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. Anonymous

    Romney won by far. Obama looked frightened, was mean-looking, angry and rudely interrupted Romney. He appeared like a spoiled child vs Romney who was the mature adult. Obama lied about Libya and Candy Crowley helped him in that lie, though later she re-canted. Crowley coddled and led Obama to help him respond to Romney. I notice CNN's poll had Romney winning and am wondering if the Obama hacks descended onto the poll to skew the results whiich very obviously are inaccurate. Romney knows his stuff about economics, energy, and yes, even about Benghazi's terrorist attack that the whole world watched, as did the U.N., while Obama and the Administration attempted to fool the American people and the worlld with their attempt to cover up Obama's failure in there being a terrorist attack on 9/11 that he should have known about and been prepared for.

    October 17, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  2. JD

    Romney won by far. Obama looked frightened, was mean-looking, angry and rudely interrupted Romney. He appeared like a spoiled child vs Romney who was the mature adult. Obama lied about Libya and Candy Crowley helped him in that lie, though later she re-canted. Crowley coddled and led Obama to help him respond to Romney. I notice CNN's poll had Romney winning and am wondering if the Obama hacks descended onto the poll to skew the results whiich very obviously are inaccurate. Romney knows his stuff about economics, energy, and yes, even about Benghazi's terrorist attack that the whole world watched, as did the U.N., while Obama and the Administration attempted to fool the American people and the worlld with their attempt to cover up Obama's failure in there being a terrorist attack on 9/11 that he should have known about and been prepared for.

    October 17, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. Frank

    "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."

    Obama won 46% to 39% by a voting audience that was more Republican then the country as a whole. What does this mean?
    It means that there is a somewhat slight bigger chance that Obama won by a bigger margin.

    October 17, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  4. Steve Colberg

    Did we have a replacement moderator last night? The Libya interfjection is one of the worst calls I have ever seen! And then, to have her admit she was wrong the next day- pretty incredible that this nit wit can be this involved in the election of the leader of the free world.

    October 17, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. ken

    It is time for CNN to take off the snorkle and put on the scuba gear. They are so deep in the tank for Obama it is ridiculous. Every headline has a liberal slant and they only seem to promote pro Obama things. Their poll showed Obama won 46 to 39, but in many of the important internals in the poll about the economy, jobs, taxes and the deficit, Romney was the clear winner. They don't seem put any of that in headlines.

    I agree that Obama may have squeaked out a win in the debate, but he is losing all of the battles that matter to most of the electorate.

    I won't even go into the Candy Crowley effect. Not only the fact-checking that should be either done for every point, which is impossible, or for none. Some of the questions chosen left me a little curious, while equal pay and gun control are important social issues, I don't believe they are on the top ten issues in this election.

    October 17, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  6. fryuujin

    stooges that still think Mitt is the pick are the reason there is the expression, "You can't fix stupid"

    October 17, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  7. Abe Lincoln

    With three weeks to go in the campaign, Obama appears to be losing momentum, and now trails Romney by four percentage points among likely voters. That contrasts with his seven-point win over McCain in 2008. Given this shift in overall voter preferences, it follows that Obama will have lost support among at least some subgroups of the electorate. Those losses are not proportionate across all subgroups, however. He shed the most support among Southerners, college graduates, postgraduates, 30- to 49-year-olds, men, and Protestants. He also lost a moderate amount of support among whites, Easterners, women, and Catholics - while not building new support elsewhere.

    Gallup's registered voter trends indicate that Obama has lost ground with voters since the start of the month, most likely reflecting his poorly reviewed performance in the first presidential debate.

    October 17, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  8. Sandra LeVin

    @ Karen – Well said!

    October 17, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  9. Bill

    I'm not sure where these Obama supporters have been in the last 4 years. Obama is a disgrace and has made the White House a joke. As a business owner Which I built not the Government or Obama, he has no idea how to run this country. He's biggest decison on a daily basis is what tee time he wants. Get him out ASAP.

    October 17, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  10. G. Austin A.

