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. mike in ohio

    i love how he constantly loves and cares for the illegals but when he's around fellow republicans he's MItt Romney:illegal hunter.just say you are against the dream act 100%! PERIOD!stop pandering when the affiliation of the audience changes..suck up!! OBAMA 2012!!

    October 17, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  2. Steve Dallas

    This is the first election in my lifetime where the only reason to vote for the Republican Candidate is because he is NOT Obama. Their is a lack of excitement from all Republlican's on Mitt Romney alone. All of this will come out if Romney loses. The backbiting and Republican in-fighting will begin to toss blame after and if Obama wins re-election, and the Blame will be on Romney for not producing tax returns and saying different things to different groups to get a vote. Watch, this will happen!

    October 17, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  3. Clinton in Colorado

    After tonight I am now sure and convinced that Obama will win. I know we just saw history in the making when Romney made a big mistake about what the President's comments were the day after the Libya attack. We will all remember this, just one more nail in Romney's coffin = his defeat. This is on the same scale as “Your no Jack Kennedy” comment. Also, again tonight Romney can’t explain his tax plan, you know why? Because he doesn’t have a real plan, it’s a fantasy plan where the math is all make-believe. It’s now not looking good for Romney, you watch the numbers fall over the next 3 to 5 days.

    October 17, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  4. Mary Ellen Fisher

    Obama won. he is back

    October 17, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  5. Thomas

    Romnochhio strikes again. Lie after lie like in the first debate, but this time the President exposed him. Thats why Romnocchio looked agitated and confused. Great win for the President.

    October 17, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  6. Wayne

    3 debates so far. Obama and BIden won 2. Romney/Ryan won 1. Advantage Obama/Biden

    October 17, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  7. just sayin

    Obama win???? Isn't it a statistical tie? Is Candy Crowley doing the headlines in here now.

    October 17, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  8. Cely G

    My vote will be again for President Obama. Romney keep showing his true colors, and he cannot fool me! :/

    October 17, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  9. dianaharrell

    Obama was not telling the truth. Everyone I know in the coal mines and oil says so...and they know...they live it every day!!!

    October 17, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  10. Mark

    Obama looked evil, Romney won on style

    October 17, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  11. Evan

    Obama clearly won. Romney makes me nervous he does not respond a single question directly. It all magic. When I get there I;ll fix things. But How? Oh You'll see. yeah but I want to know what tax deduction are you taking from me? Don't worry it wont hurt

    October 17, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  12. Keep This In Mind

    It was more of a draw in my estimation. I think Romney won on the economy. Obama won on 'points'. Romney flubbed and didn't do well with getting across the Libya failures on the Administration. In a day or two, the polls will show who the independents are trending toward. That said, there's still one more debate. Don't think anyone has this sewn up yet.

    October 17, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  13. reese

    Winning the poll as the "most likeable" in the debate but losing in the poll to who could better lead this country is not something to be jumping up and down about...Unless your running for captain of the cheerleading squad.

    October 17, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  14. Marko

    The above article did not report (no surprise) the polling on who would do better on the economy which they announced on television. Romney overwhelmed Obama by double digits. Same for who would handle taxes better and other economic issues. Romney won big on all the economic issues. That should have been mentioned in the article since the economy is the most important issue.

    October 17, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  15. dianaharrell

    Mitt is just getting started.........Obama is still telling lies and Mitt is not going to let him get away with it.

    October 17, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  16. dleanhar

    "For Crowley to step in and attempt to correct Romney on a statement that is at best arguable, was completely out of line" Candy Crowley and CNN should be embarrassed by her performance. I would have expected this from a MSNBC moderator but not CNN. Real time fact checking clearly showed a bias, interupting Romney when Obama was running three to five minutes ahead of Romney in alloted time. If you were one of the Gallop poll participants, you had to feel "used" by the moderator/process since you did not get to ask follow-up question but the moderator did.

    October 17, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  17. Bojesters

    @ Duke This is a transcript of the speech in question. "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. ... We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act." Romney said he never said terrorist (the difference between acts of terror and terrorists to be indistinguishable. The transcripts and video evidence show he did. You may argue the semantics of the meaning of those words, but cannot in all honesty dispute them.as lies. The Truth will always prevail.

    October 17, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  18. Name vic

    Obama did a great jab romney was horrible he does not give a dam about middle class only his rich friends he is so fake i will give u another chance to fix things obama u have search and feelout whats good whats bad in everything u do before u fix it why do we get training and go to school its so we can learn how to do the jobs
    If romni win he will do worse with his stupid ideas and bring us backwords before he get A chance to do anything because he is not god and his religon alows him to hate women he is a born layad

    October 17, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  19. Woody

    KJ, yeah, other than the big oil companies horrendous reputation for ecological safety and the fact that they want to run the pipeline over top of our biggest fresh water aquifer in existence. I guess we don't need the water right genius? In case you weren't smart enough to figure it out after, oh, I don't know, say Exxon in Alaska and BP in the gulf, oil and water don't mix. I would be surprised actually if you even knew what an aquifer was.

    October 17, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  20. Jeremy

    Obama had plenty of time to prove his plan but no results # I HOPE FOR CHANGE

    October 17, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  21. LBB

    " Obama never said 'this act of terror' " andybinga. Yes, Obama did say that. MSNBC played the clip after the debate. Next day, in the Rose Garden. Candy Crawley was correct as was the President.

    October 17, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  22. Zeke22

    I'm hoping that Romney wins so that in the end, this country gets exactly what it deserves. You can interpret that how ever you'd like ;-)

    October 17, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  23. Why don't we take a look back in time?

    Obama didn't give us a plan or, well, anything when he ran 4 years ago except a very catchy slogan in the whole "Hope and Change" thing. Additionally, don't you think that any plan for a country like ours should be more complex than can be explained in 2 minutes? If he gives pieces the other side will just take them out of the context of the whole and have a political field day; giving specifics upon command is suicide. Likewise, why do you think Obama hasn't been very forthcoming with specifics either? That being said, Obama totally won, it's not even open for discussion; he definitely did his homework before this one.

    October 17, 2012 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  24. NYNJCT

    I have decided to vote for Romny/Ryan tonight, because his economic plan is more detailed, counterable. I've really wanted to listen to a clear Obama's economic plan. Obama failed to appeal to voters about economic plan even
    he spoke well. GO ROMNY/RYAN IN 2012.

    October 17, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  25. Fishkawww III

    Obama Rocked Romney's World!

    October 17, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
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