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. GreenLytStudio

    The President was in command hands down. President Obama was more specific...Romney spoke in Slogans or Generalizations.
    Romney : Tough on Big Bird, weak on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda

    October 23, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  2. dlopez

    The headline talking about the poll intimating that the debate was a draw is dishonest, misleading, and inconsistent with the actual "scientific" poll that CNN conducted. I am disappointed, and I expected more from CNN. I did not think you were the NY POST or Fox News. Now I have to reconsider that!

    October 23, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  3. raju

    Romney flipped and flopped and shape-shifted yet again. The man is simply disgusting.

    October 23, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  4. Solomon

    CNN your polling is just wrong or Polling art(not science) is not working.

    October 23, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  5. Steve

    So all you Obama fans can honestly say that you, and our great country is in recovery? Really? This guy is so out of touch! I have never seen any President spend so much of my money to travel to California (at leasst 5 times) to raise money. He is a fake and a lier. We must build our military to protect this great land. One more thing, stop putting out your hand like someone owes you and get to work.

    October 23, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  6. Jim

    I have been a long time fan of CNN. I even had it as my internet homepage. But they are so desperately trying to win back viewer market share that they have lost their neutrality. It's veiled and sometimes blatant right leaning analysis is disappointing and has caused me to bail on them. I won't watch. It's hard because I want to find news that is balanced and reasonably honest. CNN so strategically wants FoxNews to say to its viewers that "CNN agrees with us" hoping that those viewers will give CNN another look that they have moved away from intellectual honesty. The BIGGEST disappoint for me is David Gergen. I used to love him as an impartial reporter and opinion giver. Those days are long gone for him!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  7. petena

    Why cant republicans accept the truth. Obama lost the first debate but won the last two. PERIOD. All polls indicate that.

    October 23, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  8. Alex

    what happened with Romney? he collapsed, I don't want a guy like him as a president... Sorry, I made my mind

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  9. Brian

    It is in the best interest of TV ratings that the press make this election appear tied, even though a majority of all polls show Obama is ahead. I'd like to learn how many Republicans turned Democrats have happened since 2008. That makes a big difference in poll results.

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  10. Ric

    Politicians should not be allowed to lie. Check on Obama! Romney too if you feel like it. Mostly Obama.

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  11. bb

    Romney just lost the state of Ohio. The people of Ohio probably knows Romney better than anybody with the exception of Massachusetts, and his Op-Ed article regarding to let Detroit go bankrupt WITHOUT a government bailout. This guy has a serious character flaw when it comes to speaking the truth. Definitely not a desirable trait wanted in a Commander-In-Chief.

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  12. Benny Hinn

    Romney won again! 3-0

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  13. Four and The Door

    Obama showed how Washington DC has become paralyzed by partisan pettiness in the last 4 years. It starts at the top.
    Americans deserve better. Romney/ Ryan 2012. Get Washington back doing the work of a nation and not just the work of politics.

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  14. bct

    Romney will cut back alley deals with us enemies. for a buck.....no can trust

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  15. KC

    Hands down the president won. All Romney could do was whine about how the President was attacking him while in reality the president was making Mitt look silly some of the time. Then the other half of the time he agreed with the president. Didn't he say that the president's foreign policy was blowing up right in front of our eyes but now he agrees with many of the president's policies. The guy will say anything to get elected.

    On one hand Mitt wants to cut all these social programs in USA but he wants to educate, provide jobs etc in the middle east. Mitt trying to rewrite history about the auto industry is pathetic. Stop saying you care about the auto industry.. did you forget how you would have just let them failed.

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  16. thinkabout this

    Romey did agree very often with President Obama. He will actually Vote for Romney, I believe that!

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  17. Statistician

    Why have a poll that can't detect significantly differences as large as 8%?

    How big does the difference have to be? 15%? 25%?

    October 23, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  18. supernerd

    "Forceful Obama bests defensive Romney in foreign policy debate" little premature dontcha think??? I do love how everyone is talking about Romney's lack of foreign policy experience... hello, do we all recall how much foreign policy experience Obama had 4 years ago??? oh no, that's right, we were all too enamored with the color of his skin to actually concern ourselves with his experience... too busy nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize prior to doing anything at all....

    October 23, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  19. Soundbug

    I have switched back and forth between other media for the aftermath discussion of all three debates. CNN so leans to the right it's obvious who butter's their bread. Regarding the debates, CNN's polls of the debates never gets it right on who won. Obama definitely won tonight hands down. He (Obama) sunk (Romney's) battleship! Period. Tonight Romney was agreeing with the President so much, other sources are calling Romney's performance "schizophrenic." Romney is certainly not reliable nor Presidential. Something else....Romney and members of his family also has ownership of HART Intercivic the company that makes the electronic voting machines that nobody can repair, fix, audit or investigate because of patent law that protects their secrets of how they work. Huge Conflict of Interest. Please contact your Representatives in Congress and request an investigation to this blatant conflict of interest.

    October 23, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  20. Justin

    I'm a Republican, but even I'll admit that Romney lost this one bad. I don't trust him either. Why are people so blind that they'll just vote for whoever their party puts out there? Or vote JUST on one issue (abortion). I hate to say it, but Obama might have my vote. Romney is just telling us what we want to hear and doesn't seem to see the truth. That said, I'm not sure Obama will pull us out of this crappy economy fast enough. But Romney just can't be trusted.

    October 23, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  21. apfranco1962

    Romney appeared presidential while the President looked desperate as he was interrupting and condescending. Romney focus on answering, bullet points and clear, while the President focused on attacks. Romney's business and governmental experience could take us out of our financial mess, create jobs, which will help to strengthen our security, leadership and respect internationally. Obama was the hope that never took off. Let me clear, I'm not republican.

    October 23, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  22. Mo

    can someone tell me what experience obama had in foreign policy when he duped everyone into electing him in 2008?

    October 23, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  23. Pat

    You headline reads too close to call...and then you show 48% to 40%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a joke...you did this crap with the last debate when the President clearly won.

    October 23, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  24. keepinitreal

    Flip the switch Mitt. Do you like the lights on or the lights off or maybe I can just dim them for you. Please pick for me because I can't. Whatever you want is OK with me. That is not leadership and is quite honestly dangerous. I have never been more scared of our country being in more serious trouble if a spineless chameleon like Romney possibly could win. It is unconcionable to even consider at this point. Especially when talking about foreign policy to lead nations around the world to believe we could allow the United States of America to be in such an acephalous state of affairs. How can leaders around the world, our allies, have any confidence in Mitt Romney as our President and Commander in Chief, he appears out of his depth overtly.

    October 23, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  25. Tim

    Those folks in the focus groups are posing as Undecided but are liars. Did they watch the same debate I did? OBAMA STOMPED ROMNEY.. Not a small win..a Tail kicking! Republicans are now posing in these groups to spin the results of who wins the debates? Wow What loosers.

    October 23, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
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