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. Todd

    To a democrat, speaking loud and forcefully means you won a debate. Maybe, superficially, to the small minded, this may be true. Anyone with a set will know that Obamas facts are just plain wrong!

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  2. Ian Nelms

    Simply stated-! If you re-elect Obama, you are choosing socialism. You will watch personally the complete obliteration of 200 years worth of struggles. The USA will repeat the many mistakes employed by the Romans. Our allies dont have to do anything..... Just watch the American People self destruct. Wake up people- the Nation is destroyed and and you want the guy who destroyed to fix it??
    Get real.....

    October 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  3. Kay

    You guys are crazy if you think Obama is going to be your savior second term. He is a failure and you Dems had your chance. Now it is time for real change. I can tell you that the industry I'm in is horrible since he took office and has not improved. I don't need for more years of struggling. The real liar is Obama. Read some of his old books and you will see how pompous and arrogant he is. Poor character. Smarten up people!

    October 23, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  4. Mike

    The president did not win that debate, he was full of it.

    October 23, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  5. Eugene Szkilnyk

    The world is not a safer place...Obama last four years. Bailout of GM and Chrysler, Bush authorized the bailout, Obama administered its, violated rules of Chapter 11 and capitalism and threw stock and bond holder under the buss. Romney agreed about the bankruptcy, however, in Chapter 11 with government loans, its on record. The person sounding presidential, again, not Obama with petty and personal attacks (he is the acting President) but Romney. The biggest challenge and threat to US security is our economic decline, Romney has the experience Obama apparently does not.

    October 23, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  6. Whitelighter36

    I'm going to have to say that Obama won this debate. In the first debate they criticized Obama for trying to looking too Presidential. However, in this debate they are praising Romney for looking "Presdential." However Romney's "Presidential demeanor" said to me that he has not a single clue.Obama came out defending his foreign policies as well as effectively describing how he would address the foreign policy issues that face this nation.

    October 23, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  7. JudyBee

    48 to 40 is not a tie – Obama won hands down

    October 23, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  8. C. S. Evans, Texas

    Lisa what rock have you been living under? It take more than talking over everyone to run the country. Romney clearly has no substance. Born with a silver foot in is mouth. Liar.

    October 23, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  9. vinnyr

    obama won hands down.

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  10. JD

    OMG. This was just like Romney's debate with Ted Kennedy! If you recall, Mr. Kennedy even said if the debate had gone on longer, Romney was going to endorse him! How can anyone who's done any homework or paid any attention to past debates in this primary and election believe a word that comes out of Romney's mouth?

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  11. Md

    I hoped they both did pretty well, but if do over genaralized Obama could take more credit than Mitt.

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  12. Chris

    If the topic was anything else than economy, Romney looked like someone running for a beauty pageant with empty rhetoric about peace and alliances, while Obama could clearly demonstrate foreign policy is actually his strongest point. He proved he's an excellent commander in chief and Romney's attempts to grab more seconds off the moderator a third debate in a row made me sick, especially when each time, Romney simply repeated his generic talking points, which are baseless to begin with. Of course watching Romney trying to steer the debate back to his favorite talking points was somewhat unpleasant and proves this callous, hollow contender is not suited to run the United States of America.

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  13. mrs.fain

    all i want to know is why is this country so scared of change...we will never be on top of our game if we keep making the same mistakes that got us here in the first place...everybody wanted bush in office and he hurt this country so bad...yet the people of america want to go back to what got us here...all for moving forward...its where the future is at...not 16 years ago...wake up america...it funny how ROMNEY brags on what he has don for his state...yet i haven't heard anyone from his state backing him up on his fine job...whats up with that?

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  14. Riddle

    So why is it CNN isn't releasing party figures on this poll? They've done it with the last two...

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  15. Camille

    I am concerned that the actual poll percentages are posted without weighting them by the percentages of democrats, republicans, and independents. If the major percentage of viewers included in the poll are republicans, it should be clear that the percentages in favor or against Obama are scewed. That would mean that percentages in favor of Obama would be higher and those in favor of Romney should be lower. You need to smooth the results statistically.

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  16. MontrealRock

    As a Canadian looking in I have to ask all Americans one question. Why does it take (2 yrs) to make up your minds? In Canada a election is called (60 days) later it's over. Is it a election or a rock band tour? If it takes (2 yrs.) to make up your mind then you have to question the limit of your attention span. Most Americans are good hard working people. Why do you get caught up with all the media hype? Your all smarter then that!

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  17. Jimbo

    Note that at no point did Romney look flustered. There were at least 2 times when Obama was clearly flustered. For example, when Romney rapped him over the "apology tour" and his poor relationship with Israel. Obama became petulant. Also when Romney pointed out that Obama was shrinking the military. Obama's suggestion that ships were obsolete like horses was rather silly, and then pointed to aircraft carriers, which are not new technology and are ships. He was grasping. Say what you like, but Romney's the guy putting a plan out (whether you like the plan or not) and Obama's just attacking Romney and laying out no plan at all.

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  18. Nardia

    I will also vote Democratic. I don't understand these polls, in my opinion President Obama won this and the last debate by a very large margin, Govenor Romney can't seem to make up his mind on what he stands for and this is not based on what the President is saying but on what Govenor Romney himself is saying. For me Trust is the most important factor in this election not political rhetoric.

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  19. Tomasa

    Obama did NOT win..it goes to Romney!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  20. Kim

    2/3 for President Obama = Reelection

    October 23, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  21. watson

    I heard Obama talk... but nothing of significance came out. Kind of like his last 4 years in office. How anybody in their right mind could vote for a guy with a track record like Obama is unbelievable. Romney's last speech could have been this simple, "Vote for me because I have the experience at fixings other peoples screw ups. I've balanced budgets before and I've created jobs. We need both and Obama hasn't been able to do either in 4 years". The only people who are going to vote for Obama are ignorant and still believe he's the holy one from 2008.

    October 23, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  22. Lulu

    Romney is totally out of touch with our present day reality. He keeps criticizing Obama for his pointing out the differences between his and Romneys philosophies. Romney ijjst lies and thinks everyone has amnesia. Well we will not forget "let Detroit go bankrupt" or that he believes that forty eight percent of us somehow feel as if we are victims because we didn't make it like Mitt with extremely rich parents and in laws, best incredibly expensive schools Cranbrook, Stanford, Harvard. Daddy is well connected politically and in the private sector, but because of mitts hard work he is successful and half the country expect food, housing healthcare -– How dare us victims- He has always been so frickin rich he has no idea what life is like,for the average American family. He was due to pay 10 percent get ridmofmcapital gains tax and what would he pay nothing and he is ok with that That just is not fair. he doesn't care!

    October 23, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  23. me

    The clear winner here was Mitt Romney. As a person who listened to I-heart radio for the debate I found the president asking like my four year old son who is always wantingthe last word. Truth is a president who is in office should have obliterared any opponent but instead insisted on attacking Romeny instead of talking policy. Throw the Bum out!!

    October 23, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  24. Wally

    I have watched all three debates. I had not yet decided who to vote for until tonight. Every debate Romney lied. What he said in one debate, he would change for the next one. That scares me about him and it should scare everyone! He tells us what he thinks we want to hear. I am convinced Romney is not out to help the middle class. Remember what he said about the 47%. He is now trying to tell us that it was a mistake. You know he meant it. He is just sorry someone got it on video. Obama is not the perfect president, but at least I think he care more about the middle class then Romney ever will. Regardless of what he tries to tell us. Talk is cheap!

    October 23, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  25. john

    No, seriously, how is 48-40 within 4.5?

    October 23, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
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