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. DALIA

    Believe in Obama. Romney fake.

    October 23, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  2. Mister

    President Obama did go on an apology tour, did we forget already? The president is responsible for pulling security from our embassy that resulted in 4 dead Americans after "a spontaneous riot". The president was aware of "fast and furious", but lied. Homeland security problems; unemployment, immigration, education, housing market, the list goes on and on about issues our current president does not know how to fix, let alone manage.

    October 23, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  3. hi

    I will vote for Obama because he managed to save the US economy from great depression, brought economic stability–now economy has started to improve, improved relation with almost all countries in the world, ended the war in Iraq, and has a strong exit strategy in Afganistan. Economy is not 100% fixed because economic crisis created by Mr. Bush was very severe. Economy has began to heal. I am confident that Obama will flourish the economy in next four years.

    October 23, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  4. Maggie

    Obama won the debate, I was undecided about who to vote for. Obama is for u.

    October 23, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  5. Mrs.Greene

    I was an undecided voter until I watched the last debate. Governor Romney doesn't know what is really going on. He is not a leader but a follower. And being the president of the United States you have to be a leader, so that's why i'm going to vote for President Obama. :-)

    October 23, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  6. DaveInNC

    HEY-CNN PUT UP YOUR DEMOGRAPHICS NUMBERS. You say the poll had a larger Republican representation than was found nationwide but even after Carville asked you to give the real numbers to show how much your poll numbers are biased but you've copped out on TV and website. You seem to rather pump up a "tie" rather than actually suggest if corrected for bias shows Obama won on ALL major points- who won, leadership and who did better. You've lost my respect.

    October 23, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  7. judith

    Obama clearly one. Mitt was unsure of himself, stuttering and stammering and totally unable to describe how his foreign policy would differ from the President's.

    October 23, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  8. Grant

    Once again we see Romney the LIAR; Romney the FLIP-FLOPPER; Romney the LOSER. Buh-bye Mitt !

    October 23, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  9. Jack

    CBS News Poll of uncommitted voters: Who won the 3rd and final Pres. Debate?
    Obama: 53% Romney: 23% Tie: 24%
    ---------------------------------
    CNN Online/Flash instant Poll: Who fared better in the 3rd and final Pres. Debate?
    Obama: 73% Romney: 27%

    October 23, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  10. Angie

    Romney did great, he didn't 't let Obama get under his skin, he was cool, collected and presidential. Taking into account that this election is all about the economy, it is clear that Romney is the answer to fix our current fiscal problems, he has my vote.

    October 23, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  11. espann

    The President was petty, dismissive, sarcastic, angry, attacking and overly aggressive. Governor Romney was polite, presidential, knowledgeable and more in command of the facts. Governor Romney will increase lead with women, and increase at least 1% more in polls. The president lost the election tonight.

    October 23, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  12. Rojay

    How does CNN justify Obama edging Romney in Debate 2..winning by 7..but calls it no clear winner when he wins by 8..what is up editorial board

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  13. Rj

    ummm. how is an 8 point win by Obama within the margin of error of 4 points???? Does the guy who wrote this know how to add and subtract? how is this a tie??? lord CNN, hire someone who finished middle school.

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  14. Jay

    President Obama definitely won this debate and it should have shown by a much larger margin! He kicked butt! What's up with these Republic Leaning CNN polls???

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  15. cherry

    Romney won because he is going to save the contry from nonetary disaster!

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  16. ChrisJ

    I think it is funny, that the democrats dismiss the first debate, and are quick to show how good he was the next two. Republicans are holding on dearly to the first debate, declaring those two mean nothing. I think come voting day we will see which party is more accurate, because to be honest, I think these debates have had a much more significant impact than the previous election period. VOTE.

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  17. Obama Won

    But the media wants a close race, and the anyone-but-Obama crowd won't admit that Romney is lame.

    Also, Romney agreed so much with Obama tonight that it seems like Obama can count on Romney's vote on November 6th!

    In any case, Obama has my vote! The Dow *doubled* in Obama's first term! Iraq war is over. OBL eliminated. Those are changes I believed in, and now they're real. Thanks, Obama! Four more years!

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  18. chuck

    Romney won, I don't understand how anyone can think Obama has a leg to stand on any subject he talks about. In addition, everyone that accuses Romney of lies is blind to what has been going on for the past 4 years, and probably has something free to gain from the human credit card... I mean Obama. Anyone voting for Obama is either massively in debt, like our country, or freeloaders....period. I hate to burst your bubble, but those people will be in debt, and poor no matter how much of other peoples money Obama gives them.

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  19. Timo

    John King shows his side so much that he supports Romney. Romney is not doing better as John King keeps saying, Of-course Obama is doing better after these two solid debates.

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  20. MsMia

    I am standing with the President. I can't believe that Mr. Romney has the strength to take unpopular positions and make hard choices that maybe needed as President of the United States.

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  21. adama

    Obama won the debate as CNN indicated and he will serve four more years. to those undecided think about when you want to hire someone, you want to have a qualify person who has experiemce and already know how to get the job done. we do not have money to pay for Gov Romney training as president neither time to waste. President Obama already know the job, he is tested and we all know his policies. we are stronger than we were in the past decade. if you agree with me vote Obama on nov 6.

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  22. Daniel somogyi

    Lets not blame a president for not having a job or having a masters degree and not finding a job. It's up to yourself to make it work. The US is still far better than other countries when it comes to job security. We put too much emphasis on how much power the president alone has on the economy. Obama did just fine with the 4 years he had the economy is clearly not perfect but better than 4 years ago, nothing Romney would do better. Promising 12 million jobs is easy, when you are on a campaign, actually creating it is a different stroy

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  23. Global nomad

    No brainer who won hands down!!

    It is clear that some of the CNN reporters (like wolf blitzer) have lost credibility as objective reporters. The "special interest groups" may have a few more people in their pocket.

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  24. Don

    Come on CNN, Obama clearly won this hands down. Romney was schooled tonight and I'm finally happy that his flip flopping was exposed during a nationally televised debate (again).

    CNN, why don't you do the American public some justice and call Romney out on all his lies?
    Where are you on the Detroit Auto Bailout issue? Romney said "let Detroit fail" and I would love to see you call him on his lie tonight where he flat out lied claiming that he never said such words. Do your job!

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  25. Jaz Lowe

    Romney is presidential period,he won this debate,Romney will win this election!

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
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