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. Belmont resident

    more facts on Romney;

    Obama said Romney faced a deep recession while governor of Massachusetts. He’s right, more than 200,000 jobs disappeared in the state. The state’s recovery under Romney was also lackluster; Romney added just 31,000 jobs during his tenure, a growth rate of 1 percent. Nationally jobs were growing at a rate of 5 percent

    October 17, 2012 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  2. Ruth

    I'm a 50 yr. old white female from Ohio. I was undecided and open-minded prior to the debate last night, I must first say I thought Candy Crowley did an outstanding job! I also felt she had to cut-off Romney, since he overstepped his boundaries more. His answers and behavior turned me off. I'm now confident, that ill be voting for Obama. I'm sorry Republicans are blaming Ms. Crowley for Romney's poor job.

    October 17, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  3. CarolO

    I would call 46% to 39% exactly split.

    But ya have to remember what Giuliani said about Romney a few months before endorsing him.

    “There’s something wrong when you’ve been running as long as Mitt has and you’re at 25%…Seventy-five percent of the other Republicans are telling you something about him,” Giuliani said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe." “I ran against him in ’07, ’08, I have never seen a guy - and I’ve run in a lot of elections, supported a lot of people, opposed them - never seen a guy change his positions on so many things, so fast, on a dime. Everything.”

    October 17, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  4. CarolO

    I would not call 46% to 39% exactly split. I wish we had that leverage in the polls right now.

    October 17, 2012 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  5. BetterLifeNOW

    Wow, incredible commentary. Just needed to see how you socialist are portraying the debate. Think about where you are and what lays ahead, not for yourselves, but for the American Nation. Petty

    October 17, 2012 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  6. Falstaff

    Right, CNN. Split decision. Obama wins by seven, but its a split decision. After all, we have to be fair and honest, right? Seven points must be in the margin of error, blah, blah, blah...

    October 17, 2012 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  7. Scawa

    On the question regarding fair treatment of women in the workplace, Obama's administration is notorious for its hostile work environment for women. The women in this administration have complained publicly – even wrote books about it. While Romney's answer was not stated the best, he did actively seek out women's participation in his administration because he valued their opinion. Only a twit would focus on the "binders" comment (re. resumes) and not on the substance of what he was saying. And for the women who took offense over his comments regarding those who want flexible work hours so they can take care of their families: get over yourselves. This is actually very important to many women, in particular single mothers.

    October 17, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  8. MajeztyRene

    My President won HANDS DOWN ! He called Romney out and made him choke on all those lies he told in the first debate !
    President Obama's approach was masterful ! It was like watching Ali vs Foreman (sorry, no disrespect to Mr. Foreman)

    October 17, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  9. elizabeth

    candy crowley tried, but, failed at moderating a presidential debate. how did she get the job? seriously.....!

    October 17, 2012 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  10. Tre

    What great accomplishment "GREAT FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS" has any Republican done the last four years? They speak of failure, but there number one objective they admit to is to stand in the way of anything the Prez wants to do for US. If thats the only thing they want to do. How is this not just an offensive non partisan failure orchestrated by the Republican party? This is their #1 objective...? How does this help anyone/me/my children? Thanks for your great contribution to the middle class. We appreciate how much you care for our "walfare"..

    October 17, 2012 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  11. matt

    i use to make 40k to 60k a year running a small bussiness. thats after over head and employees. i have not made a dime in three months. debt over my head. bizz shepter eleven. i cant even get food stamps. let alone heat for my family. obama messed up the small construction field, small bussiness. romney is no better, but if something don t change im faced with more than i know to deal with. i ran a company for ten years and its gone.......

    October 17, 2012 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  12. Dick

    My take on the first debate is that President Obama took one for the team. If Obama had won that debate like he did the second one; Romney would have been done and his big money supporters would have given him up for loss as he was far behind in swing states before the debate. Big money would have diverted to House and Senate races to gain and keep control of them, making it very hard to move the country forward.

    October 17, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  13. Maripil

    President Obama won the debate. Romney could not contain himself to show his disrespect for the lady moderator and to the President! He showed his bossiness and arrogance with no shame!

    October 17, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  14. bcrunner

    It was clear the President won... hands down!! The look on Ann Romney's face told the whole story after the debate... Most of us who support the President said the lost in the first debate... Of course the Romney supporters can't admit Romney lost....

