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. Dale

    Ok everyone go back 6-9 months, just in this time period, romney has changed positions on a few things or he'll say what ever it takes to get you to belive to get your vote...........do you want to give him a blank chek when he cant say how he'll cut taxes but yet reduce the deficit.....its been stated and proven over and over , it just doesn't add up....
    Obama did much better tonight, it will be a close election, and i do hope he gets re elected , quite frankly romney gives me great cause to be concerned ..........

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  2. Jaycat

    At least it's very clear who Candy's voting for. A moderator shouldn't put herself in the debate.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  3. Benjamin

    If you listen to the substance of their answers, Mitt Romney is the clear winner.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  4. NameSick of losers

    Educate yourselves Americans no more obama

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  5. Suzy

    Obama won the debate. I am not sure which Romney showed up since there are so many of him but the President won this one.

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  6. phil

    so when president obama lost the first debate, the moderator did a great job....now that Gov.Romney has clearly lost this one, the moderator was on the president's side???....so lame....get the transcript my friend.....haha

    October 17, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  7. thommy berlin

    Romney came out well, But Obama draws blood with calling Romney's remarks offensive, and really meaning it. A rare 'real' moment...

    Romney lost points by being caught in a 'mis-statement' and being nailed as untrustworthy...

    BUT Obama failed to point out that Mitt wasn't responsible for his states balanced budget as it's the law in Mass. or that there is no such thing as a republican Pell Grant, or Reagan's recovery wasn't saddled with two wars paid for with tax cuts, or that for most of the middle class there's no capital gains TO tax.

    My opinion: Obama wins a unanimous decision.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  8. Pat

    Romney rude and clearly got caught up in his lies. CNN you are a mere shell of your former self if you think this debate was remotely close. Fox light.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  9. I lean left but this time Obama couldn't deliver

    Obama finally woke up and both canidatea did deliver there messages, but when Romney asked about his pension Obama couldn't answer. The Bengazhi attack finally came out and president took responsibility for the mess up. and when president Obama found out what he said its now on record he tried to double back. In this debate I give Romney 48% Obama 44% they both stood there ground but Obama wasn't on it without his TelePrompTer.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  10. Taylor

    I am amazed that the CNN announcers are so intent to redeem Romney. Wolf: "Romney missed an opportunity to attack the President on Libya. Excuse me, but how can Republicans criticize Obama what happened in a war zone, when their own President Bush presided over 9/11 in our business capital? They also want to redeem Romney on the economy. Maybe because the Republicans are the majority being polled on these issues after the debates. Definitely, self-criticsm is lacking on both accounts. Nevertheless, Obama definitely showed his course today, and defended his last four years of undoing the trap the business community had set for the nation.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  11. Mick

    A 7 point margin of error? Really?

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  12. Jeckers

    Obama did much better this time around – but once the fact checkers finish, I don't think he'll be considered "winning" this debate. I cannot believe his response on the Libya question. Does he think the American public is that stupid?

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  13. Todd_i

    Obama did much better than last debate. But, I am still wondering three things. First, when is Obama going to stop blaming others for his failures (Bush, Congress, etc.)? Second, what is Obama's plan for making the next four years better than the last? Third, Obama mentioned a few think he thought should happen in the country. Why did he not do them already and what is the exact plan (not goal) for accomplishing this items? Mr. Obama your record does not warrant a second term and I'm waiting for concrete reasons that I should give you a second chance.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  14. MzCollins

    Obama did Outstanding! He Came,He saw, He conquered! Obama won this debate HANDS DOWN!!!!-)

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  15. rj

    Prez was all class today – can't say the same for mit

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  16. Mike

    The same special note of caution on the poll stating it oversampled Republicans by 8 points. Moreover the second paragraph states the 7 point split was within the margin – it's not. The margin is 4.5%.

    CNN has gone plaid.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  17. Buckhippo

    Those who think this was a tie somehow are delusional and in denial. Can't wait for Nov 6th so we can forget about this nonsense and get back to work and let the president do what he does best: save America.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  18. Vekkul

    I'm not sure how anyone saw Romney win this debate. There's not many undecided voters left, and as in the first debate, I think the President was more tangible on the subject than Romney.

    But more importantly, Obama had a lot of spirit, and that's what people really wanted. Not that Romney didn't but Obama appeared more genuine.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  19. Paul Gibbs

    Folks, I said it before and I say it again. If you are truly looking for jobs it won't happen with tax cuts to small business as Romney says. Small business only hires when the demand for their product increases. That will not happen until the homeland and world economy improves. Tax cuts to small business goes to their bottomline and therefore to the shareholder not more employees. President Obama is slow and steady and his approach will work! There is no magic fix by switching back to the party that made the mess we are in! Romney cannot deliver any more than Obama but he sure can take us back before Obama and he will. Get your heads out of the sand there is no easy fix...it will take time and it depends on the state of the whole world. No one man is an instant cure.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  20. geo swimer

    Also, after watching the debate tonight I have decided to vote for Romney. I didn't hear President Obama say anything different. I am afraid what 4 more years of his presidency would leave our country.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  21. Wanderer

    The result looks more credible this time. In tonight debate Romney didn’t have anything new to attack Obama. Last time Romney did a good job not because he was good but because Obama was surprised by Romney’s changing his position and Obama was not prepared to attack Romney.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  22. Chris Yoxtheimer

    I was born and raised in Ohio, sick and tired of having no jobs.
    Have you seen Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, its like a ghost town with all the empty buildings that once prospered. Cleveland schools have no money, no busing, no sports programs, no special education programs. I don't want another 4 years of Obama of depression. Obama already had his chance.
    I'm voting for Mitt Romney!

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  23. AJ

    When you are losing the state that you were governor of by over 20 points.... how can you run on that record? If Massachuttes doesn't want this guy, why would anyone?

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  24. Joseph

    Obama's margin of victory in the scientific poll (that oversampled Republicans by 8%) was 7% or within the margin of error of 4.5%. Hey CNN, 7% > 4.5% – the debates are now tied one to one.

    October 17, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  25. Independent Voter

    Romney won by outlining his plan for the next four years and pointing out Obama's dismal record. Obama had 4 more minutes than Romney but we heard nothing about what he plans to do, just his thoughts on how the last 4 years have been great. Obama is an epic failure. Candy was wrong about Libya. Talking in general terms about terror is not the same as declaring 9/11 a terrorist attack. Obama has only talked about the stupid video. I have never heard him say it was a terrorist attack. Shame on you Candy.

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