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. UtahProf

    @ Antonio – very true. We had our chance with Ron Paul (the first chance in over 100 years) and squandered it. Who knows how long it we be before we get that chance again. Democrats and Republicans are just a two-headed snake.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. betgar

    See this is why I've stopped watching CNN, your results make no sense and the commentary baffles me. You use to be my news station of choice! What has happened to "keeping them honest"? Oh, forgot Anderson has his talk show on FOX now.

    October 17, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Name

    Not even close Obama lost big time. he did not answer the asked question and the Libya lie he made hurt him

    October 17, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. SDLaddie

    The only reason Obama made any kind of show was that Crowley cut Romney off 28 times, gave Obama almost 10% more time and did not take issue with any wrong statements by Obama but did with Romney. The bias was clear almost from the beginning. The worst was the Benghazi issue where she said Obama had stated that it was a terrorist attack, but he had merely stated after statements about 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq that "no acts of terror would shake the resolve of this great nation.” That was a general statement, carefully chosen to not include Benghazi.

    October 17, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  5. Pi Boson

    Every time you meet Mitt Romney he is a new mystical candidate as he flips and flops, turns and twirls, bobs-and-weaves, flops and flips. His deceit, lack of leadership, and ill-conceived "vision" is NOT what this country needs.

    October 17, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  6. Mike

    Just wondering where the FULL poll results are. CNN has cherry picked the results in this article to Obama's benefit but if you look at the details, Romney scored better, and sometimes much better, than Obama on the big issues of economics, taxes, debt, and deficit.

    October 17, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  7. eciam

    The GOP, when there guy loss....cry-cry-cry.....complain-complain-complain, It was this persons fault-that persons fault.
    Obama had a very good debate last night.
    Romney seem out of touch!

    October 17, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  8. E D Pierce

    i still cannot believe Candy poked her nose into the debate. Even if she backtracked later there will not be 70,000,000 people reading the backtrack.

    October 17, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. Antonio

    Oh, and that moderator, she might as well be called an Obamerator. By making that statement against Romney, telling him he wasn't saying something correct, she went completely against what a moderator is supposed to do. I'm not advocating Romney, believe me, I don't support him either, but I do think we should have a moderator who does their job correctly, and doesn't show bias, and she showed hers there, and then tried to cover it up by saying Romney was right about something else, but the damage was already done. Seriously, are these the best two candidates and best moderator we can get for this country? A life long politician who has no clue what it's really like to live in the real world and a life long multi-millionaire who couldn't identify with the common working man or woman either. No wonder we're in so much trouble, look who will be running it.

    October 17, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  10. Tina

    Romney clearly won the debate last night! Lets talk about how many people are out of jobs today. Is our country really going in the right direction???

    October 17, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  11. T1

    I was an undecided voter, and have used the debates as an opportunity to learn about the position of the candidates. I am appalled. First of all, I had heard about the liberal bias of the media and have experienced it first hand. The moderator's clear bias yesterday against Romney aided in swiinging my vote for Romney. It was clear that I will not receive the facts from the Media. Cindy should feel comforted in the fact that she has moved several undecided women voters closer to Romney as a result of her biased actions in last nights debate. Second of all, the positions are clear. Romeny is about lowering taxes, directing money towards creating jobs, and generating more tax paying independant people to contribute to balancing the deficit. Honestly, the only view I have of what Obama's plan is has been shared by Romney. Obama is so busy bashing Romney, I have no idea what his plan is.

    October 17, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  12. Name Terry

    President Obama ...the clear winner.....are you blind or just make millions!

    October 17, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  13. Smith

    Not sure what debate people were watching last night. Romney threw Obama's record right in his face out of the gate. Number after number and stat after stat. Candy wisely did not let Obama retort and went immediately to another topic. And Obama didn't even try to refute his own failed policy thrown at him. By the end of the debate Obama was using the exact same language Rush Limbaugh uses to speak to his audience, in Obama's own stuttering, bumper-sticker, non-prompter fashion. Not even you hard boiled utopians believes Obama is a capitalist that believes in the rugged "American spirit of independence". Libya was supposed to be a big gotchya against Romney, yet today all over the net is the fact checking. Like most of what Obama said he is getting called out false on this. Keep propping yourselves up utopians. In the last four years almost every election that matters in this country has thrown the democrats out on their ears, despite the "polls" before those elections. Get ready for November 2010 all over again and try not to start caring about White House cover ups after your failure gets the boot.

