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. sanchez brown

    What was Romney expecting Obama to do during the stare down,that occurred while Romney was trying to make a point about if the Prez called the attacks an act of Terrorism ? Also I thought the 47 o/o. Comment at the end hit home for Obama

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  2. jimmyjones

    Obama destroyed mitt tonight and exposed him for the liar he is.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  3. matt houston

    For all of Romney's repeating of the jobless, lack of economic growth... I'd him to answer why it was that I lost my job under Bush's leadership and found work in the second year of Obama's tenure and from last year's $28K net profit, to making $144K this year as a small business owner.

    Any wealthy Republican who likes to groan about the wealthy being taxed at a higher rate etc... they had better thank their stars that they even qualify to be in that "higher" tax bracket. But nope, always greedy and don't look on their blessings, only want to hoard. When you're dead, you are dead and can't take one single penny.

    I for one hope to God that I will qualify one day to be in one of the über wealthy tax brackets. I would gladly pay that higher rate...because it means I would be one of the über wealthy.

    Sheesh...

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  4. James AL

    Romney failed to directly answer half the questions. He keep on holding to the notion that he is not going to lower the taxes for the wealthy, but if he does not tell people how he is going to raise the revenue needed to close the deficit one can only conclude that he is by default going raise taxes on the middle class.
    Romney was definitely more defensive and did not appear to be as comfortable.

    President Obama was very presidential and he had an excellent more believeable approach to the issues presented. When you couple what he said to his record of jump startng the economy, I believe he will be a better defender of the middle class. Romney changes too much and no one really knows where he stands and I cannot see how his tax figures add up.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  5. Ik

    #Romney "I know how to turn this economy around, I know how to create jobs, I know how to balance budgets, I know this and I know that" Dude tell us how! Americans don't just want words! We want a solid plan with figures or estimates to back it up. I believe Romney actually has a plan but he's scared to spell it out in detail for 2 reasons.
    First the plan might be too anti middle class that the Dems will run with it and attack him or it may be too moderate and offend his base and his wealthy supporters..
    Its time Romey mans up and spill beans! Americans trust your instincts. The Devil you know is better than the Angel you don't know

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  6. Chris

    Romney was more presidential, less angry and didn't lie through his teeth like Obama did. Also, did you notice when Romney was talking the people in the audience were zoned into attention yet when Obama was, there was more looking around and movement? When that woman brought up the education question, a hot mic caught her saying "yeah right" when Obama lied about our schools improving, people don't believe this guy when he makes claims. Romney is going to win this election by a landslide, not a small margin. He will win big, there is no doubt about it.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  7. jt

    So...the headline screams an Obama win when the margin of errror says it could be either way or a tie. Journalists stink at statistics..... or maybe just telling the truth.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  8. Inthemiddle

    The President offered no plans or vision for the next 4 years only more of the same continuing with his only strategy attack and demonize his opponent. Hardly the campaign of hope and change.

    While President briefly mentioned terror early it was in the context of a horrible act and for days later his administration continued to spin the story as a mob reaction, that is not taking responsibilty that is trying to obfuscate and spin.
    Romney needed to get Libya in front of the country, main stream media seems to have missed it . . . .

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  9. mm

    typical right lightweights- romney did it to himself on libya- crowley set him straight- facts can be cruel- especially when you forgot them in your taking points mitt- great salesman but presidential? bob barker with better hair dye

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  10. Heidi jackson

    Won my vote too

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  11. Stacey

    Obama lied, Candy was wrong, and CNN has no idea who won this debate. THERE IS NO WINNER if you believe the lies Obama told. The country will lose because you have been drinking the KoolAid.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  12. Alan

    The sad thing is that Candy Crowley injected herself into the debate to save Obama and now has had to apologize. The ref blew a call that allowed Obama to score when it should have been a penalty.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  13. ofignjfg5645

    just wondering if Romney will be given the balance of his time to talk.... Crowley is thrilled to be able to help Obama by rudely interrupting Romney and not giving him chances to respond.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  14. Gary in Tampa

    This formally undecided voter has decided after watching the debate tonight:

    I'm voting for team Obama to finish the job they started.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  15. Anonymous

    Obama is a good person.....not a good president. Enough said. Time for a change. He had 4 years. My family has suffered in this economy.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  16. frogleg

    JennyHarris: Romney was rude and evasive when answering questions. He also said Obama failed to call the attack in Libya an act of terror, which was a down right lie! Romney was VERY off putting!

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  17. America

    Obama won tonight

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  18. Concerned Voter

    Stick a fork in Obama...I wouldn't vote for him again if my life depended on it.
    $4 for gas, can't find work. and he wants me to give him another 4 years.
    For what? $8 gas and no job, no thanks!

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  19. factswq

    These polls are not representative. Obama angry and aggressive, Romney pleasant and convincing.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  20. SK

    Romney and Republican Rightwingers have no shame and have no respect for deomcracy – every poll against them is flawed, every one who doesn't look like them is illegal immigrant, every moderator is biased if they lose, every dollar they don't get is a waste, every one who disagrees with them is un-American, everyone who fights for the needy & poor is a socialist, every one who votes for democrats must be stopped by any means..!!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  21. Don

    Why does the report say Obama's win was in the margin of the sampling error, yet the margin of error in the poll is 4.5% and yet Obama won by 7%?

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  22. spencer

    I thought Romney did better tonight so I took the CNN poll right after the debate when there had only been 5 votes cast. After it showed me the results it said 6 cast votes, and showed 100% Obama to 0% Romney. I guess CNN rigs their polls.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  23. EagleEagle

    When you have a retake exam, your scores are averaged. So, with all due respect President Obama had a retake of the previous debate which translate to losing this debate.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  24. MzCollins

    OBAMA Scored a SOLID Victory!!!' Hands Down!-)#TeamObama

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  25. Greg

    Obama lied and Crowley supported it with the Terror comment on Libya. The liar in chief spoke about the video for 2 weeks as did Rice and Clinton.
    Obama could only attack, he couldn't defend his own lousy record.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
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