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. 2012

    Romney won again in my opinion

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  2. rhicsj1

    Yes Obama won! Repubs of course will deny it!

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  3. 1crusader

    President Obama did an outstanding job.Right policies for the public ! Obama/Biden 2012 !

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  4. tFRAN

    Obama came out strong. It was not a knock out punch but he had Romney on the ropes. Stand up and call the President a liar in his face and find out the it was Romney who was the liar. Obama was definetly prepared to do battle. It seemed that Romney ranting. What gets me, is that if Romney had answers to help the economy that he would have presented them to the bipartisan committee that came up with zeros. I like how Obama explained things. I am an environmentalist and coal burning just helps heat up this planet. Soon they'll be building houses in the arctic and the equator will be like a desert.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  5. Dean

    Obama came off as a liar and dishonest more so than usual and on the ropes.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  6. OCVoterinCA

    Wow. Cindy Crowely had to call Mitt out on his false statement about the President's response to the Benghazi attacks. Mitt looked so embarrassed. Mitt blalantly lied throught the whole debate same as the 1st debate. I nor the rest of the country is not convince that Romney should be president.

    Obama won this debate. Biden won his debate. Two debates won. Obama will remain in office. Go Obama Go

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  7. anita

    Obama tapped out in the first round, but his mouth kept running for the next 14.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  8. rhonerent

    Obama can definitely say that what he say, it what he means, can we say the same thing about Romney? Just saying!

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  9. Forward

    Thank God for Obama victory in 2012. He is what the American Middle Class needs: Going Forward

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  10. JennyHarris

    Fact checkers will prove tomorrow that obama "fibbed", and that Candy Crowley is a partisan moderator that should have remained neutral. She's the big loser. She sullied herself.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  11. Sanity

    Candy sure asked Romney a lot more LOADED questions.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  12. Reemo

    Does anyone else find it strange that a poll of only 457 voters has such a huge sampling error?

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  13. jo an

    Obams won because he CALLED Romney on all his LIES....he was awesome.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  14. Chuck

    Just because Obama showed up this time doesn't mean you win a debate. Obama lied to the American people about Libya and about drilling. If you are being honest with yourself, Obama lost the debate and lied. Plain and simple! Romney will win in a landslide.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  15. Mm

    Obama, hands down..not even close.

    Mitt Romney had nothing but snake oil to sell.... That and war.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  16. Rush

    As CLINTON said: Republicans make the worst mess in history. Let's bring in the black guy to clean in up. Oups he didn't clean it up fast enough. Well he wasn't going to anyway because we'll stand in his way the whole time but it's nice to have something to pin it on. PLEASE vote for Romney, please!

    Because the world hasn't seen what America looks like when it's in the toilet, come on, let's see what it looks like. Go ahead, vote him in!

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  17. jake

    $4 gas, $6 Trillion in new debt, 20 million out of work, Libya cover-up, $1.5 Billion taxpayer money given to Muslim Brotherhood, $900 Billion stimulus for "shovel-ready" jobs 3 years ago.

    We have a U.S. Ambassador and Seals muredered and he goes to Las Vegas for a fundraiser, then on David Letterman and The View.

    Obama's record doesnt lie.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  18. Tom

    But, according to CNN's own poll, Romney hammered Obama on the economy, taxes, jobs etc. Like James Carville said..."it's the economy, stupid".

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  19. wheres the beef

    Rommey made a big mistake on Libya? He doubled down and called the President a liar!

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  20. john

    46% So did Obama lose one of the 47%?

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  21. aicohn

    At the risk of using an overworked phrase, "Malarkey". Romney won the debate, though not as commandingly as the first one. His rather stinging indictment of Obama's littany of presidential failures will be played over & over in the closing days of the campaign. His theme, he kept on repeating, "we don't have to settle for this. we can do better" will resonate with voters, particularly because Obama offered no change in plans for the next 4 years.

    Sorry, but its Romney: 2, Obama: 0.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  22. FelixCat

    Apparently we'll have to elect Mitt to find out what's in him. I have a better idea. Let's not.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  23. meddleone

    Audience at Paley Center comes out with the winner:

    Obama: 82%

    Romney: 8%

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  24. nukhet ucin

    I love you and believing you my president!
    Just tell them where where you guys 8 years ago......if you care about the American middle class ????
    9 -11 should be investigate ,Bush and Chaney should be investigate.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  25. Lelio Risen

    Obama was the clear winner. In Colorado a poll of debate watchers gave him the win, with Independents picking him by more than 20 points.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
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