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. jmatt

    I thought Obama clearly won the debate, but was very disappointed that he didn't call Romney out on his financial plan...rich pay the same in taxes...middle class pay less....who will off set the "less" paid by the middle class...the poor? That's the only other group. Seriously?

    October 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  2. KlvrV

    Anyone who thinks Romney won that debate didn't even need Romney to show up.

    October 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. cody

    I kind of feel like that no matter who wins the debates and then the election, the American people will still lose. I favor Romney, but it is still like having the choice between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb.

    October 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. Lad1218

    For all the Romney flip-flop remarks ..... please stop! Please open your ears and listen to what this man has been consistently saying all along. He hasn't changed his goals and ideas of what he promises to accomplish as President. Selective hearing is running rampant I guess. Obama stood tall, with his chest pumped out and shaking his finger, trying to appear all in charge. And again, he was all talk, no substance, and a "not true" repeater. He said nothing about his own plans but spent the whole evening bashing Romney. That's what cowards do, not a President of the United States. Romney's getting this woman's vote.

    October 17, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  5. Pi Boson

    I feel great sorrow for those clinging to Romney as your hate for a fellow human damns this nation.

    October 17, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. Steve P

    Name....which debate were you watching? Wow. He did not answer the asked question? Why...because they were framed lawyer-esque. Skewed so that the yes/no answer is completely out of context to actual events. Shame on Romney for asking such closed-ended questions that mislead and good job by Obama for not falling into that sneaky little trap. That being said, I think I will abstain from this election. Neither choice is great. We have been stuck with 12 years of Bush and Obama and now we will get another four of Obama or four from Romney. No thanks. And for those party-line sheep, those that believe Romney will improve things in the slightest really are without a clue.

    October 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  7. Name scawa

    I'll give the president the benefit of the doubt on his rose garden comments. But if he knew then it was a terrorist attack, why did he spend the next two weeks blaming the video (the view, letterman, the un, etc)?

    October 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. Scott

    Poor job by the author to essentially hide/bury the most telling stat of them all. While all of the % comparisons were done 45%-42% examples, the most telling stat of all was not and essentially buried. The stat was that Romney was identified as a clear leader in the "Which candidate do you believe that will handle the economy better if elected" The results were 57% – 39% for Romney, but that isn't clear in the quote below.

    "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."

    October 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. Ba8654

    You have got to be kidding me! totally reflective of style over substance – clearly a requisite for being a liberal. what a joke. 4 of 4 debates "managed" by liberals? the liberal moderator jumping in to the president's defense? Every question to the president a softball pitch? A great emotional appeal by the president – clearly you people make emotional, not rational data-driven decisions or you'd run the president out of town. WHAT HAS HE DONE? He didn't even try to defend his miserable record! All Romney should have done is point out the nearly 1000 presidential directives (intended to circumvent congress), and portray a socialist dictator whose actions do not match his "middle class dream" hash.... he is a likable guy, I'll give you that – comes across very sincere – there's just no substance and it appears there are many that can not decode his real intentions – or critically evaluate his actual performance against stated objectives.....

    October 17, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. Post-A1

    Mr. Obama did not fare well in this debate. He was forceful, angry and stood his ground like many angry men get. That did not mean he held his on or made his case. He only attacked Romney. Romney bad, I am good. So, what is Obama’s plan or what is Obama about? I guess I will have to watch Obama’s America since Obama failed to show us who he was.
    Romney stated he was a successful business man who helped Massachusetts in several areas as Governor. He pointed out his successes and those successes were not questioned or challenged. Obama seems to think that because he has money he is bad. I want someone who has a track record of success for President. Obama has not been successful. What do you want?

    October 17, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. Rocotaco

    I am an independent and I will tell you that the moderator appeared very partial to me and my group that watched it. Obama was forceful but that does not win over people nearly as much as economic substance and Romney clearly won that argument.

    October 17, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. Steve P

    SDLad..."around the globe," he said. "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done."

    This was the day after the Libya assault. The first segment might have been directed toward terrorism as a whole, but are you completely incapable of inference? This is about as clear as it gets. Good grief, does the president need to speak as if addressing six year olds? Based on your post, I must assume that to be the case. People, it's called a brain, use it before posting nonsense!

    October 17, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. Tim S.

    I have daily followed CNN since it started years ago. Sadly, Candy Crowley's abuse and breach of protocol as moderator in the second Presidential debate was wrong and deeply upsetting. She should not have tried to correct Romney when he said Obama took days to admit the Libya thing was an act of terror. CNN you are accountable for this shameful breach of protocol. I think an apology to the public is warranted.

