CNN Poll: Nearly half of debate watchers say Obama won showdown
October 22nd, 2012
11:24 PM ET
2 years 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.

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

– Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

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. Scat398

    Romney scored big with russia and iran. Obama scored well on iraq and afghanistan. Romney scored well on libya and the arab spring, and our need for a stronger. If it were a boxing match romney would have won by unanimous decision. Did anyone else think it was weird our president rationalized reducing our navy ship numbers with that of horse and bayonetts?

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  2. TomNPitt

    "Yea – me too." That's Romney's international plan for playing Battleship with Iran.

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  3. Craig Adams MD

    Wow- that debate closed it for me- Obama is a President....Mitt is like a salesman trying anything he could to get the close-- very weak by Romney....... He remains a very odd person.

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  4. Rich

    Like the flip flop, on auto, Romney said he offered guarantees "during" bankruptcy! Complete fabrication and strait out lie!

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  5. Arthur

    oh please stop it CNN! I know you're trying to make this a horse race for ratings as all of the American media is but this debate as with the second one wasnt even close! Obama was the undisputed winner and Romney looks like a pale faced liar and fraud who looks like the least presidential nominee I've ever seen. No way Romney wins this after the debates. He seems to have no knowledge on forign policy and little looking into his domestic issues or past comments get ripped apart very easily! GO OBAMA!

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  6. Chris

    cnn a legitimate poll taker..... what a joke!

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  7. FormerRepublican

    I am not a fan of Barack Obama. But I cannot vote for someone that shipped American jobs overseas and cannot show his tax returns. It does not matter what Romney's views on foreign policy are. Todays debate just made me feel a little better about voting for Obama.

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  8. Anonymous

    To be honest any canidate can talk great and both do but in the end it is about the track record. Romney has my vote

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  9. Keep This In Mind

    Obama may have won narrowly, and very narrowly on foreign issues, but he lost on the economy once again. The economy is what is driving the core debate in this country. I think Romney will win the election. JMHO And sorry CNN. It will be interesting to see if you let this one go through.

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  10. HANK

    You guys are incorrect about the margin of error. The MoE is +/- 4.5%; the difference between the two must be more than double the MoE, in this case 9%. Thus, 48-40 is within the Margin of Error and is a statistical tie. This is because you can't have any overlap (48 +/- 4.5; 40 +/- 4.5 overlap each other). The article is correct when stating it's within the margin of error.

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  11. Paul

    the only people who thought romney win either didn't watch the debate or already made up their mind for him.

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  12. sharon

    Turn out the lights the party is over Mr. Obama! As someone on disability your administration actually took $1.86 from my monthly check in 2010! That is what you have done for me. Go back to organizing your community......... and YOU are not the one who got Bin Laden so stop patting yourself on the back ad give credit where credit is due.

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  13. I'M_WIT_MITT

    Romney clearly the winner. No way is America stupid enough to think a battle ship quote will do anything. Romney's a clear leader. Obama speaks in general terms and gets angry. He is arrogant he is boastful about nothing and quite frankly delusional. It's kind of sad. First I was angry, then I was disappointed, now I feel bad for Obama, he is way in over his head and it's clear. And what is the Bill Maher crowd gonna do now that our guy is not the incompetent boob you claim Bush was. Obama is clueless. And bringing up the holocaust after Romney nailed him on speaking negatively on America was weak and pathetic. Congrats, President Romney.

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  14. Bryan

    One thing the debate showed. Obama knows he is behind, by more than even the polls are showing most likely. He attacked with every little thing he could. But could not justify the big picture, the realities that Iran is closer to a nuke, that US and Israel relations are more strained than ever, and that jihadists are on the rise. Romney stayed above the petty attacks and showed that he is presidential material. Obama's 4 years has always looked like the Carter administration. But tonight, Romney really looked like Reagan.

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  15. Trustyone

    There are three debates, we saw three Romneys, it is unreal!

    In the first one he was agreesive attacker, in the 2nd one he was a frustrated bully, today he is a peace maker so agreeable. The consistent of Romney is in-consistency, and lying. What is wrong with this person? Who would dare to hand a country to this person?

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  16. Reality

    Uh, no. You guys like to make up more bs than most people can handle. First of all, Obama is getting killed with the fact checking. Second, the marines still use bayonettes. Obama is a dummy!

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  17. Anonymous

    Your own poll has a margin of error of +/-4.5% in which Obama won by 8%(outside that margin) but yet you said it was unclear who won??????? Really? Sooooo how exactly does that math work? That must be that Romney tax math you're using.

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  18. RonM

    Every other poll has Obama winning big. CNN's is the only one even close. Romney basically spent the night saying how great Obama's foreign policy is by agreeing with him on every major issue, even flip flopping from previous positions to agree with the President. Romney often rambled incoherently and tried to prevent Obama from speaking by refusing to shut up long after he had anything to say and endlessly repeating himself. Romney was clearly out of his depth.

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  19. C. S. Evans, Texas

    Anonymous, cry me a river! Four (4) jobs? Something is definitely wrong with that picture and I don't believe President Obama has anything to do with it.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012!

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  20. Fran Maloney

    I believe that Romney is the man for this nation to recover from sinking.

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  21. Marion

    Loved the horses and bayonet comeback by Obama – classic! Went to reinforce how weak Romney's position is on the issue, scrounging for whatever bogus line he can feed – only wants to increase military spending so he can earn the votes of government contractors who can charge $500 for a toilet seat. Romney, you're supposed to be transparent, not so obvious !

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  22. Karol

    Romney was more polite and presidential in his answers, explaining everything correctly and succintly, being a thoughtful person, while Obama was unpolite, interrupting Romney a number of times and attacking him, trying to change Romney's answers in a desperate way. If there's something I don't like in a person it's lying and cheating Obama-style. He's not a leader. I think America needs to get stronger in its economy, otherwise the country will have the same problems as Greece. I think Romney is the best option by far.

    October 23, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  23. Voter

    I will vote for the man who stands tall on his principles – The one who does not flip-flop – The one who stands by his votes and has a proven record of how he votes and what he signs off on – The one who understand the very difficult task of admitting to mistakes, taking responsibility for past errors and yet stand strong on where we need to be heading – The one who had the guts to tell the world that nothing is black and white, that we want everyone at the table and that we understand we can not set the agenda for other countries but will not tolerate states that interfere with our prosperity or attack our nation and people. We need to keep moving forward on bettering our relations outside our borders and keep building us back up within our borders. We must not go R – for reverse.

    October 23, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  24. Cruddy

    I was astounded when Mitt said he agreed with the Presidents policies. He spent so much time knocking them before. If his aim was to look presidential he made a very costly calculated error. Anything would have been better than agreeing. Mitt proves once again he is not a person to be trusted. Why wont he take a position? Does he think people are really that dumb?

    October 23, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  25. Daiva

    Just check the polls in Massachusetts and Minnesota and it will tell you all about peoples trust for the Governer Mitt Romney.

    October 23, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53