CNN Poll: Nearly half of debate watchers say Obama won showdown
October 22nd, 2012
11:24 PM ET
1 year ago

CNN Poll: Nearly half of debate watchers say Obama won showdown

(CNN) - Give the slight edge to President Obama.

Thanks to an aggressive performance and a couple of zingers, a plurality of debate watchers questioned in a national survey say that the president won his final faceoff with Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

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But a CNN/ORC International poll conducted right after Monday night's faceoff here at Lynn University in south Florida also indicates that the debate may be a draw when it comes to whether it will affect the choice of voters who watched the showdown, and Romney held his own with the president on the commander-in-chief test.

And according to the survey, unlike previous debates, there was a big gender gap, with women responding much more favorably to Obama's performance and men giving a small advantage to Romney.

Forty-eight percent of registered voters who watched Monday night's third presidential debate say that Obama won the showdown, with 40% saying Romney did the better job in a debate dedicated to foreign policy. The president's eight-point advantage over the former Massachusetts governor came among a debate audience that was slightly more Republican than the country as a whole and is just within the survey's sampling error.

Nearly six in ten watchers say that Obama did a better job in the debate than they had expected, 15 points higher than the 44% who said that the GOP challenger had a better than expected debate performance.

The president was critical of Romney right out of the gate, saying a few minutes into the debate that "a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaeda. You said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the cold war's been over for 20 years."

And a moment later, he slammed Romney, saying "I know you haven't been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong."

Obama's aggressive strategy led the debate audience to give him a narrow 51%-46% edge on leadership, but it may have come at the cost of likeability.

"A majority of debate watchers said that President Obama seemed to be the stronger leader," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But on the question of likeability, the two candidates are essentially tied on a trait that has generally been an advantage for Obama. That's probably due to the fact that two-thirds of debate watchers felt that Obama spent more time than Mitt Romney on the attack."

But according to the poll, both candidates were seen by debate watchers as able to handle the responsibilities of commander in chief - an important threshold for Romney since he is not the incumbent. But men and women see the commander in chief question very differently.

Majorities of both genders saw Obama as capable of handling that role, but women were split roughly 50/50 on whether Romney had proven himself on that measure, while men responded well to Romney's performance. Women also saw Obama as the stronger leader; men saw Romney as having the edge on leadership. As a result, women saw Obama as the winner of the debate by 22 points, while a plurality of men saw Romney as the victor on Monday night.

Bottom line: The debate appears to be a draw when it comes to affecting the vote of those who tuned in to the faceoff.

Half of those questioned say that the debate did not affect how they would vote, with 25% saying they are more likely to vote for Romney and 24% saying they are more likely to cast a ballot for Obama.

The sample of debate-watchers in the poll was 34% Democratic and 30% Republican.

"That indicates that the sample of debate watchers is about five 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 448 registered voters who watched the debate questioned by telephone after the end of the October 22nd debate. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

By a 53%-23% margin, a CBS News poll conducted after the third debate of uncommitted voters also indicated that Obama won the showdown, with nearly one in four saying the debate was a tie.

"The second debate, the president clearly won and yet people came out saying that Romney would do a better job handling the economy. In this final debate the president won again, yet the poll clearly suggests that Romney passed the commander in chief test," says CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, who advised both Democratic and Republican presidents. "What is striking is that neither the second debate, or the third debate seemed to change the overall race, at least in the early hours."


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (1,324 Responses)
  1. truth hurts

    Romney was serious, knowledgeable and presidential. Obama was petty, petulant and downright deceitful in many of his answers. Denying he went on an apology tour??? All of American KNOWS he did it and now they got to see Obama LIE about it on national TV. Obama's problem is that he's told so many lies he is now starting to trip all over them.

    October 22, 2012 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  2. JimHolton

    Obama did lie about Romney's stance on Detroit ... and several other points. As each candidate said, "Look it up!" It's our responsibility as voters. By the way, Mr. President, our soldiers do still use bayonets. And ships are one heckuva lot more strategically vital.

