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. January Hall

    It's just SO SO SAD that we cannot see past what the real problem is. The division between races MUST END NOW!!! We are more than just BLACK AND WHITE out here people. We have to remember one thing... This is a Nation of ALL NATIONS AROUND THE WORLD!!! We have to stop being one sided. White people, you MUST begin to realize YOU ARE NOT THE MAJORITY ANYMORE!!! Young people are sick of it, and it HAS TO STOP!!! Listen, give credit where credit is due. The ENTIRE WORLD is watching us act like fools out here. Right is Right and Wrong is simply just that... WRONG!!! We don't want someone in office who is hasty and doesn't think before he speaks!!! Our President has been nothing but professional and out here trying to pull us from under a HUGE ROCK!!! Anybody who can't see that is completely AGAINST AMERICA AND ITS FUTURE!!! TEAM OBAMA 1000%

    October 17, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  2. stambo

    If not for Candy 'the human teleprompter' Crowley leading barry by the nose he would have been nothing but a stammering fool. I lost count of how many times she framed the presidents response in her questions to him. It was so sad and pathetic to watch. But even with the moderators help barry couldn't get more than 46% to say he won. Neither of them got over 50% approval on the debate which in the real world is a tie. Obama's been president for 4 years, gets walked through the debate by the moderator and still can't impress even 50% of the people. One and done.

    October 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. Majesty Rider

    No.. this is not "narrow"... this was a decisive Obama victory, as will the final debate on foreign policy. Obama has the experience, Romney?.. no foreign policy experience!!!! OBAMA 2012!

    October 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  4. Sue

    I think Mattinacan said it best – the lies and flip flops coming out of Romney's mouth are endless! And the economy IS improving, and we ARE heading in the right direction. This is no time "to change horses in midstream".

    October 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  5. luckjoe

    I thought Mitt did great especially considering he was debating Obama & Candy Crowley. Ms. Crowley should have her a55 kicked.

    October 17, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  6. January Hall

    And then what's really sad is that the media, CNN, FOX and other news networks only post what they want their viewers to see!!! When in fact that again IS JUST SIMPLY NOT RIGHT!!!

    October 17, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  7. Geof

    Crowley was a disgrace. That she openly debated Romney yet the media, the democrats and commission are OK with that, says a lot about them.

    October 17, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. A Grandma

    A draw? Not where I come from...Romney looked like an absolute jerk. I was embarrassed that my grandchildren were watching him. He seemed desperate and rather pathetic. Obama was great; especially when he told Romney to keep on talking (essentially keep on "hanging yourself" with lies). How this could be perceived as a draw is ludicrous.

    October 17, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. luckjoe

    Mitt did great especially considering he was debating Candy Crowley & Obama. Ms. Crowley should have
    her buttttt kicked.

    October 17, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  10. January Hall

    And I see their are comments about harming a candidate if they should win, and THAT'S NOT THE ANSWER EITHER!!! Harming someone or threatening to harm someone is COMPLETELY WRONG and that should be addressed!!! Whether Romney wins or not, NO ONE and I mean ABSOLUTELY NO ONE has the right to threaten him or speak horrible things about him as a person. We'll just have to deal with what's coming to us... And guess what people WE'RE AMERICANS!!! We can get through anything!!! WE'VE DONE IT BEFORE AND WE'LL DO IT AGAIN!!!

    October 17, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. TRINITYOFSIX

    Romney clearly feels that this his mandate to become President of the United States...A God given right to correct the evils of this country.. I really believe he is more dangerous than even John McCain was...

    October 17, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  12. Matthew Giarmo

    You can eliminate that victory margin now that Crowley has recanted her challenge to Romney. She overstepped her bounds when she tried to serve as fact-checker.

    October 17, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  13. Bob

    Crowley shocked Romney with her obivious bias for Obama...why I don't know...heck she even tried to clean-up Obam's Libya problem for Obama...lol...but I guarantee you...that Obama problem along with his lack luster presidential record ain't going to go away because of this debate...even with the bias...the debate was basically a draw...

    October 17, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  14. Abe Lincoln

    Obama tried to cleanse his nostrils before the debate: He got snot all over America.

    A waterborne, brain-destroying species of amoeba has killed 10 people in Karachi, Pakistan, this year, prompting local water officials to increase the amount of chlorine in the city’s water supply and advise residents to use sterilized water when performing a Muslim ritual which involves cleansing the nostrils.

    October 17, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  15. Sandra LeVin

    Obama didn't have to do much to "win" – he showed up and acted alive – unlike the first debate

    October 17, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  16. Taistix

    In reality, Obama is the better choice. he did much better than Romney. Mr. Romeny is a liar and not to be trusted.

    October 17, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  17. Philip

    "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." and yet somehow they came up with a poll saying 46% Obama and 39% Romney.

    Manipulate the truth much?

    October 17, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  18. Bob

    Roger Ogilvy Thornhill: The Kool Aid has gotten to your brain. You sound foolish

    October 17, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  19. bencoates57

    For Obama, the bar is rather low. He just has to string a few sentences together coherently to make eye-contact with a single sentient human, and show the slightest animation in his face. I think he can do that and he will be ahead of where he was and might win on that basis alone.”

    – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

    October 17, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  20. Karen

    Obama continues to lose ground and miss the point. It's LEADERSHIP we're looking for, not excuses. It's character we're seeking, not FEARMONGERING. Simply put, Romney has the capacity to lead and it shows. The current administration has spent far too much money and time trying to discredit their opponent, instead of laying out a vision for what to expect if he were re-elected. Romney actually has a track record of success, something the Obama administration doesn't. The American people are tired of lame excuses, lies about Libya, spin by Axelrod and finger pointing by the Great Divider.

    October 17, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  21. Boater

    Strange.... The online poll conducted by CNN showed 50% stated Obama won by a wide margin. The other 3 choices (Romney by wide margin, Obama barely, Romney barely) had 10-15% each.... Why the disparity? Seems like some CNN staffers may be doctoring the results?

    October 17, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  22. Romney > obama

    Obama was more aggressive, but based on FACTS, POLICIES, and SELLING HIMSELF, he failed. Seriously, can you have a whole debate where you talk beautifully and confidently, but say NOTHING.

    Romney wins the debate

    October 17, 2012 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  23. SwollenGoat

    @DebOH

    You're a partisan hack and you have never voted Democrat in your life.

    October 17, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  24. marsman

    People hear what they want to hear and defend absolute absurdity.....
    ..... great leaders don't force their ideas rather they unite for a common purpose.
    Americans are very angry and divided... a really sad state of affairs.
    I hope we can all come together for our common purpose of leaving our country better than we found it.

    October 17, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  25. SwollenGoat

    Lose a debate? Blame the moderator.

    October 17, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
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