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. Cano

    7% win is NOT within the poll error windows of 4.5% thus it's a clear win for Obama especially given that the polled group included a larger percentage of Republicans than the country overall.

    October 17, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. jbloe

    One issue around taxes that was touched on but overlooked in detail is that Romney not only said it was OK for him and people like him to pay half the rate of a middle class wage earner he also wants to put policies in place that would allow people like him to pay ZERO in tax on investment income. Under the Romney plan, his effective rate would go from 13% to something close to zero. Not only would his policies favor the rich in terms of earned income but it would take huge slice of income right out of the already lower bracket he pays. Along with the 5 trillion over 10 years he is proposing with the lower rate, he also advocates for no taxes on capital gains. His logic seems to be that this money – the seed investment money I am thinking – has already been taxed so it should not be taxed again. He claims that taxing this income would discourage investment by these so-called job creators. Keep in mind that it does not matter whether one cent of the tax free income they are getting was used to create even one job here in the US. The income could be earned from accounts in the Caymans or factories in China. Does that seem right to you? It may also be worth noting that even Ronald Regan recognized this policy was unfair. Regan would not be nominated for dog catcher in today's Republicon party.

    October 17, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. James Stygles

    CNN gave a very concrete explanation of what their economists thought of each candidate's economic plan concluding that neither plan was likely to solve the problem at hand. Would CNN have their economists analyze what President Obama faced upon assuming the presidency, what could have been done and what he did? What worked, what would have happened if he had not done what he did or how realistically could he have solved such a huge mess? Please consider my question.

    October 17, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. Voter

    Obama is a joke. So he raised his voice this time. He still has no answers to solve the economic crisis. He still wants to spend money the government does not have – and put us deeper in debt to do it. Time for him to go.

    October 17, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. Name former republican

    President Obama is a voice of reason who cares about people, man of honor. He is trying to bring a balance in the country for everyone(rich, poor, middle-class, all races)change he has been trying to make takes time. It took former president bush 8 years to sink the economy and it will take at least 8 years to stablize it again. Romney is a spoiled rich brat who wants things his way even if it means being rude disrespectful disruptive arrogant cold un-welcoming condesending. Romney tried to control each debate with a nasty disruptive character but when he spoke he said nothing convincing, no plan no strategy, nothing except I'm rich and your not so you don't matter.....look at the undercurrents he has no poor/middle clas friends/associates been rich all his life so he does not know how to relate to the 47% he wants to throw us aside......romney speaks before he thinks

    October 17, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. Nameike umeh

    looks like continuity will prevail. the election is already decided.

    October 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  7. CA LAW STUDENT

    Duplicate this. Obama roasted Mitt Romney like barbeque in last night's debate.

    October 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  8. Fabjan

    I'd pay a MILLION DOLLARS to see an Obama/Romney debate moderated by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. You saw how Candy Crowley skewered Romney? O'Reilly would do the same to Obama. OH, IF ONLY!

    October 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. Factshurt

    All the nation has to do in determining who to vote for is to look at Obama's last 4 years record and look at Greece, cause that's where we're headed.

    October 17, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  10. ROFLMAO

    Barry didn't answer any pointed question and when called on specific points, he deflected, rambled or outright lied. He was more aggressive and passionate but it was all hot air. There was no substance to his comments....

    October 17, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  11. joan

    President Obama win by a larger margin than CNN noted. Wolf Blister keep saying that of the people poll, listen to this:
    33 percent was GOP and 33 percent was Democrats, but 8 percent more was GOP's? People open your eyes and your ears these people will pull the wool over your eyes at every chance. They polled 25 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of
    GOP? Why? Why? same on CNN we thought your above that.

    October 17, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  12. Bryan

    People were duped into voting for an undefined, blank-canvas candidate in 2008. We won't get fooled again!

    October 17, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  13. ru serious

    Boils down to real choice: If you are happy with the way things are going, vote for Obama. If you don't mind having a buffoon one breath away from presidency, then vote Obama/Biden. If you want serious change, then vote for serious people: Romney/Ryan.

    October 17, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  14. tmalbany

    This is to CNN: It appears you have picked sides and are no longer balanced. Have to agree with SDLaddie above and very dissappointed with Crowley as a moderator. On three successive questions in the middle of the debate Obama got to respond first then again on follow up after Romney. At one point in the middle of the debate Obama had as much as a five minute advantage over Romney. I don't know what the assualt rifle question was doing in there other than to allow Obama to bash Romney about the NRA. Perhaps questions about why the Obama Administration has brought in over 500,000 foreign college students to work in America on the J1 program would have been more pertinent. It appears that the US Government is the single largest outsourcer of jobs in America.

    October 17, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  15. Name J Jina

    I am very much offended by Romney' s repeated comment on ' top 5 percent of people pay 60% of tax and it will continue '. I translate it as ' you 95% of people who only make up 40% of tax sure have so much to say about tax ' I do remember his comment on low income people not paying tax anyways.. well income tax that must be. I Wonder if he has a concept of real middle class all.

    October 17, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  16. Lad1218

    If you're a democrat, Obama won. If you're a Republican, Romney won. CNN, NBC, ABC say that Obama won. I say he won "jack". Romney proved, once again, that he is the most capable of getting this country back on its feet. And Obama, once again, proved that he will take this country down the same path as the last 4 years. That means another $6T in debt, 60 million on food stamps, more money thrown and wasted on green companies that go bankrupt and get bought up by China, American killings in middle eastern countries, apology tours, fast & furious debacles .... need I continue?

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

    There are enough dumb, rude phonies in congress...we don't need Romney as president to top it off.
    Obama is smart, real & has class...I am proud to give him my vote. Voting for congress is just as important as voting for the presidency, if more people voted in 2010 then Obama would not have had such a big stop sign on everything he tried to achieve.

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

    Obama did good I hope u keep on doing a nice job ! Team Obama # !

    October 17, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  19. Tom

    Romney will win! He has shown during the last 2 debates he is clearly better on the economy! Our number 1 concern in this country is the economy! Don't want a job, then vote for Obama!

    October 17, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  20. sumi

    I strongly believe, Obama did a better job in this debate, calling out Romney for his lies in whether the percentage he keeps mentioning in which it really doesn't add up and the Chinese market issues in which Romney was not really opposed to it, as Obama realized his lie.

    October 17, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  21. eric

    Romney is nothing more than a salesman...he will say what ever you want to hear. He's dishonest....

    October 17, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  22. Name

    Obama won hands down!

    October 17, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  23. numbersguy

    Slight Edge would be 1-4%. 7% would not be a SLIGHT edge, it is a clear edge.

    October 17, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  24. Darlis

    amusing to see the right's wailing and gnashing of teeth.. Obama won.. because he doesn't change his position from
    day to day... How can anyone have any faith in Romney when he has changed his story every day..??? So glad he got called on his real opinion of coal since so many folks in coalmining towns are being duped by him and totally misled..Perfectly obvious that there is no depths he will not go to nor no position he will not embrace if it is expedient. President Obama is better for coal, better for the country as a whole.. just the facts.

    October 17, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. Joe

    This was one of the worst debates ever. Romney did very well considering where they were, the room stacked against him and "Crowley," omg, need I say more. Makes me wonder why he agreed to this in the first place.

    October 17, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
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