    October 22, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  3. Raimo Kangasniemi

    48-40 difference is clear enough. CBS gets it 53-23 for Obama and that probably means that 48-40 loss should be seen as very favourable to Willard Romney.

    October 22, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  4. Kisianganiken Maldean

    Obama's victory's based on his deeds n' clear n optimistic strategic plans for Americans! Romney's failure's based on his mere sketchy plans!

    October 22, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  5. Jeff

    It seems that CNN's post-debate polls always have had a higher percentage on Romney's side then other polls. Who is CNN polling?

    October 22, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  6. Raimo Kangasniemi

    Apology tour, truth hurts? Obama should do an apology tour in East Jerusalem, Gaza and West Bank for his cravenly support for Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland.

    October 22, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  7. Frank

    CBS POLL: Obama was named the victor by 53 percent of the 521 respondents in the poll. Romney was ruled the winner by 23 percent, while 24 percent said it was a tie. The margin of error was four percent.

    Conclusion on this CBS poll on who won the debate.
    Obama 53%
    Romney 23%
    Tie 24%

    the "Tie" vote on this poll got a higher percentage than Romney.

    October 22, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  8. betgar

    That's certainly calling the kettle black. Mitt is the king of fabrication.

    October 22, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  9. Max

    Mitt Romney was on the defensive, arrogant, and all over the place. He had no idea what he was saying. He had absolutely no specifics on his plans. Obama 2012.

    October 22, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  10. Ib Lazy

    IIf the intent were to take the US... downsize it... split it up and sell it to the Chinese for a profit....

    ... Mitt would be the man.

    October 22, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  11. Mike

    Agreed. The President, I think, just sealed the deal for Romney.

    October 22, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  12. Miguel C

    Obama did well against that flip-flopper

    October 22, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  13. rgm

    Romney's endorsement of Obama tonight will be very damaging to his campaign.

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  14. jo

    Did leftist Obama all of a sudden become a moderate? NO he hasn't...Obama lied through his teeth throughout the entire debate!!!! It was disgusting! His record proves that he is a extreme leftist and everything he said was to try and appease the mainstream Americans and is not his true agenda!

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  15. Jason T

    Too close to call? Too close to call is when the margin of victory is within the margin of error. That is not the case here. Obama outscored Romney. Not by alot, but he did win. Stop with the hedging

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    LOL! Obama mopped the floor with Romney.

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  17. Magooser

    Wow, truth hurts must have watched a different debate. Are you on the Romney team?

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  18. Hamilton

    LOL – One of the prominent fact-check orgs called the "apology tour" the LIE of the year. Romney said they would not let their campaign be dictated by fact checkers – well, that is one position he has not changed.

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  19. Lisa Petlock

    Romeny was more persuasive and I think the clear winner. He demonstrated a greater command of the facts and a more coherent 'big-picture' of a vision for U.S. foreign policy interests. Well spoken and measured.

    I think Romney clearly won this third debate.

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  20. Allen

    It's too bad Fox news no longer has a comments section. I don't like you being homeless...

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  21. troy

    Bottom line, Obama is better for America. Period. End of story.

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  22. hoapres

    Obama won the debate.

    It wasn't even close.

    October 22, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  23. Frank

    Jeff
    It seems that CNN's post-debate polls always have had a higher percentage on Romney's side then other polls. Who is CNN polling?
    --------------------

    That CNN polling has more republicans voting. Wolf Blitzer mentions it EVERY time that more Republicans tune in than Democrats on their scientific poll.

    October 22, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  24. Independent Texan

    President OBAMA won this debate hands down! Mitt Romney simply agreed with the President, trying to avoid being knocked out. Too bad. YOU LOST GOV. ROMNEY.

    October 22, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  25. patrickmcevoy

    With all due respect to CNN, if there's an 8-point difference, and you still believe it's "too close to call" because of the margin of error, you have put together a useless poll.

    October 22, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
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