    October 17, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  14. KP

    When 7 points is within the poll's sampling error, the poll is useless. Seriously, poll more people next time!

    October 17, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  15. Where are the results?

    I voted for Obama 4 years ago...or mostly voted against JM. To me the problem with the debates is Obama is a very convincing speaker with "ideas", but he has done nothing in the last 4 years to convince me the economy is headed in the right direction. Tired of hearing the excuses of the past administration, I don't remember him claiming he couldn't fix the economy in 4 years before he was elected? I'm sure if he gets 4 more years with no economic turnaround, 8 years wouldn't be enough to overcome the past administration either.....

    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 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Jeff Bernstein

    @Earl Lancaster – Romney did not state the facts in the Rose Garden speech correctly plain and simple. You can say CNN is a left wing lapdog if you choose but recognize the fact that Romney lied about what actually was said and looked foolish by doing it.
    The president clearly outperformed Romney in this debate

    October 17, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. Isidro Motaco

    There was no doubt that the moderator acted as a referee and was deliberately helping OBAMA. When OBAMA was "giging" was allways looking at the so-called moderator for help. And he get that help These kind of moderators should not be appointed and/or accepted by the parties for events like this.

    October 17, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  18. George

    Let me first say, I don't like either one of the candidates, prefer someone else, as unlikely as that is. My problem is CONGRESS! does not matter much what the president wants, congress is the one stalling, why did the GOP not want to pass the jobs bill? to make Obama look bad. Bottom line is, congress does not care about you or me, all they care about is how to line their pockets! As for taxes, why not a flat tax, where every one pays the same % with NO loop holes and NO deductions for ANYONE, no matter what they make, NO filing tax returns that way you can get rid of IRS, save $$$, but of course all this is just a dream .... so does it really matter who wins?

    October 17, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  19. The Middle Class

    @Antonio I slightly agree and disagree with you...its up to the Americans to take control because that is one of our handicaps because we await for the government to do when we should rely on ourselves to better ourselves and kids bc always relying on someone to help you....you would alway be at there mercy of assistance.....but I believe that Obama is the answer bc yes look at his record bc wait he committed to do he did and that's another issue in America ,ok Obama is in office stop expecting a drastic change bc its takes time to turn America back around.

    October 17, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  20. Jimmie Russells

    457 Registered voters was the sample size? Lol. Ok.

    October 17, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  21. Name Terry

    Fist bump to Pi Boson and OBAMA

    October 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  22. Donnie Baker

    CNN wanted Obama to win so bad that they gave him a slight edge by helping him out. Their moderator was totally out of line when siding with the president especially since the issue was debatable. Thats what the candidates were there for. She was not there to debate or give her opinion. She also gave Obama allmost 3 minutes more time than Romney to speak. She should come out and apoligize to Mitt Romney for her disgraceful attempt as moderator. Even standing and facing them 2 to 1 Mitt Romney won hands down.

    October 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  23. C Clem

    I would like to know where CNN is taking this Poll because from what I read today and people I spoke to Romney once again did well!

    October 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  24. Name scawa

    All we hear from the president is "I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna...". You've had 4 years, and had control of the house and senate for 2 of them. If you were gonna, why didn't you? ??

    October 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  25. Steve P

    Betgar...clearly you have not completely stopped reading CNN or else you wouldn't be here now. Nothing more neurotic and strange than the poster that actually reads an article and then takes the time to post that they don't read the media source to which the article is linked. If you are incapable of understanding clear and simple results, perhaps you would be better served watching/reading FOX. Although the most biased news source in America, it at least dumbs things down to its audience that is generally incapable of thinking for themselves.

    October 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
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