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. Anonymous

    Obama definitely got my vote after this election. I was an undecided voter before, and was actually kind of leaning toward Mitt Romney. President Obama pointed out the vagueness of Romney's tax plan, and called him out about being not truthful several times. The president handled things very well, and after seeing them side by side again, and watching him blow Romney's ass out of the water in that debate, he has my vote.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  2. Tim S.

    Obama lied about some things.... no surprise.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. Jmac

    In another article CNN says there were five things we learned from the debate. We can add a sixth thing. When Obama was blundering ab out Libya, Candy Crowley felt compelled to step in and help him by misquoting his Rose Garden speech. While he used the word terrorism, he did not characterize the attack as terrorism. In fact, he continued to send out his people, Susan Rice, to perpetuate the myth that the video caused the attack in Libya. Candy Crowley's intervention on this point was equivalent to a football official tripping a runner who is headed for a touchdown. I know that CNN admires Obama, but I still found the blatant favoritism troubling.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. Red

    A slight win? 46-39%. Thats a 7 percent victory in a poll that over-samples republicans. Is a "major victory" 90-10?

    October 17, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. Rightwinger

    For an incumbent to win:He should talk about his record 50% of the time,talk about his future plan 30% of the time,and 20% for assault on opponent.Obama-more like 10% on his record,30% on future and 60% on assault
    For a challenger;50% of the time for future,20% for some past achievement,and 30% for assault.Romney-is like 40% for future plans,30 % on achievements,and 30% on assault.
    I want romney to win.Clear

    October 17, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. OConnor

    Crowley's actions show that she is not a Journalist but a shill for Obama and would we willing to go lower than snake pop to hold up her god

    October 17, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. Monica in Denver

    Clearly President Obama won the debate last night and debunked all of Romney's falsehoods. He clearly exposed that Romney is not ready or qualified to be the LEADER of the FREE WORLD. Can you imagine Romney losing control at the UN in front of all the other nations leaders and saying the crazy stuff he does?

    I know Republican's are trying to spin it to make Romney look good, but even my sixteen year old caught on last nioght watching the debate and said Romney never tells you what his plan is he just blames Obama alot. LOL how sad is that. The old people believe a lie, but the young people see him for what he is a fabricator and blame thrower.

    the whole undecided voters thing is a fraud, and clearly not true. Those people have made up their minds they are just trying to sway the vote, how can anyone trust someone who say's they are undecided this far in the game? Mmmm a lot of dishonesty in those people claiming undecided. What's wrong with them?

    October 17, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. Sgtstriker

    Yes, the style points result indicated that Obama won the debate. But when they broke it down to specific areas like the economy, deficit reduction, etc. Romney was preferred in all but Foreign Affairs, (which I find a bit weird given he state of the world). In essence Romney clearly won the debate when substance is the measure.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  9. Name

    I will stop watch CNN news they for mit Romney all the way I was thinking I was watch fox new

    October 17, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  10. Albert Pisarenkov

    It does not matter who won this debates. It is only debates. What matter is Obama is a socialist and America is capitalistic country. Broadway singer is not good for Met.Opera

    October 17, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  11. WOW

    If Mr President was so much care about his people as he claimed, why didn't he beef up the security in the first place at the annuversary of 9/11? It's even more contradictory to what he claimed that he or his team denied the request to increase the security. To bring those terrorists to justice (while it is a must) won't bring the four American lives back. Too late , Mr Present.

    October 17, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  12. lilisal

    Hardly a narrow win. Clearly Obama the clear WINNER! Romney completely exposed for speaking, twsting truths from both sides if his mouth.

    October 17, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  13. liberal disease

    Obama was wandering aimlessly like a faculty lounge lizard, one liberal cliche after another. People are out of work, on welfare and not starting businesses, Mitt Slaughtered Barry and his sad economic record...Barry had no come backs

    October 17, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. Truth

    If this nation once again elects Obama, I will once again have to question, just how stupid is America after all?

