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. Mark

    But the key reason for the Romney win was substantive:

    1. Romney made very clear the case against Obama's economic record and Obama's rebuttal about 5 million jobs was pathetic.

    2. Romney injected the China issue, big time, and tapped into a strong public sentiment on the issue.

    3. Romney made the effective case that Obama is anti-oil, coal, and gas and that this has doubled gas prices.

    4. Romney was very effective in differentiating himself from Bush-43 and in establishing that, unlike the GOP of the past, he was for small businesses not big businesses

    5. Romney rebutted the attacks on him over Chinese investments.

    6. Romney explained his tax plan well and to everyone's satisfaction.

    7. Obama erred in trying to make us believe that he always felt Libya was a terror attack. We all heard him blame the movie.

    Obama scored points over the 47% statement by Romney, immigration, and by his response to the accusation that he went to Vegas after the murder of the Ambassador.

    But this debate goes to Romney. It seals his momentum and will lead to a big win.

    October 17, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. NotImpressed

    All Obama has shown me in this debate is that he knows how to attack the opponent. I don't call that a win. He still has not told the people how he plans on solving the countries economy crisis over the next 4 years. He sure hasn't shown me much of anything for the last 4.

    I want to see a debate where the canidates actually tell me their plans. Answer the questions when asked!!!!!!

    signed... middle class hard working women.

    October 17, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. Mark

    Is there really legitimately a question about who won the debate? Obama dominated.

    October 17, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  4. JFKINAZ

    Romney should have thanked the President for the highest corporate profits and best 3 years on the stock market that added to his massive investment portfolio. Thats assuming his money is in some American companies still? But there again, none of these high profitting companies act like American companies and start spending the mountain of cash they are sitting on to hire Americans. Romney was right, we have high corporate taxes, but many WRONG too. We have so many loopholes that the U.S. has one of the lowest EFFECTIVE corporate tax rates. Romney should know this. GE knows this with their $0 tax bill for example. American companies sit on mounds of cash while the lower and middle classes suffer. How unpatriotic do you get? Dont give me the tax and regulation BS story. The last 4 years has been very good to the big business and investors like Romney. I dont trust Romney knows what to do for the middle class or small businesses but I know he will protect his portfolio and wealthy friends for sure. OBAMA 2012!

    October 17, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. BeverlyNC

    Obama did not NARROWLY WIN – HE WON BY 10 POINTS despite Cndy Crowley letting Romney break the debate rules, talk twich his allotted time and interrupt President Obama to to tell more Romney lies. Romney showed his bully CEO personality which is not fit for the Presidency. Romney has no clue what the job of the President is – he just wants the POWER and that makes him very dangerous for us in foreign affairs and for the rights of the American People. Romney is a liar who changes positions and gives no details and answers no questions. You really trust him that much to let such a characterless, valueless man in the Oval Office? No way. I stand with President Obama who has brought our nation out of a recession and with more success each month in jobs, new manufacturng and good economic indicators like the new housing market up 20%. We ARE on the right path with Obama.

    October 17, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  6. Aaron

    46% – 39% is a split decision? That must be one massive sampling error.

    Please fix the headline. It's misleading.

    October 17, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  7. lynn i

    Why has every debate given THE PRESIDENT MORE TALKING TIME.??? Watch rerun of debate right now. ...Candy Crowley stopped Romney from replying when the president called his statements untrue on the second question and later mistakenly corrected Romney herself. Why has the president not been stopped when his statements are untrue? ESPECIALLY WHEN..HE has gotten MORE TALKING TIME.?

    October 17, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. AOU

    Listening to Romney for the last one year, I wonder if this guy ever had one position on any single issue throughout his career in private and public sectors. He keeps changing his mind depending on who his audience is. To me, it looks like winning the ticket to him (which also seems like another privilege he thinks he is entitled to) is more important than being a true, honest and open leader for the peope.

    October 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. Ed

    Who cares, I'm still voting for Romney

    October 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  10. Nick

    "...including an 18-point [Romney] lead on the economy". That is the only meaningful measure. And there other polls that show Romney trumping obama by 12 points on the leadership question. It's time the media stopped playing cheerleader and started reporting the news instead of cheering for Obama, as Crowley did.

    October 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  11. jhonnydubb

    was romney lying when he outlines the facts about what obama promised in 2008 and what has happened?.....obama said he would cut the deficit in half and he raised it by 50 percent ($5 trillion).....the number of jobs since he took office has fallen.....the amount of people on welfare has risen by about 50 percent.....the 5 percent unemployment rate obama promised is more than 50 percent higher than that, and in reality is higher than that because the 7.8 percent unemployment rate doesn't reflect those who have dropped out of the job market out of frustration and those who already have used up their unjemployment benefits and are not counted.....romney made the points he wanted to make because he knows obama cannot argue facts on his job numbers and the lack of true economic recovery.....