    I dont know what debate those people you polled were watching but President Obama was the WINNER by a MILE. After this election nobody and I mean NOBODY will go with these POLLsters. I know yall trying to keep it interesting and trying to keep Romney and the money coming but come on. I have to believe if he was running against ANYBODY but President OBAMA he would be losing by 20 or more points. President Obama does not get made about Politics, he addresses the issue in a Presidential manner. If Romeny gets loud or excited he is being a leader or agrresive, give me a break. I guarantee on election night u pundits and media people are going to have another EARLY night just like in 08. OBAMA 2012 Let the PARTY BEGIN

    October 17, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  11. Susan M

    This was SO fixed. The facts were on Romney's side the entire time and Cindy baby was absolute in the pocket of the Pres. CNN and Crowley should not only be ashamed but should apologize to ALL Americans. Even the questions chosen were obviously biased. I mean, come on, "How are you different than Bush?" REALLY???
    In all three debates, the Dems. have had at least three (3) more minutes to talk than the Repubs. AND the questions were pointed for the Republs and general for the Dems. We all know The Pres. doesn't – still – want to admit LIBIA WAS A TERRORIST ATTACK. Shame on the media.

    October 17, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  12. ronnie

    The debate last night was fairly even with one exception: Obama lied about Libya and Candy piled on to help when she saw he was in trouble. We all know exactly what he said and for how long–"Its the video's fault!"– and watched him send the UN ambassador, of all people, Biden and finally Hillary out to reinforce him, assisted by the media. We didn't buy it. So he then sends Hillary out to take the blame and when that didn't work, NOW he says "I said it was terrorism all along!" No you didn't. You lied and people died. Watergate was nothing compared to this. This issue is not going away.

    October 17, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  13. Abe Lincoln

    I stepped in some of Obama`s dogma on my way to the debate. Had to scrape off my boot and use Lysol on it.

    October 17, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. JG

    Crowley made Jim in the first debate look much better. Moderator has no business helping any of the candidates and devalue the entire debate.

    October 17, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. JG

    Crowley made Jim in the first debate look much better. Moderator has no business helping any of the candidates and devalue the entire debate.

    October 17, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  16. Bob

    @january I am also a supporter of Obama 1000%, but I have no clue what you're talking about when you say the real problem is a division of races. Could you explain?

    October 17, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  17. rbooker

    Romney is not in touch with the average American. Example, too old-fashioned, from the 50s–discussion on assault weapon ban. Romney says, "First of all, a man and a woman should be married before they have a baby." :-D

    And I am always offended when he says, "We are all children of the same God." Well no, my God is nothing at all like yours!

    October 17, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  18. Izzy A. Scheisskopf

    Aleister Crowley did a great job as a Obama helpmate. Obama couldn't have done it with out her! Gotta be rocking to that Ozzy song, "Mr Crowley." Aleister Leni Riefenstahl Crowley is a shining example of the modern media.

    October 17, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  19. Valerie McClure

    When is Crowley going to APOLOGIZE to Romney and ADMIT to America that she was Wrong! She acted more like a MEDIA CHEERLEADER instead of an impartial mediator but then that is why CNN has such lousy ratings......LIBERALS ON BOARD THE OBAMA TRAIN!

    October 17, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  20. charles angel

    I was an undecided voter until this morning.....I went back and watched the Obama speech in the Rose Garden on Sept 12 and am now convinced that Obama lied last night....In that speach he talked for 5 minutes before he mentions terror while speaking generaly about 9-11, the troops, etc...he never mentioned a terrorist attack...I will cast my vote for Mitt Romney...

    October 17, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  21. onealien

    the fact that the polls are even "close" is favorable to Obama imo, if the perception of the condition of USA was so bleek and Obama to blame...shouldn't there be more of a gap in favor of Romney?
    Rom reminds me of a board room bully, interrupting, pressing his point offensively, and not following the format rules of DO NOT ASK THE OTHER PERSON A DIRECT ?...like they say, he will play by his own ELITE rules only.

    October 17, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  22. Sakura2000

    The moderator was obvioulsy biased towards Obama. She interupted Romney and cut him off 3 times more than Obama and gave Obama more than 3 minutes of extra time. Not even any pretense of impartiality.

    October 17, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  23. 1000awful

    The problem with saying who won in any "sport" that is purely judgmental is how much it's in the eye of the beholder. Thus can several anonymous commentators here make wild statements about Romney winning without having to fear decisive rebuttal. However, the poll on this page speaks for itself and is hardly "a split decision" or a "slight edge" – if Obama can take the popular vote on November 6th by such a margin he'll have about the same advantage as he did in 2008, hardly a squeaker!

    October 17, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  24. IM

    CNN's biased articles and views are now so evident. All major news networks said it was Obama who won the debate. Good bye CNN, I will change my homepage to anything but CNN.

    October 17, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  25. Davia55

    Romney was clearly the winner

    October 17, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
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