    October 17, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  15. IDontBelieveIt

    John King announced after the debate that Romney won in a n ation al poll on The ECONOMY / JOBS / FOREIGN POLICY and HEALTHCARE..................Romney won on LIKEABILITY and IGNORING MENTIONING HIS RECORD.

    You can't run a Nation the size of America on CHARM!!!!! Obama has managed to RUN America in to the ground.

    October 18, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  16. Nsmith

    Both parties guarantee an unbalanced budget, deeper debt, more global policing, racially and socially divisive politics, greater bureaucracy, and and little choice in the matter. Without a viable alternative, they have NO reason to solve these problems, yet we, the people keep endorsing them, approving the sale of our future. Every election I review all of the parties' platforms to make an informed decision. Not many people this election seem excited about their candidate at all. It's the same thing over and over: "Vote for A so B doesn't get it. Don't WASTE your vote on C, otherwise A will get it. We won't have a country left if Obama is in charge for 4 more years". This is propaganda from both sides that we continue to get pulled into. So please vote FOR someone who you actually support on content and principle. I enthusiastically support Gary Johnson because he has the right executive experience, he is a business leader, a well-rounded person, and will address the problems listed above. He is not infallible and you may not agree with everything he says (is that ever possible?), but it is a step in the right direction. At least check him out. Lets face it, we are being disenfranchised, humiliated, and bankrupted by the status quo.

    October 18, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  17. fuzzynomore

    Where are the details of this poll which shows Obama lost most questions by a wide margin? Why is CNN hiding that? Put that on the website!!

    October 18, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  18. Steve

    Yahoo's public polls, FOX, TBN and HLN said tthat Romney won the debate! ...candy cain and CNN will never host anymore presidential debates!

    October 18, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  19. Steve

    Romney is up a point in the Gallup polls going from a 5% lead, before the debate to a 6% lead after! ...again congrats Romney for exposing our angry president and his terrible record!

    October 18, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  20. CAmom

    No one I talked to today thinks Obama was the "clear winner." Both candidates made some good points, and both had some missteps. But really, Obama spent most of his time making rude, personal jabs at Romney... Romney spoke to the issues. Obama interrupted, and was at one point "shut-down" by both Crowley and Romney. Nevertheless, Crowley was Obama's teleprompter. The last four years have been either a waste of time or the most devastating in many arenas... It is simply as if Obama has done nothing on many issues (ones he promised handle in his first year), or he did the really wrong thing. Bottomline – NO! To four more years of this mess.

    October 18, 2012 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  21. IcanwIcanw

    I am an immigrant from Europe, now a citizen. I cannot believe Americans fell for Obamas empty words. The first time I heard him speak I thought him arrogant, condescending and full of it. He is trying to make everybody middle class. Just like Europe. My mum over there needed an MRI she had to wait 4 months. You want this dictator controlling the future. Seriously go ahead you fools.

    Thank heavens he is going to lose.

    October 18, 2012 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  22. MarieL

    Being from Canada, I cannot vote of course, but I'm amazed that some US citizens are being so nieve re the presidential election. It is clear from this distance that Mr. Romney is the most qualified, honest and dedicated person to be your leader. Obama, CNN and Candy Crowley are certainly pro-Obama. An Independant person should have been the moderator for the debates. Where's the grandoise "hope and change" that you all subscribed to four years ago with Obama – it was all empty words – look at the state of your economy, the unemployed, the poor, the homeless and the crime rate. You all deserve better than Obama!

    October 18, 2012 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  23. American Mom

    Got to love the CNN unbiased promo. Nearly half say Obama won debate, yeah no unbiased approach there. It should be voters call debate even but as we seen tonight Romney had to debate both Obama and CNN's own moderator.

    October 18, 2012 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  24. AJ Perko

    Romney is an Info-mercial. The people of Massachuttes actually bought his product, now Obama is ahead in Mass. by 16%..... even Walter Mondale won his own state of Minnesota, we should take a lesson from the state that knows him best, LOL.

    October 18, 2012 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  25. REDFIRESTORM

    romney haters will vote for obama - obama haters (like me) will vote for romney - the undecided don't know who they hate the most yet

    October 18, 2012 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
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