    October 17, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  12. Rigby

    I like Candy, but last night was terrible. The questions chosen were ridiculous. "How are you and President Bush different"? Really? And when Candy confirmed that President Obama referred to Benghazi as a terror attack was incorrect. He stood there and informed the country all of this was due to protests (that didn't happen) and a video (which came out months in advance of the incident) and said what happen and other acts of terror would not be tolerated. That is way different than identifiying what happened as a terrorist attack on 911. I guess CNN and President Obama thinks people in this country are stupid and not watching. Come on guys, where was the question as to what Obama's plan for America is? Does anyone know? Because taxing the rich isn't gonna do it. And am I the only woman offended that Obama thinks we're only concerned with contraceptives and abortion? Really? I'm a single mom struglling to support my familiy, paying $4 a gallon for gas, $4 for a gallon of milk, and praying to keep my job....Mr. Romney, help us please....!!

    October 17, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. Bill

    All of the "talking Heads" say Obama won, although some of them say "barely won" all of the actual polls I have seen say Romney won, by about 3-4% points

    October 17, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  14. keepingup1

    Notice the clock behind when each one were talking. Both ran over. Candy tried to give them both equal time. Both were passionate speakers. For those who supports their candidate stick to the issues and not the time. Bickering about time when there are more important issues this country needs to be concern about is ridiculous.

    October 17, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  15. bearced

    When Mr. Romney started the debate by saying he wanted to keep Pell grants and student loans strong so kids could afford college I knew it was going to be a fun night! My question is did he lie or did he change his mind again? I remember during the republican primaries he said to shop around, get a job and borrow money from your parents if you want to go to college.

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

    Obama won because of Candy Crowley.

    October 17, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  17. J5

    If Obama is reelected we are in for an exciting roller coaster ride! Unfortunately it will be a continual downhill journey,. Viva Greece! Vote Obama, support Harry " The Land Grab at the Hoover Dam Morman" Reid and Nancy "Big Free Jet" Pelosi! Oh How I love those Democrats. Come-on Baby take USa Down!

    October 17, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  18. Lokust

    If you thought this was a narrow victory, you weren't watching the same debate I was.

    October 17, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. works4me

    The key to the Romney character mystery lives in those taxes." You people have seen enough" doesn't cut it. I don't want to see his polished version in the last 2 years. I want to see up to 10 years, just like his podium pal Dad produced.
    There's something major in those taxes that would put the nail in his political coffin.

    October 17, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. jdraht

    I am very proud of the President for his performance Tuesday Night!
    He showed he is a strong leader and will fight for America.
    These debates are very difficult and at times a messy business, but have to be addressed.
    He is going to finish the job and take care of business next week.

    Gov. Romney has a very poor record in Mass, 47th in nation in employment.
    His company has a reputation of destrying U.S. Companies and outsourcing jobs to China amnd other Countries.

    This is not someone that we want in the Whitehouse.

    October 17, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  21. Chris

    Obama "narrowly" wins? CNN endorses Romney – just come out and say it. Ever since Trump slammed you on-air about your ratings, you push back on Dems but not GOP.

    October 17, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  22. UtahProf

    @ confedkilla – even if Romney has been asleep for the pat 4 years he has created the same number of NET jobs as Obama (who has been in the White House) – that would be ZERO.

    October 17, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  23. Papa_Wanka

    I am absolutely sick over the direction our current President has taken us in the last four years. There are a number of Presidents I have disliked for a variety of reasons but this is the first President I have felt was truly un-American. He has trashed us in the world's eye and clearly does not stand for anything that represents the patriotism this country needs. He has got to be voted out in Nov. if we want our country to survive. If he is re-elected we will get what we deserve – which will be to have our country completely taken over by our enemies. Voters, please be true patriots and vote him out in Nov!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  24. Carla Smith

    Inserting herself into the discussion will haunt Candy C. for the rest of her professional life.

    October 17, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  25. Mary

    Republicans say President Obama lied! I guess Romney is an Angel, Mr 47%, Mr. I not going to tell you what deductions, While you guys were on the message boards last night hate chatting and taking Polls, we were out celebrating!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I bet you guys are so sick that Obama won this debate and exposed this man. I know Romney was so pissed last night. What is Romney going to offer you???? Tell me. If Romney was my candidate, I wouldn't vote either. Poor women who are undecided need to watch this debate 20 times. He has no plan for you! If he does, let me know.

    October 17, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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