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. Anonymous

    Wow, I must have been watching a different debate compared to your poll results. Mr. Obama was inaccurate in several of his statements but where is CNN to do the fact-checking? MIA! Ms. Crowley's untimely comment assisting Mr. Obama, and being wrong at the same time, was both painful and embarassing to watch. CNN should re-consider ever putting her in a position of such pressure and vulnaerability. As an undecided, this debate again showed Mr. Obama's difficulty in speaking without a prompter....oh, I forgot, guess Ms. Crowley filled that position.

    October 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  2. Neha

    President Obama did a great job last night .Romney was nowhere.. Clear win for President Obama. Scored on all fronts. Answered all Questions with ease. Obama demonstrated his leadership once again. This debate solidly went to Obama.

    October 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. misscamm1968

    CNN I dont know what debate you where watching last night but it was Obama who was the clear winner he came out strong it look like Romney was about to cry Romney seemed uncomfortable in his own skin he look like someone had injected him with a dose of caffeine he was all over the place talking around the questions what is there tax plan and why wouldn't they reveal it to the voters sick the death of the same song and dance with this jokers its pretty said Obama defend Bush while Romney was willing to through Bush under the bus there is something about Romney I think you polls are BS thats your opinion and maybe a few others but your definely not speaking for all Americans I use to like your news but you our becoming like Fox news with the brainwashing I thought CNN was better then that.

    October 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  4. mercedes

    Obama Won, with class, facts and no lies!!!

    October 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  5. Neha

    CNN polls Which debate were they watching? Mr. Obama won!

    October 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. ToWit

    I am an Independent who saw the debate last evening, and it is quite apparent that CNN toned down Obama’s obvious, superior performance where it even stated that its CNN poll gave a “slight edge to Obama.” Is 46% to 39% a slight edge, especially when CNN admits that Republican respondents in the poll were over represented by about 8% based on their actual number in the US population? Why does CNN do this? The answer is that a tighter presidential race results in more CNN viewers, and more CNN viewers equates to more profit for the network. The current polls show that Obama will probably win the key states and, therefore, win the election, and CNN knows this. So, in order to increase the suspense, CNN prefers to show a tightening poll response in these states, which a winning debate performance by Obama would, of course, discourage. Thus, CNN played down Obama’s winning debate performance during the network’s post debate segment last night by highlighting what they claim to be Romney’s strengths in his performance during the debate and in the polls. The truth is that any reasonably intelligent person who saw the debate would have to agree that the President not only won the debate but performed exceptionally well. Obama produced lucid, substantive replies to every question asked by members on the panel and every assault leveled on the President by Romney. Romney, on the other hand, provided answers that were lacking in specifics, and merely engaged in his usual mantra like rhetoric alleging the President’s failings in the form of generalizations which he did not attempt to substantiate. The President appeared knowledgeable, presidential, and self confident. Romney, on the other hand, appeared befuddled, weak and stressed out. Sorry CNN. The public is smarter than you suppose.

    October 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. What?

    I can't understand how people can say that Obama hasn't touted his own sucessful record. He repeatedly stated that over 5 million jobs have been created since the Stimulus was passed. He has contantly stated that he wants to extend the Bush tax cuts on income under $250,000. He has issued countless other tax cuts to the middle class and small businesses thru the Stimulis Bill, including lowering payroll taxes, which republicans wanted to let expire.

    Obama inherited a 1.41 Trillion dollar federal budget deficit, and although his deficits have also been over 1 trillion dollars, each of his deficits have been lower every year he has been in office.

    You know you are on the wrong team when all you have is lies and distortion to try and convince voters to vote for you.

