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. Pollysi

    After the first debate debacle for the president, I expected him to come out swinging, and he did. He still failed however to offer any credible defense of his dismal record. In addition, this Libya story is unraveling, and not in his favor. My Romney vote is secured.

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

    How could Obama have won? His impact on the U.S. Economy and unemployment have devastated millions if Americans while helping very few. Romney pointed this out over and over and Obama was cought speechless! That is a big loss for Obama in my book despite improper and incorrect help from the moderator who lied for Obama on the Libya terrorist attack that killed four wonderful Americans.

    October 17, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  3. DB46

    CNN, your article says it all... "Mitt Romney was seen as better able to handle the economy, taxes, and the budget deficit among the debate audience. 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. 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.

    October 17, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  4. Thaddius

    All the whining on the right is pretty clear evidence that Obama completely dismanled Romney in this debate.

    October 17, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  5. Realist

    If it truly is Obama 2012, then go claim your spot in the unemployment line now cause the line is long and growing. All you hypocrites.... go tell your boss that signs your check that he/she should pay higher taxes then you and let us know how that works out for you. Go encourage your kids to get more student loans to pay for a degree that is useless in a stagnant economy. I guess what doesn't affect you now has no bearing in your vote. Good luck!

    October 17, 2012 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  6. jay

    I missed the whole thing........mmh GUESS " I was working.........someone is got to work .for the 47%
    Who saw it and gets to vote---THE 47%. Welcome to the future...........

    October 17, 2012 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  7. mattinacan

    strong victory for obama. as a PA independent voter, my obama vote is now secured. romney was exposed for his obvious lies and flip flops. if you think obama failed to talk about his plan for the next four years you are just not paying attention. the country is getting better economically and we are headed in the right direction socially. romney can repeat the same talking points about how much better he would have done, but he is no job creator. he dismantled companies and fired people for a living, and massachusetts was 47th in job creation, he couldn't even run for a second term there. the man doesn't even look like he could run, he looked like he was about to fall over at any moment last night, does he ever do anything physical?

    October 17, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. twophad

    Yours is the only poll that doesn't say Obama won it–how are your polls so different from everyone else's? New management, I think

    October 17, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. Craig in Pa.

    Obama got Mittens stuttering!...great job Mr. President!.....You kicked A$$ last night...let's put him away for good next Monday!

    October 17, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. Treylor

    Talk about arrogance; Obama said, "these aren't just representatives of the United States, they are my representatives". How about saying, "these aren't just my representatives, they are representative of the United States". Putting himself above the country, now that's an insult to the 100%.

    October 17, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. Phil

    Candy Crowley, the moderator, should be fired for interfering in the debate and agreeing with Obama on the point about Benghazi. She should know better. She did a lot of damage.

    October 17, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. Ganan

    Once again, the President cannot definitely define ANYTHING he has done for the last 4 years. Still blaming Congress or whoever. It's getting old. Time to move back to Chicago.

    October 17, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  13. Cinchy

    "We’re going to be gifted with a healthcare plan that we’re forced to purchase and fined if we don’t, which purportedly covers at least 10 million more people without adding a single doctor but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that didn't read it but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a President who smokes ,with funding administered by a Treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, for which we will be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government that has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a Surgeon General who is obese, and finally, financed by a country that’s broke." –Barbara Bellar

    October 17, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  14. Ellen

    I will vote for Romney. The President said nothing of substance to make me think that he can turn the economy around. It is time for a businessman to be our president.

    October 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  15. Susie

    Romney won. obama dodged all questions. Mitt has ideas for American. obama has nothing. Why does obama criticize Mitt's ideas and not offer his own ideas....because he has none. No budget in four years? No immigration plan? What is going on overseas...chaos. We need someone in the WH who actually does something. Vote Romney/Ryan.

    October 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  16. cyclonus11

    @ JennyHarris

    "Why did obama look so ANGRY?

    VERY off putting."

    Because you don't EVER insinuate to a President that he doesn't care about his diplomats, especially after they've been killed. He was legitimately angry, and rightfully so. First time I've ever seen this President get angry, and it was refreshing. Glad he didn't let Romney get away with that garbage.

    October 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  17. Justice786

    Romney is practicing voodoo economics. His math simply does not add up. Cut taxes for

    everybody (especially the middle class–if we are to believe him), give the Pentagon $2

    trillion that they didn't really ask for and at the same time drive down the deficit. Wow,

    he must have Hogwarts School of Magic. He also is a man of contradictions:
    1. for NRA and AK47s, but not really sure about the AK-47s,
    2. for women's right to health care but not mammograms and cancer screenings,
    3. for immigration reform but also for "self-deportation",
    4. for getting tough on China while he is the poster boy for outsourcing.
    5. for middle class tax cuts but it is fine if they pay a higher tax rate than he does.
    6. Was pro-choice, but is now definitely pro-life.

    October 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  18. Name joe lee

    U know that the blue won

    October 17, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  19. 30307

    Once again Romney has no regard for the debate forum (taking more time than allotted); did not answer questions clearly or at all; and his voice sounds like porn star…

    Glad to see Obama back in stride – it will take significantly more than four years to clean up Bush’s mess!!!

    October 17, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  20. NYOMD

    How the hell can CNN say it was a tie? Obama totally killed it, got his mojo back and made Romney seem out of touch with the middle class and an unconvincing liar who would say anything to win. Expect a more supercharged Obama in the weeks ahead, and a bumbling and gaffe-prone Mitt trying desperately to recover his earlier momentum.

    October 17, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  21. Leopold

    Mr. Romney could have done better but my feeling is that his strategy was to keep drilling on the poor economy at the expense of 'debating points'. And I think the polling indicates that viewers came away with that message. Mr. Romney has definitely sustained the impression that he is a viable alternative for people looking for a change. The economy is his thing and he may be what we really need right now. Mr. Obama is a great speaker but the record is not good and he has no plan.

    October 17, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  22. RE McCray

    I got it! Here is the smoking gun ... Romney does not push immigration issues or challenge Obama's Dream Act because if he did .. he would be reclassified as a child of an illegal immigrant. Romney's father was born in Mexico and never legally immigrated to the U.S. Under current laws, George Romney was an illegal immigrant, making Mitt Romney an illegal immigrant as well even though Mitt was born in Michigan. Romney can't argue these points, that is why he eventually backs down on really having deep conversations on what to do with the Latin vote. Romney is a liar and he is covering up more than just his immigration status, he is covering up a multitude of things that he has profited from that are directly related to his father having been morn in Mexico ...

    October 17, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  23. Cinchy

    Debate 2 was more or less even. Obama seemed more aggressive, which apparently some take as a sign of superiority. What's cut-n-dry, however, is that Obama won't be able to fully come back from Debate #1. Damage done.

    October 17, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  24. NYOMD

    How the he!l can CNN say it was a tie? Obama totally killed it, got his mojo back and made Romney seem out of touch with the middle class and an unconvincing liar who would say anything to win. Expect a more supercharged Obama in the weeks ahead, and a bumbling and gaffe-prone Mitt trying desperately to recover his earlier momentum.

    October 17, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  25. Glcp

    Guess (Romney's) gonna regret making that 47% comment.

    October 17, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
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