now on DVR, and there's no doubt, watching what I've seen so far, that the President was sharper, clearer and more factual than Governor Romney. The Gov is STILL denying what he's been campaigning about for the last year, and what's in his tax plan-a $5 billion tax cut. It's STILL in his plan, and he denied it as forcefully as Peter denied Jesus! How can we trust a guy, like Mitt Romney, who will NOT tell the truth on anything, and can't make up his mind from day to day what he stands for?

    October 16, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  6. Dave

    So now the media can stop wringing its hands on Romney's behalf – he lost! Same will happen in November

    October 16, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  7. kwdavids

    What matters is what independent voters thought.

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  8. Larry Smith

    Regardless of your biased poll results, Romney was more factual. Your moderator was wrong on the Libyan question. She should have never offered a "fact check", that mislead uninformed viewers. Your organization should be ashamed of her performance tonight. No wonder CNN viewership is waining.

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  9. joeinFL

    Well, the Obama plants are here on CNNs web site posting pro Obama propaganda. These people will do anything to get reelected....what a shame Obama will lose, and I am a Democrat!

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  10. JennyHarris

    Why did obama look so ANGRY?

    VERY off putting.

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    President Obama clearly won this debate, hands down!

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  12. Name Heidi jackson

    Go Obama!!! Ur the guy I'm voting for.

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  13. Mciver3

    As a Republican, I say Obama won "getting the best zingers in" but he never, never answered the questions. On substance, Romney answered the questions best. All Obama did is blame Bush, Romney, and Republicans for his failures. Romney has an economic plan. Obama plans to golf.

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  14. Tonya

    The poll are hard to find on your website. I would like too vote on this polls

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  15. Michael

    Obama 2012 !!..The president was the PRESIDENT ...Romney has proved again how much of a elitist salesman he is ..

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  16. blake

    Obama handled himself much better than round 1. Romney also handled himself well again. But that is not what matters. The issues are what matter. No amount of rhetoric can bail Obama out of a failed presidency built around a failed socialist ideology. Romney will win by 4% to 8% in 21 days. It would be 20% if the press were not in the Democratic party's back pocket.

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  17. Deafobama12

    Obama is win. Period. Mitt turn me off!!!!

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  18. Becky

    No, no he didn't. Obama is a loser in every sense of the word.

    October 16, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  19. Tommy

    Brianhut. The other 33% percent would be independents and undecided voters. I know being ignorant like you are it's hard to believe facts and truths. But some of the polls you mentioned are from primarily Republican blogs and newspapers. Just a little tidbit before you start bringing up things you don't understand at all. Like numbers.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  20. Esther

    REAL WINNER MITT ROMNEY.... Obama get ready your Chicago back home!

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  21. Cathy Gentry

    Again, I think Romney won the debate. His message was clear & concise. President Obama was not affective in hi
    Is comments.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  22. Hoosier53

    Obama was more aggressive, and he lied. He will lose election.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  23. gb333

    Obama won because he answered the questions. And backed them up. He dodged a couple questions, but Romney dodged every question. And kept saying the same things over and over. And the fact checkers put Obama on top. Spin it all you want( I know you will) But Obama was the most truthful, and finally called Romney out.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  24. fantasys

    i heard the black africian say that romney is blaming single moms on gun control in a single family. i don't believe that at all . the statement he is making is for the dad to step up to the plate and be more involved so the family might not head in that direction to start with. thats what i am getting out of it as a mom. it takes two to raise the family, not the skip out dad. don't put a spin on what he is saying.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  25. kwdavids

    Obama didn't look angry. You're projecting.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
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