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. Aaron P

    I am have been watching this reace from it's begining and the "media" like CNN that supposedly give us a balace appraoch to the election. They are wanting it to be close so that their ratings will go up and nothing more. How many "undecided" voters are out there and how fricking stupid are you. Make up your mind either way. Is thee something you are really waiting to hear or see that will make you vote one way or another. Idiots! Romney is nothing more than a walking robot that has no idea how most Americans live and will preside over this Country wihtout ever knowing how Americans live if god forbid he wins...but he wont!

    October 17, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. Mitt Lozer

    Yes. In you face Mitt. lol....

    October 17, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. DavidGorge

    The fact that CNN didn't declare something like "Obama knocked out Romney" tells you that Romney won.

    October 17, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. SwollenGoat

    Obama hit this one out of the park. He was presidential and handled himself with dignity.

    Romney, on the other hand, came off as desperate and lacking control.

    "Please proceed, Mr. Governor".

    It's as if Obama had shoveled a pile of horse manure on the ground, and Romney blindly stepped into it. I couldn't help but laugh.

    Well played, Mr. President.

    October 17, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. Doug

    Millions of Democrats are already making threats against Romney's life if he wins, lies and hate, a Democrat can offer nothing more.

    October 17, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. TRINITYOFSIX

    That Reality Check Commentary--needs to check themselves before "reporting". Tax hikes :weren"t they for individuals filings with incomes of $1M +?-–I really think all Americans should just turn their TVS off after CNN reports the "News"-because "They think we"re Stupid" and cannot evalutate anything w/o their "experts" interpeting what we hear with our own ears!!! -

    October 17, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. Abe Lincoln

    Renounce the socialist and save America

    October 17, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  8. 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 in the same class as our President and he definitely does not belong in the Oval office.

    October 17, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  9. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    I can't believe the public rates the last debate statistically a tie. What does Obama have to do to win in you guys' eyes? Not only kick Romney's butt, but juggle 3 chainsaws while teleconferencing with Hillary Clinton and Bashar al-Assad? Would that be enough? Somehow I don't think so.

    October 17, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  10. Christian

    Can't take another 4 years. Don't with Obama and ready change

    October 17, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  11. Bob

    @ KATE: Like DaveinIL points out, Gallup Daily Tracking has Romney +1 and Obama -1 today. Among Likely Voters (what matters), Obama now trails by 6%. So Obama's BIG "WIN" seems to be having the opposite effect, huh.

    October 17, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  12. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    The gambling houses raised the payoff on a Romney win. Obviously the most recent presidential debate hurt Romney. This opinion is from people who put their money where there mouth is.

    October 17, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  13. Mitt Romney belongs in a museum

    Romney is an old lump full of old Reagan era ideas that FAILED over the long term. He has no vision and will lead this company like an uninformed CEO would to a start-up...INTO THE GROUND.

    October 17, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  14. papaw

    All should consider that CNN watchers are mostly left leaning. They are like Candy 100% in the Obama camp.

    October 17, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  15. ItWillHappen

    Thanks Candy – You are indeed so SWEET girl friend . . . :)

    October 17, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  16. Luciano

    CNN should change its acronym to BNN, the BIASED NEWS NETWORK...you have a CNN personality hosting the event who gives the president more than 2 minuts of additional speaking time and helping him out of his lie regarding his inaccureate statement about the Lybian embassy attack and then in the morning we have the pleasure of waking up to Ms. Soledad O'brien Or is that O'Bama being her usual unbiased best journalist completely attacking Gov. Sununu and defending the incaccurate remarks of the president about Lybia..CNN Completely Biased news and commentary 24/7...CNN the world leader in biased news and commentary..thats OK another few years and this network will go the way of the do do bird as ratings continue to fall

    October 17, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  17. Abe Lincoln

    Most people polled had very low expectations for Obama – the bar was very low. The bar is so low that Barack can continue to limbo and lie.

    October 17, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  18. Earl

    It sure still shows that Ms. Crowly is still biased by her handling of the program last night. She was suppost to come into this with her own thoughts to her self. But she did not show that last night. It was clear that she was siding with one side over the other. Where is the fair and balance that she crows about? She was a bad choice to pick for last night. It was clear that she was for President Obama, but always has been.

    October 17, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  19. lisasc

    I thought it was mostly a draw. Though I didn't like the debate.

    October 17, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  20. Randy B, Fairhope Al

    President Obama faces the same challenges, as FDR. Hoover, crashed America with no controls on banking, business shoot labor,( see history of Ford Motor Company). Short term history, how did we enter the state we are facing? We as a nation elected President Obama, and he has stepped forward and puts us on the way of recoverery, with a sense of responsiblity for our envoirment, with a new approach to the two wars that were left for him to bring to a close. The leadership , the very same leadership that caused the crash, are now trying to play the good guys,but this time without the puppet Bush. Now they have a new front man named Romney

    October 17, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  21. faboge

    the biggest threat to the future of the republican party is the instant "fact check". Very few of them will be running! You need facts to successfully run a campaign!

    October 17, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  22. See Novak

    When the Los Angeles TImes declares the debate was a draw, you KNOW Romney won.

    October 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. gunbanner

    Obama is the clear winner because he wants to keep you safe from evil ASSAULT WEAPONS.

    October 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  24. DebOH

    I WAS an undecided voter in OHIO and after last nights debate I can say with complete certainty I will be voting for Mitt Romney. I think it is a disgrace that the liberal media cannot moderate a Presidential debate without BIAS. Candy Crowley puts yet another stain on journalism. The Presidential debates are a complete sham and completely BIASED in helping the Democrat candidate in every way, shape and form. Do you really think people won't notice how completely BIASED you are? Candy Crowley....YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF!!!! YOU ARE SO TRANSPARENT!!!

    October 17, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  25. lily

    Someone needs to tell the Obama people that when the mommy runs out on the field, in the middle of the game ,and kicks the soccer ball into the goal it really isn't the kids win! Poor Obama can't stand on his own two feet!!!

    October 17, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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