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. ca

    The CNN "poll" was not functioning if you were voting for Romney. This was rigged

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  2. noldaker

    Mitt won – not Obama – get real CNN.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  3. Ann

    yes, and when asked about specifics, Romney won on the economy, taxes, deficit.. even healthcare. Yes, sure Obama is still a little bit more likeable. What about Benghazi? a general use of 'attack of terror' doesn't justify the weeks of youtube and spontaneous protests

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  4. Mary

    Obama is going to loose the election just like he lost the debate. Time for change!

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  5. Gen. Robert E. Lee (RET)

    Onama LIED about Bengahzi and LIED about drilling on Federal Lands. For this he should LOSE the election.
    I cannot believe he LIED to the American public.
    Does Obama think we are all stupid and don't know the facts?
    We can do better than this.
    Romney WINS again.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  6. Anonymous

    WAKE UP AMERICA!! Your commander in chief (THE HIGHEST MILITARY OFFICIAL!!) just lied to he American people about what happened to four fellow Americans.. I am so sickened by how people say that he has handled this situation? He let Secretary Clinton take the fall as of this morning and then tonight he wants to retract and say he was responsible? WHAT in the world?!! Four people were killed by terrorists and then he lies about it on national tv tonight.. am I the only one who is seriously distressed about this? People do not realize the danger that the middle east is becoming!!

    October 17, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  7. david

    Vern ... you ask about trust .. but then Obama by plenty of objective standards can barely tell the truth. Anything has to be better than Obama.... when the Debt bubble pops are you still going to blame somebody else?

    October 17, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  8. eric

    Romney clearly is a flip flopper. I don't trust a thing he says!

    October 17, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  9. Benjamin

    7 point margin of error?????

    October 17, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  10. David in Houston

    Anyone who believes Mitt won that debate needs to either have their head examined...or lay off the crack!

    That was Obama's...hands down.

    October 17, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  11. eml

    A poll of 457 voters? What a joke!

    October 17, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  12. Marc

    Look at the condescending smirk on Obama's face in the photo: And that's our President ?!?!?! Not if I can help it !!!

    October 17, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  13. judi harrison

    Romney talks truth, facts, and what I live in. Higher taxes, higher premiums, higher food prices, higher gas etc. etc etc. Obama is done!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  14. chedar888

    There goes Romeny the Etch and Sketch lgovernor ying in front of the middle class to get the vote> I already send my vote via mail and it is OBAMA.

    October 17, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  15. noldaker

    Mitt won –not Obama who needed Candy to help him even when she was wrong on Lybia.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  16. Mike Matthews

    Anyone with half a brain knows Obama won the second debate. I am a Romney supporter myself but Obama did a better job tonight. End of story.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  17. Republican who supports President Obama

    Time for the media to really question Willard and the GOP. Talk about the obstruction, ask for details, ask for facts, push back on their so-called facts.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  18. Esther

    I am sorry CNN but in your poll Obama could win in democrat plataform ONLY. I am so please for Mitt Romney tonight debate!!!!!!!! Romney 2012! Florida for Romney 2012!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  19. S Smith

    I think that Candy came to the table with an agenda, short the republican canidate. I think Candy owes the candidates and the american people an appology for the sloppy job she did; allowing President Obama additinal time, to interupt on each issue, and jumping into the race herself. I didn't know this was a three candidate debate.... I guess when push comes to shove Candy noticed that President Obama couldn't stand on his own two feet and came to his defense. In the end it comes down to each American having a vote, I hope everyone saw what I did this evening and checks the facts on their own.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  20. David in Houston

    "Obama plants"...that's funny. I think you're wearing your tin-foil hat a bit too tight my friend.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  21. joeinFL

    @smithgween the one that Obama lost hands down, thats the one this pandering to illegal registered voters, free hand out socialist president was in.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  22. Alan Johnson

    Nice win for Romney tonight, the President seemed at a loss for words at times. Four years of failure has taken a toll.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  23. Name

    Obama still missed many points to attack.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  24. Kat

    Obama clear winner tonight. Mitt reminds me of a pull string doll. Says the same thing over and over. Obama challenged Romney and was the victor. The only thing I liked about Romney was that look on his face.......

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  25. Doug

    The media was already poised to call obama the winner even before the debate. You can't win a debate by simply calling your opponent a liar and blatantly not answering direct questions. Did anyone else notice that obama kept repeating his " successes" even when they were not relevant to the question?

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
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