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. Chris

    Is CNN kidding? Obama crushed Romney in this debate.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  2. Hugh

    48-40 is a clear win. It may be within the margin of error, but only barely. It is not as if the margine of error means that any and all results within the margin are equally likely–the closer you get to the margins the less likely the result is ourely by chance. It is very unlikely that Obama did not, in fact, win the debate according to this poll.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    I trust Romney completely to lead this country. Obama went to Liberty University and covered the face of Jesus when he saw his picture on the wall, he's a true Muslim.
    Everyone wants to talk about Romney's Binder of women for jobs, yet they say nothing about Obama's 45 names of Muslim people he wanted to interview because he wanted more muslim's working there. Romney is better to lead this country in every way!

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  4. Dave

    Romney was stammering towards the end. The President won, in my opinion. It wasn't decisive because they agree on a lot of topics as far as foreign relations go.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  5. Forrest

    This was Nixon VS Kennedy. Romney was a sweaty, stumbling mess.

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  6. katria guidry

    Romney won! I'm a republican and this debate didn't change my mind. Obama Must Go!

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  7. Tim

    obama clearly one this debate, romney spent half the time agreeing with president obama he clearly would not have a better plan for this country. because through 3 debates he has not given us one other than only telling us what he thinks we want to hear. I have binders of his flip flops

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  8. pogojo

    We are all doomed

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  9. joey

    I am a conservative in Ohio -Obama won tonight – romney was lethargic . I am supporting Obama this election.

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  10. T'sah from Virginia

    ►Anne
    I agree with you, Obama just wanted to tout "four more years" and he LIED about being friends with Israel. The whole time I thought how could he continue on for four more years?◄

    First of all, who do you agree with??? Second, what makes you think Obama LIED about being friends with Israel. I am so tired of the RIGHT claiming Obama is weak when it comes to Israel. Just because he doesn't "Fake It" and LICK Israel's behind like the Republicans do, does not mean he would NOT fight with them if they were ever attacked.............PERIOD!!! Come on now, get real!!!

    WAKE UP AMERICA!! We do not even know where Romney stands on foreign policy because he FLIPS too much – that is dangerous!!!

    Obama/Biden 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  11. George Clinton/Bootsey Collins 2012

    "Why do you think he got the Nobel Peace Prize?"

    Because European Socialists stick up for their own?

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  12. USA

    48 to 40 is a clear win CNN !!!!! It's simple math....

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  13. April

    Romney's going to WIN ! Even with the media in Obama's back pocket, it won't be enough! To bad So Sad!

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  14. Steve

    Sorry, but Obama won and this is coming from a Republican here. Romney looked like he was ready to slouch in his chair and cry. Seriously, what a let down – Romney has left a lot of Republicans angry at him tonight for failing to show his true leadership colors. Awful, just awful.

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  15. RH

    This is insulting! Obama clearly won this debate!

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  16. Rico9236

    Obama got our good name back? Have you watched TV lately? The entire middle east is burning our flag and pics of Obama....wake up Rocky

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  17. abu abngura

    romney dont know anything about foreign policy,and im not sure were he gets the 40%or cnn just let the repuclicans make up these #s

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  18. Obama supporter

    Dear Voters: Please give Obama another chance. It takes time and patience to make a difference.

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  19. Steve

    Strike 3 you are finally out Oboma, pack your bags and hang your head. Nobel Peace Prize are you kidding?

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  20. Gary R Keiffer

    Romney won!

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  21. someGuy

    Even with the margin for error obama came out on top of this poll, not by alot but he did. I don't understand why they didn't say he won by a landslide, romney stumbled quite a bit. However with obama on top even after the error margin, why would cnn still make the headline 'too close to call'? I wonder if they somehow benefit from from contention....

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  22. Name

    Seems clear to me. The math favors the president. Easy.

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  23. daveugber

    romney was presidential...the president cast blame and looked weak...i am sad...

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  24. NameRenee Y

    My President put it down tonight. He was clearly in charge, answered the questions, was more knowledgeable, honest, and showed his experience. And yes, planes can land on ships!

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  25. Don Simpson

    As a Canadian I watch the us election as an outsider. I am often struck by the similar positions of mr. Romney and our own prime minister Harper here in Canada. Canada has reduced its overall tax rate and simplified the tax code by removing deductions and reducing government expenditures to eventually balance the budget. A very similar proposal is being are by mr. Romney. I hope you elect mr. Romney as the approach he advocates has certainly worked well here in Canada.

    Mr. Obama seems to be recycling the policies of 1960's socialists which have all failed. Having the government pick winners and losers in the economy has never brought much success all you have to do is look to the Canadian experience in many provinces such as Saskatchewan and Alberta.

    Best of luck in your election they both seem like fine men, however I would be surprised if mr. Obamas proposals bear much fruit as they historically never have anywhere they have been attempted.

    October 22, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
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