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. Tina

    Romney doesnt care, the fact he said he paid less taxes than someone who makes 50,000, and thinks that helps....is selfish and stupid, he is an entitled rich kid who doesnt know about what the middleclass goes through and what we deserve and need

    October 17, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  2. Earl Lancaster

    The Moderator had to jump in and save Obama about his Rose Garden speech. The Right has had it with this Left Winged Biases in NEWS REPORTING!!!! HOW CAN A MODERATOR BE FAIR IF THEY ARE KNOWN TO BE FOR OBAMA??????? THEY CAN"T!!!!!! CNN is a left wing liberal Lap Dog for Obama!!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. mike alameda

    wow cnn... "a split decision" really ? no wonder people are calling cnn "fox light " these days but we all know what we saw on the debate and if some of you want to lie to yourselves and think romney did well so be it, but you will only look dumb by saying so .

    October 17, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  4. Bryan

    Romney once again destroyed Obama's record of incompetence, failure and broken promises. Romney came across as capable and compassionate. Obama is left with personal smears and attacks, because he clearly cannot defend his abysmal record, even after having majorities in the Congress for half of his time in office.

    October 17, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  5. UtahProf

    There is only one problem with all of Obama's "great ideas". And that would be that he has had 4 years to implement them – why hasn't he? A gridlocked Congress is no excuse as he is the wild man of Executive Orders. Will Romney be any better? Who knows – and I don't really care for either one of them. But, I am willing to give Romney a chance before i will vote for 4 more years of slow death from Obama.

    October 17, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  6. UtahProf

    There is only one problem with all of Obama's "great ideas". And that would be that he has had 4 years to implement them – why hasn't he? A gridlocked Congress is no excuse as he is the wild man of Executive Orders. Will Romney be any better? Who knows – and I don't really care for either one of them. But, I am willing to give Romney a chance before i will vote for 4 more years of a slow downward spiral from Obama.

    October 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  7. eciam

    CNN poll where is it? How do you vote? Did CNN and Huff. stop taking votes?
    Not all us work a 9-5.
    I just watch the debate, Obama won hands down!

    October 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  8. psalm_14v1

    Candy's dismal performance as moderator last night was embarrassing. For her and for CNN.
    do you now understand why CNN is so low in the cable news ratings? At this rate, CNN will be history within 4 years.
    You want to see success, look at Fox News, Fair and Balanced.
    The biggest problem I have with journalists is when they believe their opinions are news worthy, which they are not.
    Just report the news accurately, and let the chips fall where they will. I could say that your ratings will go up.

    October 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  9. mike alameda

    by the way congratulations mr president you made romney look ... romney! and we all know how hard that is since he is the master on flip floping.

    October 17, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. PeterD

    Candy Crowley has lost her Credibility as a Neutral Moderator.

    October 17, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. The Middle Class

    I believe that Obama won due to the bills he passed and stride for better bills that he have in motion,on the other Mitt Romney couldn't explain any bills or plans that he have in progress all he continues to say is that I will, I will do...but Question explain to the U.S.A how are u going to do this....like Obama says this money has to come from somewhere. At least we know with Obama where its coming from and I believe if we continue with Obama he will maker a bigger difference bc it took longer forw the deficit to amount that high, so people be smart to allow president Obama to continue on the growth of America if not not only me but Americans would withdraw there money and watch America fall to the waist side with the economy.

    October 17, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. ttt

    Obama will win the elections as Mitt is getting caught up by his flipflops and lies.

    October 17, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. mike alameda

    i think there is a takeover of cnn by fox news according to cnn descriptions of the debate only clueless republicans would think this was close to a tie... the president took romney to school on all subjects period!

    October 17, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. UtahProf

    I think that Candy's actions last night we simply an automatic impulse. That, in and of itself, speaks volumes about how bad media bias has become. You don't "pick sides" – you remain objective. That one ley tenet of good Journalism has been lost – possibly forever. Unfortunately, without that objectivity, everything is just Tabloid News.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. SNAPBAT

    I find the debates to be interesting and somewhat informative. I wish the participants were allowed to give their plans for the next four years and then defend them. I also wish that The President would defend his record and what has occurred over the last three years. It appears to me that President Obama just failed in his first attempt and our decision is to give him another four years to fix it or move on !!

    October 17, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  16. Antonio

    Seriously Americans, are you all blind. This Republican/Democrat network has taken over, and we are living in a controlled society where they are dictating who will be President. You may think you have a choice, but only getting to choose between two legitimate candidates is not a true democracy. No matter who you support, Obama or Romney, neither are the answer, and neither will make things better. Look at Obama's record the past four years, terrible. And look at Romney's record, equally terrible. The people of America need to rise up and stop tolerating this two party system we have in place that is in reality working together to control us all.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  17. PoorPotato

    OB came through again...He substantiated what I and many other Amereican have said all along, his cares nothing for what the USA has stood for and would go to ANY lengths, or lie, to confirm for more years of vacations and golf. Not a bad gig really.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  18. me111

    Healthy people end relationships when they become abusive. I'm sorry Mr President. I'm moving on.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    earl, the rose garden press conference was true. i watched it
    as it happened 2-3 wks ago. all the news stations fact checked it
    and proved it after the debate. get off your right wing horse!

    October 17, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  20. eciam

    Candy C. is a strong women, she did an excellent job!
    The debate was spirted as it should be, You can't sit back and let the other guy take control!
    I'm sure Candy and "most" viewers understands that.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. josh rogen

    to take a page from the DNC playbook, the only reason the president came out slightly on top was that he lied

    October 17, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. Mike

    Based on past 18 month , two debates here my impression for Romney:

    Romney = R ich People favor - check his ceo and other record for last 25 years
    Romney = O utsoucing USA JOB - check his ceo record
    Romney= M oney orineted guy paying less taxes then $20 per hr paying job
    Romney = N o honest position - Check his last 25 years record and comapre what he saying in last 2 debate to win just election ..
    Romney = E nd game care for bottom line only do any thing to win even it jep voter - check his last 25 years record..all care what make him rich rich and king
    Romney = Y es for any help top 2% and don't care for other - check hs own comment of 47% and sticking to that for several weeks and change it in last debate as he saw he loosing election

    How as undecider i will vote for HIM ... NO WAY....

    October 17, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. silvia

    So sad that finally the Super Pac got to CNN. A group of us are finding another news network. We call you the Little Fox. Don't we have enough of that? I'm only a true humanitarian and Oboma fits the same personality type. You show the opponent 4 times more than Oboma and it gets so old watching you. The Republicans were greedy to create the mess we are still in. If we all would only care about all individuals we would be in such better shape all the way around. Check out Freeport, Illinois company now being outsourced to China by a Corp. owned 51% by Romney.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  24. Ray

    It's funny how some people think Romney won the debate. Why add $2 trillion to the defense budget when the military didn't request it? Tax cuts for everyone and let the rich keep paying little tax? Romney wants to make employers so anxious they'll actually hire women? He wants women to work but thinks they're too busy making sandwiches. How can the far right not see how much Romney flip flops, how his tax plans don't add up, how he doesn't get into specifics, and how his VP candidate is so desperate to look good that he has to go into a soup kitchen unannounced and without permission and get a photo op of him washing dishes that were already clean. Do people really think Romney Ryan will do a better job than Obama Biden?

    October 17, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  25. AzDem

    Obama won hands down! Mittard does not answer the questions! Wake up America!

    October 17, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
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