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. NewyorkerOMD

    How the he!! 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 |
  2. Hoosier Democrat

    Will CNN please stop talking about demeanor of the debate! It helps no one! Just report facts.

    October 17, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  3. Loathstheright

    Mitt was panicing, Obama owned him.

    October 17, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  4. Robert

    How is this a split decision? You had no problem declaring Romney the victor in the first poll. This time, Obama won according to your article. So stop being so biased and write a truthful title! PLEASE CHANGE YOUR TITLE

    October 17, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  5. Cinchy

    If you actually read this article, you will not believe Obama truly won the debate. He's more likable – great. Romney's more capable, but – again – Obama's more likable. Read the article.

    October 17, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  6. NameBrian

    Was that a tag team match?

    October 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  7. lwlw2

    wow...you polled less than 500 people...no one should take any of this stuff you spew out as accurate..regardless of which party you belong to. People need to double check facts and make an informed decision...

    October 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  8. My Take

    After the debate, for the most part, every body stuck to their choice candidate, defending them on their points. If you were for Romney before the debate you hear what you wanna here, likewise for Obama. I appreciate hearing opinions from those that were 100% undecided and unbiased. I feel those are the most open minded opinions and provide the most credible analysis.

    October 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. CTStorm

    I thought that Candy Crowley outpeformed the President slightly in the Democratic tag-team, but it still wasn't enough to stop Romney's momentum. Each candidate's base is going to claim victory, but I think the independants are really starting to see through Obama's house of cards.

    October 17, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  10. E-Rock

    Hmmm . . . Obama wins 47-39 in a poll that included more Republicans than is realistic, and CNN still calls it a tie??? I know they want a horserace so they can create content for their shows, but whatever happened to calling a victory a victory? It was around 50-25 Obama in other, more representative polls, so Obama's victory in this debate was actually more decisive that Romney's victory in the first. CNN had no problem declaring Romney the victor in Debate 1, yet somehow this one is a tie and so was Biden's clear win over Paul Ryan. Give me a break!

    October 17, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  11. Padraig

    I can see how CNN would say the Obama won the debate, it is your slant. Your news agency is tilted and is not fair and balanced. All news media are but you are not as slanted at MSNBC or Fox.

    Obama could not defend his current record. Again, he took blows about unemployement, energey, economy, and Libya. He did get upset about the dead ambassador and his staff, I was disappointed in Romney response – even though he did not waiver he should have said that is all well and good but your inability to make the correct decisions cost these four their lives.

    Reflecting on these debates, I remember Reagan had O'Neil and Clinton had Gingrich that they had to compromise with to make the Federal government work. But there is another stark deference between Reagan and Clinton administration had which Obama has failed at. That is both Reagan and Clinton had excellent staff around them. They knew how to choose the right person for the right job. Obama does not have that.

    October 17, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  12. Ryan

    It seems the sampling error was 4.5% which puts Obama's victory OUTSIDE of the sampling error listed below the poll result.

    October 17, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Obama did much better than last time. He was unable to defend his record.

    October 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  14. Anonymous

    I`m all for a fair debate but what Candy Crowley did is so bias and unfair : breaking in on Gov.Romney responses many times and saying he`ll have plenty of time to respond which did not happen -but President Obama ended up with more then three min. more to respond and then to comment on the libya question that the president was correct was so out of line. Congratulations on being bias in front of millions of people-just my opinion and many others who saw and heard what I saw and heard.

    October 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  15. lwlw2

    wow, you polled less than 500 people..how can you possibly consider this a serious attempt to provide "news". No one should take your article seriously no matter which party you belong to. Everyone should double check all of the facts and then make an informed decision...this article certainly does not fit that criteria.

    October 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  16. djsw

    Slam dunk for the President. I don't get how anyone thinks Romney is better on jobs and the economy considering that he says absolutely nothing!

    October 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. Jaimon

    Obma helped me to keep my home by remodification. My vote is for Mr. Obma. no dought.

    October 17, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  18. Economic Importance

    "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."

    The problem with rating people by being "likeable" is kind of ridiculous. A president can be nice/kind/charming, a great debater or anything else, but it means nothing. First I need to be able to put food on the table for my family, and then I'll think about something else.

    October 17, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  19. Zallen

    You people that are leaning Romney seriously think that a CEO who took over companies, picked the bones clean, depleted(stole) peoples pensions, laid off that work force, made his stockholders wealthier through their pain and misfortune then outsourced those jobs to China...... You think this guy is better for the economy and he's a job creator? LOL
    Well if you vote for him and he wins you will seriously get what you deserve, shades of the lovely Bush depression, but for Gods sake I wish you weren't dragging me down that hole with you again, like the fools who voted for Bush twice!

    October 17, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  20. Ben

    Romney and the republican solution to everything is tax cut for the richest Americans. A vote for Romney is a vote against the middle class.

    October 17, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  21. Susan in VA

    Great job Mr. President! Romney came across as a spoiled brat who always has to have the last word. And the last word always seems to be whatever he thinks we want to hear. I thought he was rude at times to the people asking the debate questions by turning his back to them after a question was asked to get the last word on a question that was asked 5 minutes before. I know I can't take 4/8 years of a Mitt Romney that's for sure. Obama deserves 4 more years.

    October 17, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  22. Phillyfarmer

    These posts that say Obama clearly won have got to be plants. Hello!!! Obama clearly lost. I almost felt sorry for him as he fumbled and looked like a complete idiot. I'm very scared for this country. He never once said that he was responsible for the breach of security in Libya. He is blatantly allowing cHillary to take the fall. Check Obama's statistics and outrageous lies from the debate before you vote for him. Come on people do your own homework. Are you really better off than you were 4 years ago???

    October 17, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. Zenfire

    Crowly did a great job to help the president. Good job Crowly!

    October 17, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  24. The Truth

    Obama, Rice and other officials said the video was the cause of the spontaneous attack on the Libya compound that killed Ambassador Stevens & others. Why no mention of Candy joining in to support Obama's lie? If the cause were terror, why did Rice tell 5 networks 2 days later the attack was spontaneous, caused by the video and why did Obama make the same claim to the UN many days later?

    October 17, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  25. Michelle

    It's a sad reality that people are more interested in who won the debate rather than what was actually said. It makes for good entertainment but the questions are pre-picked and all of the rules are agreed upon by both candidates before the debate. The debates are run by private corporations and third parties aren't allowed. So, it's not a very meaningful debate if it's completely pre-staged. When the League of Women Voters ran the debates, there was none of this. Do yourself a favor and watch independent media where you can get real information about what the two candidates really have planned for our country. You aren't going to learn anything in these debates except who can speak better than the other. IMHO

    October 17, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
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