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. rousch15

    While Romney continued to dodge issues like his taxes and his waffling on women's issues, the president came out with both guns blazing and hitting their marks.

    October 17, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  2. Newyorker111

    I think Obama's ecomonics show that is is making things worse because of no experience. He has stopped so much drilling and gave our money away to solar energy comps that stole it. Where is the money now?

    October 17, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. DJH

    These numbers represent the respective base of each party. IMO, everyone in the country has already made up their mind on who they will vote for....the only undecided issue is whether they will take the time to vote. These debates are for entertainment purposes only.

    October 17, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  4. Anonymous

    Romney sounded like a used car salesman the whole time. Obama is in no way the best president we have ever had, but how in the world could anyone want Romney as a president?! A man who feels he has the right, by the authority of his wacko religion, to tell a woman what she can't and cannot do with her own body. Not to mention his equally endearing running mate, who shows up to a soup kitchen for a photo op and washes a couple of already clean dishes and leaves. These two are sleazeballs. If you vote for them you are either as rich as they are, or plain stupid.

    October 17, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  5. caesarbc

    It's Candy's fault, it's CNN's fault, it's EVERYBODY'S fault – except Mitt Romney.
    Just more conspiracy theories and lies from the right in an attempt to hijack the Middleclass into voting them back into power.

    October 17, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  6. Lily

    Mciver3, what exactly is this fabled "economic plan" of Romney's? Because no one can seem to figure it out. Not sure what debate you were watching...

    October 17, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. stevedaytona

    This was a clear win for Obama in my opinion. Romney could not and did not explain what his '5 point plan' actually is and could not explain how he was going to pay for his tax cuts.

    Regardless of economy & taxes, how can I vote for Romney with his ultra conservative social policies (end abortion, gay marriage,replace Medicare with a voucher etc)?

    As poorly as I think Obama has done in the last 4 years (though much of the problem has been the gridlock since 2009 elections), Romney is not the answer to this country's problems.

    If the Republicans actually had any new ideas they would be winning by a landslide – the fact that it is close is a sad commentary on the state of the Republican party.

    October 17, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  8. murf007

    Obama's vision for the future is the same as it is today, high unemployment, more taxes and skyrocketing deficits. If that's what American's want then vote for him. I voted for him 4 years ago and can honestly say it was the biggest mistake of my life. Regardless of what the left is saying, there are a lot of us who feel this way.

    October 17, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. Dane

    I finally figured it out. After watching this debate again, and listening to Romney I have come to realize that conservatives consistently say he's truthful and Obama lies. Here's the problem...the facts Romney are using literally come straight from fox news..and are completely untrue. Right wingers think it's true, it's not. So he does well with people who are uninformed, and to normal people Romney looks like a lunatic. It's why Mitt's 'no content' plan they understand, while rest of the country scratches it's head and says, there's no facts there..because there isn't.

    October 17, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. Gary

    Candy Crowley, the moderator, should be fired for interfering in the debate. She certainly does not the role of a debate moderator. CNN and your people continue to disappoint.

    October 17, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. Tammi

    President Obama crushed Romney. Please, give me a break...split decision? Your poll isn't asking enough people because the debate I watched last night clearly showed Pres. Obama winning decidedly.

    Women for Obama!

    October 17, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  12. Test

    CNN the new RNC headquarters. CNN is competing with FOX news.

    October 17, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  13. Anonymous

    "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."

    October 17, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  14. visionarey

    Obama thinks he can just tell us anything and we'll believe him. He called it terror. He's pro-small business. He cares about coal and oil. Oh, please! Obama is so used to just talking and people swooning, he has no idea how bad he looks trying to lie to us over and over with words that completely contradict his deeds. Throw the pathological liar out in November!

    October 17, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  15. David

    Obama did what he was expected to do. 47 % comment made by Romney is not good,behind the scene you don't know what he thinks about poor people.

    October 17, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  16. US Rooster

    Too bad there isnt anyone one running on the Independent ticket,that would shake things up.

    October 17, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  17. Gene

    After 4 years of Obama being the President:
    Unemployment is at one of it's highest ever,
    All prices, including oil went up significantly,
    Middle class, the backbone of the economy is becoming non-existent,
    Iran is building it's nuclear weapons capabilities,
    The Middle East in total chaos,
    The war in Afghanistan is still raging.
    Let's give a chance to Obama to finish the destruction.

    October 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  18. Kent

    Romney is dripping with arrogance. I wouldn't trust him with my dog.

    October 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. DEBATE VIEWER

    President upp'd his game in terms of his delivery, but the message was still empty...

    October 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. Fannie

    I don't know what's wrong with people who have already lived in this country for the past 12 years, but who still need (1) a debate to help them make up their mind about who to vote for; (2) some news service to tell them who won the debate.

    October 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. Nancy

    CNN shame on you for not reporting the truth no matter how much it hurts for you to admit it. Once again you run the headlines that Obama wins, are you kidding me? Get real!!!! Report the news like a real news reporters. Quit being so totally bias as you always are. I used to respect the media until all your reporters became obcessed with total one sided reporting trying to brainwash the public to their way of thinking. Shame, shame, shame on you, the American public is much smarter than you.

    October 17, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. Beth

    PhD in stats here, but it only takes one general education statistics class to notice that 7% edge Obama had is more than the 4.5% stated margin of error. No split decision at 95% confidence nor at 99% confidence since then the margin of error would be 5.8%

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. tina

    ditto to Ryan- the Obama 7% is beyond the statistical error margin. CNN's headline of "Split Decision" is misleading and shoud be changed. In this very close election, this is an acceptable difference.

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. Mark

    Candy Crowley didn't make Obama answer the question when Obama was asked if he knew about the people in Libya asking for additional security before the terror attack on 9-11

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  25. Name A

    Independent Newyorker Obama's vote
    secured.

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
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