    October 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  8. Brandon

    You people that think Obama is better for the economy that Romney, and has a better grasp on the energy industry are absolutely clueless. I'm going to go on a hunch and say you don't live in Houston, the energy capital of the world. He's good for coal? Really? Why did he campaign against it in 2008 then? Why did so many energy companies here in Houston lay off half of their staff in the first 9 months of him taking office? Facts are facts, and you people need to learn some. You are probably the same people that honestly believe 7.8 is the unemployment rate in this country, when you actually have no idea where that number comes from. It's smoke and mirrors. That isn't the number. Romney definitely misspoke last night, for lack of knowledge. Obama misspoke on purpose, straight lieing. Just because Obama SAID Romney did or said something, doesn't mean he actually did. Half the time Obama accused Romney of something, they didn't give Romney the opportunity to defend himself. Go back and watch it again, you'll see I am right. That said, the debate did swing in favor of Obama, but not because he is the better candidate. I fall in the middle class. I struggle just as much as the rest of you. But, I'm in an industry that makes a DIFFERENCE to this country, and I see the failures that hinder us from thriving again. It will only get worse with Obama another 4 years. Why? Because he's not done yet, he said so himself. You Obama supporters are clearly out of touch with reality and what actually makes a country thrive. But hey, go ahead and vote Democrat. It's easier than working.

    October 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. Eagle

    We will see how the polls move in the next few days.Candy and Obama tag teaming Romney will not help Obama.We all can say what we want. There are no independants on this thread.We have all made up our minds. My decision was made 5 minutes into the first debate.Obama is more of the same. When Romney made the comment "We can do better" Romney picked up my vote. We are sick of all the anxiety and uncertainty Obama brings. BIG TIME DISSAPOINTED W/CROWLEY.

    October 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. Della

    I am a Middle Class Woman Republican voting again for President Obama. Obama care saved us from bankruptcy when my youngest of three daughters graduated from college and need three (3) operations within the span of a year. My husband, a retired Postamster, who is one of the 47% who still works full time, whose insurance would not cover her until "forced" to by Obama Care. I too along with my 47% three daughters who all graduated from college and are working middle class who Romney puts in a BINDER and can't relate to, will be voting for the only level headed person who can handle a crisis correctly like Libya and addresses and understand our issues, President Obama. BE PATIENT "America" we need to move FORWARD!!!!

    October 17, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  11. Namejaime rojas

    Obama lies when he says he inherited a mess although is true that the crisis was real and dire he did not inherited it he knew what he was getting into he seeked, campaigned and asked for it and he got elected. So now after almost 4 years he is still blaming Bush he needs to manup and take responsibility.

    October 17, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  12. George

    Just glad Candy was on team Obama, wonder how long she was in preperation to protect Obama?

    October 17, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. Mike

    President Obama clearly won this debate, and has provided a clear roadmap and vision for the country moving forward. Mr. Romney on the other hand has really shown that he does not take a clear position on issues - to say the least!

    The president has done an outstanding job on the economy, foreign policy, and domestic policy. He saved the auto industry, stopped the economy from sliding into a great depression following 8 years of republican rule, instituted health care, has had nearly flawless foreign policy, and has put in excellent reforms to ensure that another bailout never occurs.

    What does Romney want to do? Institute the same policies which got the country into the great recession in the first place.

    October 17, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  14. Rijo

    @CNN why are you promoting this lunacy. The electorate of the USA is dumbed down enough, don't you think it is more you task to inform. This is getting to be pathetic..

    October 17, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. Liz

    That is so funny. Just how many voters were sampled and were they the same Democrats mentioned that ran and filled the media room after the debate? Anytime these stupid polls are taken it should be a requirement to publish the sample technique used.
    After the debate they asked voter groups in a public forum who won and who would they vote for and those voters said Romney!

    October 17, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  16. Rick Ewing

    The Unemployment rate would drop a couple of points if Romney (“I’ll get tough on China”) and Bain would bring back the jobs they’ve sent to China.

    October 17, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  17. Frank

    A slight edge? A 7 point margin of victory is a decisive victory, not a slight edge. Give credit where credit is due. President Obama won. End of discussion.

