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. jim deedler

    Romney looked like he was begging at times and was constantly interupting everyone. Once again he could not answer the Tax Question...He gave answers out of turn and lost this debate on style and substance.

    Obama showed strength, passion and command of the facts. He was a clear winner this debate in style and substance as well as truth.

    Winner Obama!! 2012

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  2. NotFooledByDistractions

    Can anyone honestly say they know what romneys plan is to create jobs? What's his plan to turn the economy around? Anyone....??? "I know how to create jobs" just doesn't cut it.

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  3. judith

    Romney won't even explain the specifics of his magical tax plan that will provide all those jobs. He also took an enormous amount of government money that helped him "save" the Olympics. He talks tough on China, but Bain is still outsourcing jobs to that country. Mitt walked right into the smackdown about the 47% at the end of the debate. Mitt also resembled nothing so much as Frankenstein's monster stiffly stalking the stage and pretending to communicate with humans–all he was missing were the bolts in his neck! Of course lying about Obama's comments on Libya was an utter and absolute embarrasment for Mittens!

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  4. Laine Christopher

    Simply because a candidate does better in his second debate against his opponent than he did in his first debate with the same opponent doesn't mean he wins the second debate,... no matter how many Obama supporters say so,... Obama lost this debate as he lost the last debate. Romney forced Obama to attempt to defend his record,... and of course Obama cannot defend the disaster that his presidency has been,.... We are all worse off than we were four years ago,...

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  5. Magster

    Candy did a good job overall but she made a crucial mistake! She should not have fact checked both candidates on the spot (although her fact checking Obama was not heard b/c of the applause). That task should have been left to the fact checkers not her as the moderator. As a moderator you are there to make sure substantive questions are asked, answered, and fairness in legnth of speaking is observed.

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  6. Cheryl

    Romney answered the questions that were asked. He also brings an impressive track record. Can't say anything close to that for Obama.
    When even the liberal CNN audience is cheering for Romney, you know Obama is in trouble!

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  7. after tonight i will vote for romeny

    obama has lost himself...no ideas....give romney a go....

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  8. michiganfan1

    The far right

    Please return to the real world – we got work to do.

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  9. Ahmed

    I am so glad President Obama did not let Romney get away with his loose talk once again. I loved it when someone said the "B" (as in Bush) word and asked how Romney's policies would be different from the disastrous Bush policies. This is the heart of the matter. If Republican leaders really believed in their tax cut ideology, they would have been using George Bush Presidency as the poster child for their tax cut ideology.

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  10. BH

    Sure wish that Candy Crowley would be clear in saying she was wong to make an apparent strong defense of Obama. I heard her explanation and it was too fuzzy to be understood.

    October 17, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  11. David

    Mothers of special need kids – Under Obamacare – your child's "preexisting condition" will be covered under insurance. Under Romney, once your child becomes an adult, insurers can deny them coverage – most people get insurance through their employer. Think about it. Vote Obama 2012 to protect your kids!

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  12. IndependentInSeattle

    I was hoping the Secret Service would barge in and wrestle Romney to the ground when he started getting annoyingly close to the President !! Romney's bully instincts were getting the better of him and I think he may have been trying to physically intimidate the President of the United States. What a dork !! You did well Mr. President. I hope you win and win big.

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  13. Cal Mavic

    Its politics, anyone that tells me politician tells the truth is drinking the koolaid. We all know they tell lies to get into office.
    The trick is to pick the worse of two evil. In the end Obama is more of a peoples president and Mitt is just too much a businesman to trust for my liking, he constatntly will say things that is odd or embarassing.

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  14. Joachim st Pierre

    We can?t believe mr romny what he said
    In close door is not what he say on t v

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  15. josh rogen

    it looked like a wash to me, but the president did so bad last time that in comparison he won.

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  16. Billy Bob

    The reporter who reported in the video of O'bama in the Rose Garded calling the atack an act of terror should be fired or sent back to school. o'bama was talking about terror not refering to the act, as an act of terror. Shame on you CNN

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  17. PaulGadner

    Bottom Line: The numbers just don't add up for Romney. How can you give another $5 Trillion dollar tax cut to the top earners, increase military spending, not touch social security or the mortgage tax deduction, and STILL balance the budget. Something's gotta give. I wanted to belive in him, but the man will say anything to get elected.

    Romney has changed his mind more often than Michael Jackson changed his face.

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  18. Ronbo 12

    Romney's plan starts with a defined tax beak for the rich and everyone. The rest of his plan is all speculative.
    Great plan, NOT!!!!! Trust me is not a plan. 12 million jobs is a joke. When Barry took over we were losing 850,000 jobs per month. So the first 8 months of Barry O's admin, we lost 6million 4hundred thousand jobs. He turned that around with positive job growth for the last 31 montrhs. 5million jobs over the last 4 years. not enought but how about adding the 850,000 jobs per month to the totlal each month. that's how much b etter he is doing. All this with a congress is that wont' support their own bills if he agrees with them.

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  19. Don

    It was predicted today that no matter the outcome, C N N would say Obozo won...

    Nailed it!

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  20. Chris

    This was one unbelievable performances by O'bama: the thief says – go catch the thief...

    October 17, 2012 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  21. shaun

    Poor Republicans, Haters, Selfish Hypocrites complaining about Obama allover. Im thinking how you guys get over when Obama wins on Nov. 6th!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  22. Mitt

    Romney seemed much more despearte during this debate. He realized he was losing, lost his composure, stuttered, and realized his momentum might be waning after the debate. Sorry, but Romney has no clear plan except one that will mimic Bush's disasterous economic policies...we can't and hopefully won't have to go through that again

    October 17, 2012 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  23. T.P.Chia

    Obama won the debate. He could have achieved more if he had answered that the two foreign wars,
    inherited from the Bush era, conritbuted heavily to the deficit of more triilions over the last four years,
    and asserted that his policies have saved the nation from more economic disasters, and turned the unemployment
    dwon to 7.8-even though it is short of 5%, and that he needs four more years to improve his accomplishments and turn
    the country around economically and socially for the benefits of ALL PEOPLE.

    October 17, 2012 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  24. Really now!

    After watching the debate tonight, I think we should borrow money from Oprah...she seems to have all the answers & the money just like her idol, our president Obama- perhaps she can "donate" (lol) a portion of her $165 million she made this year (not including her new daytime talk show amount) to our troops & their families or the middle class folks that are supposed to have been better off these past 4 years.... we need to believe first in the big guy: God & then follow his direction. Love the USA

    October 17, 2012 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  25. Randy

    Obama refuses to point out that the Republicans in congress have been sinister and anti American. Perhaps he hopes that Americans are intelligent enough to realize that McConnell, Boehner, and Cantor have slowed this recovery.

    October 17, 2012 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
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