    October 17, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. Kev

    Crowley was a disgrace and shouldn't have been allowed to moderate since she is a pro Obama supporter. Romney has a clear vision and was able to lay out a plan of action, where Obama has none. Yes, Obama did better, but anything more than what he did in the last debate is considered better, but it wasn't a knockout. It only goes to show Obama has no vision and his only plan is to tax.

    Crowley, she should be ashamed of herself for the way she handled this debate. I will be supporting Romney/Ryan by far

    October 17, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. Solitaire

    Interesting. Obama clearly won the debate but rightwingers flocked to CNN to claim the opposite in the comments. Spin spin spin, eh? Obama is going to win and that will be no spin.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  17. Kyle Obergfell

    I do not know what has happened to CNN lately. Obama wins by 7% but "split decision"... Going elsewhere now.. nice respecting you while it lasted.

    October 17, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. liberal disease

    he was attacked for his sad record and had no answers, are all of you people in a coma?

    October 17, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. Well oh well

    Aren't these polls just a bunch of hooey? CNN pulls more libs so of course this would be the results. Over at Fox it is the other way around. Over at ...wherever you look, different results. I am NOT better today for O's presidency, others say they are. Bottom line away from individual well being, our Country is NOT better and if it continues with same policies will not improve. For those uninformed as to what Socialism is, go read about it in the great library of the web.

    October 17, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  20. Eileen

    The so-called debates we are seeing do not follow rules or etiquette of a fair and professional debate. Speakers should under no circumstances be allowed to talk or or interrupt each other when one has the floor. Moderator under no circumstances should be allowed to interject. Let the audience – the American people – decide whether what was said is factual or not. Moderators should only pose questions and make sure the participants are following the rules set forth at the beginning – among them, "do not interrupt" and pose a penalty such as "if you interrupt the speaker, that speaker will be given an additional 30 seconds to talk and you will be docked 30 seconds." This is a sad day for our country when we allow journalists, pundits and the media in general to tell us what to think, who is ahead, who is "going to come out fighting" or who has won the debate. On Nov. 3 we better all hope a wise choice is made for our beloved country – which gives us the freedom to speak and worship as we chose – is at the brink.

    October 17, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  21. Dane Mottlau

    I am sure no one will pay attention to my suggestions, but I feel that CNN overdoes its post debate coverage. You have a few pundants who sit around giving their biased opinions on the content or style of the candidates. The debates are for the American viewers who listen to the debates and then make up their minds on who was straight with them or who was deceiving. Your discussions only pour llght on what YOU and the pundants think was important, thus trying to persuade viewers to you personal opinions. A true service to debate watchers would be to spend time with the Fact Checkers and give the public an idea who was BSing and who was just spouting political rhetoric. Why do you have these bull-sessions afterward? Are you trying to persuade people for one candidate or the other. News programing these days is so full of pundant advocates. I thought CNN was better then Fox and MSNBC. Let those extremeists do their stuff – CNN should know better.
    Dane Mottlau, Gainesville, Florida

    October 17, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  22. Overby

    It was disgraceful to see Crowley pandering to Obama and allowing him a substantially longer time to talk...she should never be allowed to do this again. Shame on CNN....

    October 17, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  23. confedkilla

    What has Mitt Romney been doing the last four years to create jobs? Can someone please tell me? He certainly wasn't governing Massachusetts. Was he in the private sector trying to create jobs?
    Obama should ask him the question next debate.
    Seriously Romney, what have you been doing the last Five years to create jobs for the American people?

    October 17, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  24. Terry garrity

    What happended to the CNN late night polls showing Romney well ahead on the key debate issues e.g. economy, deficit, jobs etc. John King- para phrase " if these results are typical, Romney just won the election". thought CNN was starting to open up a little -esp John King. Are they hiding these critical polls?

    October 17, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  25. Carla Smith

    I have never seen a moderator intervene during a debate. No matter what anyone does or says after the fact, the damage is done. She blew it.

    October 17, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
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