    October 17, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  18. Joannie

    Joannie,
    This debate bear the fingerprints of God. The President did just what he needed to do.

    October 17, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  19. Kate

    Obama didn't narrowly win...or have a slight edge. He won BIG. And Romney messed up enough to give him ad material for the rest of the campaign!
    OBAMA/Biden 2012

    October 17, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  20. DaveinIL

    Today's Gallup daily tracking poll is up another point for Romney: Romney 51%, Obama 45%

    October 17, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  21. Lucy

    I wonder how many stayed up afterthe debate to watch much of the "after debate" coverage. There were a lot more poll numbers given last night on CNN that are not shown above. I can't remember the exact numbers but more of the people polled thought Romney would do a better job fixing the economy, jobs & taxes & "looked like a leader. The economist in the fact check part said the math does not add up for either candidate's tax plan. As a member of the "working poor" it sounds good to tax the rich more, afterall they have a lot more, but in reality there are a lot less of them than there are of us and it is the rich who have the resources to create jobs. Obama continually touts the 500 million jobs he has created (almost as if he personally created the jobs) but never mentions that we still have a net loss of jobs. Obama does not directly answer any of the questions he is asked and that bothers me. Romney is sometimes wrong but at least he gives an answer. I heard some complaining last night that Romney was rude to Mr. Obama but some were the same ones who thought Biden's rudeness last week was passion for his beliefs. TRUTHFULLY I am as undecided today as I was last week...month...year. I don't like what we have but not completely convinced the alternative is better.

    October 17, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  22. 757 for Obama

    There was only one person in last night’s debate that was the President of the United States and that's President Obama. He truly was in command of the debate and Romney. Ex-Gov Romney was definitely out class on every question. He did uneven address the questions? He doesn't have any CORE and it clearly showed. It's ashamed that racism and bigotry is still alive in our Great country. We are still not looking at a person's character. The RNC is still supporting people with hate posted on their clothing, bumper stickers, etc. Romney is definitely not is the same class as our President and he definitely does not belong in the Oval office.

    October 17, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  23. R Jacobs

    Romney is clearly a Flim-Flam, a used car salesman, trying to convince you the lemon he's trying to fob off on you is completely reliable. Think about it. Who would ask the American people to 'buy' a tax relief plan based upon the elimination of deductions to be named later. Asking us to in effect sign a contract without all the blank spaces filled in. Also he still hasn't explained how his tax relief will stimulate an increase in jobs. The problem isn't that corporations don't earn enough money to hire people, US corporations by all accounts are sitting on more cash now than they've ever had. A tax break therefore is not going to encourage them to hire anyone, they'll just add that cash to the cash they already have. What Romney didn't say last night, is that economists are saying that the 12 million jobs Romney is predicting over the next several years are already in the pipeline due to the steps the president has already taken to boost the economy. Last I don't care what he says about blind-trusts, he owns Blain (51% of the company's stock) therefore if he felt what they were doing in China in terms of off-shoring jobs was wrong he would put an end to it.

    October 17, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  24. DustyOnes

    Libya, assault weapons, economy, jobs....all bs and gaffes! Obama evading the black guys question about the economy and turned the Latina's immigration question into a mindless ramble never addresssing her question. Oh.....and assault weapons....he started talking about education and completely avoided the topic (Fast and Furious!). And Libya, Candy admitted this morning that she and Obama lied!

    GOP 3 – Leftist 0

    Romney/Ryan: Our next Administration awaits.

    October 17, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  25. patriotuidiot

    Obama won, really? That must be a CNN statement. not to mention that blob Democrat "Candy" held Obama's hand the whole time. She let Obama talk longer, interrupt, and even threw her 2 cents in about Obama's " Act of terror" statement. Romney should have mentioned how Obama is in bed with the UN and how there will be a global tax administered by them. Or how about us tax payers paying for those low income "Obama phones". the only people that vote fior Obama are the people that want that government check handed to them each month.

    October 17, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
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