    October 17, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  14. linda

    U have to really answer the questions to win and I didn't see Obama do that so I really don't know how he could have won even by a little bit

    October 17, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  15. dyeika

    cnn, abc news, and on and on, are just lame excuses of media press. Why are u not taking about the important issues Obama again "come again" about Steven and the other 3 americans that died Candy to the rescue stopping Mitt from making a point Obama's camping is so dirty I can't hardly stand it. ALL this bull about women they are only focusing on the liberal crazy one how about the good conservative moms what about us mr President. Obama has no record and has done anything to improve this country in any way or form. He flat out lied about GM and Chrysler I should know I moved from MI looking for a job my husband lost his business and now we can't hardly make it thanks OBAMA. Detroit has become the most dangerous cities in the area crime, drugs, now if you enter Detroit you have to sign a waiver risking your life, there are ghost towns foreclosures right and left as far as the eye can see and this problem has become worse within the last 2 years. All this green energy non-sense he talks about is bull the companies that he dump millions of dollars fall apart already solandra to mention some. The energy efficient batteries for car in Finland is over with and yet he keeps bring in these up what is wrong with obama. People in Michigan might vote for him because the have a dependancy on gov help now they have become lazy and they lost hope,. Just remember if he wins again there won't be millions of rich Americans to pay for all that. USE common sense stop this cover up and be honest about what is really taking place. p.s I live in CA now and CA is heading same way or even worse the country is falling apart and people are helping to destroy it OBAMA and his celebrities VERY rich people are not gonna suffer we are.

    October 17, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. ColoradoGirl

    First let me say I don't think for ONE minute that Obama won this debate all he did was keep his KoolAid drinking supporters. He did NOT bring any independents or undecided voters over to his side of the debate. Secondly if Candy hadn't helped him out as much as she did – the analysts would be certainly telling a different story today! She interupted Romney much more than she did Obama and she gave Obama leading statements in order to assist him in his responses! This was a perfect example I why I don't watch CNN any more. It's why when we go to businesses that have the news channels on – it's now mostly FoxNews on the TVs and if not we ALWAYS let them know we much prefer Fox to CNN!

    October 17, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. dd1951

    If Obama wins the election, Candy Crowley earned a spot in his cabinet for her assistance. Shame on her for showing a bias with her incorrect assertion with regards to the Benghazi attack. She even admitted it after the debate and Gibbs also stated she was wrong. Where's CNN's reporting on this blunder???

    October 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. NIJO

    Romney WAS and IS VERY DISRESPECTFUL towards the President and that showed in both debates, which continues to speak to the rachetness of his character. The Republican party continues to be overwhelminly just as disrespectful and they have been from the time PRESIDENT OBAMA took office, which speaks to their rachetness as well. President Obama has continued to fight for ALL Americans not cherry picking which ones he will push for. When Romney opens his mouth he continues to spew lies upon lies, telling the truth is not a part of who he is. Everytime he speaks (lies), his campaign always has to walk back what he said and then they say; "oh that not what Willard Mitt Romney meant to say", then they give an excuse...another lie. He meant exactly what he said when he said it. Face it ROMNEY IS A BOLD FACE LIAR. THE TRUTH IS THE TRUTH!!!!!

    October 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. Tr1Xen

    Candy Crowley clearly won this debate. Wait a second...she was the moderator, not a participant! But nonetheless, she still put more than her two cents in, didn't she?

    October 17, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. Name

    Since when is a 9 point advantage narrowly?

    October 17, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  21. Stuck_In_a_Blue_State

    Romney had his chances to put this race to an end...but missed out. But, overall, his facts against Obama's reckless policies were spot on. Obama may have his heart in the right place....but his policies are no where capable of mending this nation. We need somebody with experience, and who understands economics. Obama is best suited to go back to Chi-Town and re-organize that broken community. Leave the POTUS job to somebody that is willing to roll up his sleeves and actually sit in the Oval Office instead of romping around Hollywood.

    October 17, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  22. jackie

    Romney lost the debate obama made him look stupid. scold him like a school boy on the subject of libya. I think a lot of people are in denial. including the cnn panel. They know that Romney wasn't the right candidate for the republican party and they force him through., and are still trying to force him on the american people. Ryan look as if he is zombify. The bottom line is no one trust Romney because he was a business man. Whose goal was profit not people. You can't run government like a business. If you could we would have elected that guy who does the apprentice. See I foget his name just as how Romney is to the american people a blurr

    October 17, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  23. CA LAW STUDENT

    The moment of Truth. Obama told it like is, and he finally put Romney on blast, period. Obama without a doubt won the debate last night.

    October 17, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. Dana

    Obama definitely argued his case better. He gave clear, concise answers as to what he has already done to help our country progress. Not like Romney's mindless babbling that seemed to never end that certainly never gave any long-term solutions to the problems we're facing.

    October 17, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. Linda

    When will people smarten up? The President is not a wizard. Nearly all the topics in the debate are problems that Congress refused to deal with or their inaction caused the problem. We have a dysfunctional Congress that has put this nation into a mess and then we blame the President. Oh, and I bet we re-elect these same clowns back into Congress and the Senate.

    October 17, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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