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. Statistician

    What is the sample size of CNN's poll tonight?

    October 23, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  2. selfevolved

    Wow, what kind of people could think Romney won this debate? He was absolutely obliterated. It's so funny to me how Democrats can be honest and accept when their candidate loses, like in the first debate. But Republicans live in 24/7 fantasy zone and can't accept reality ever.

    October 23, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  3. CDA

    I was a CNN watcher, but I'm watching FOX going forward because the analysts are getting bad!! Wolf and the old guy with the bad voice (David) are not realistic. There are the only two who I feel are over analyzing the debate. No matter what Obama does, he can't get favorable acknowledgment from these two. It seems like they compete to be the outlyer. Why? Obama won!!

    October 23, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  4. Name essie

    We all know that the information that we all heard tonight was want we have to deal with as a world to day and that if we were to get ahead than we need to work together I know I'm middle class and I don't have it the way I would. Like. It to be but I'm willing to work for it but no one is going to make it even more harder by making stupid changes th's wrong way trying to say it's better for me I don't believe that by far if mit get into office it's over for the middle class and the poor.

    October 23, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  5. Mblaq

    hahahahaha i love how republicans start whining and trolling the articles once thier candidate miserable lose a debat TWICE

    October 23, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  6. Ed in Chicago "the libeated north"

    i meant to say "liberated north" or south conferedartion of Canadian states if Romney wins, we will sucede and join canada from New York to Michigna to Washington State. Sick of the Southerins voting against their own interests.....

    October 23, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  7. Karol

    Just to answer Sara's wondering about the intelligence of Romney supporters. I consider myself intelligent enough to say that Romney is more clever than Obama. I have an advanced college degree in two specialties - engineering and business. Also I have developed skills in artistic areas and sports. And I have worked as a volunteer helping people in South America nearly every day during my free time after studies/work for the last 22 years.

    October 23, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  8. Like

    whiner in chief obama.. with his lapdog press that is doing everything to prop himm up..

    October 23, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  9. Trevor

    CNN said Obama won the second debate, however the polls moved in Romney's favor. Now CNN has told us Obama won the third debate. I wonder if the polling will reflect Obama's debate win in the same way again? I sure hope so!

    October 23, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  10. Vimy

    View from North of the 49th Parallel: Romney's cautious approach may have cost him tonight.
    If you're really concerned about the economy and you think it's got worse under Obama, methinks Romney already has your vote. Tonight was about the approx. 5% of Undecideds out there. If still undecided, it probably means you were watching tonight and you're still not sure about Romney. Obama poked many holes tonight and defended his record abroad quite well.. Thought there was very little tonight done by Romney to persuade the Undecided voter. Many of these battleground states will be 50.5% to 49.5%and Obama might have swayed the 1% he needs in Iowa, Ohio, etc.

    October 23, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  11. Wakeupamerica

    Tonight's debate was very important as foreign policy will determine whether we regain the respect of the world in the upcoming four years. Obama is clearly incompetent of doing so, that be said I agreed with Romney in his comments about Iran, Syria, Pakistan.

    October 23, 2012 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  12. Emsee

    How does an 8 point spread translate into a "narrow win"?? More spin control from the right...

    October 23, 2012 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  13. Bayousara

    It don't matter to me!. I delivered my ballot to our county elections office today. It's all over! I won't be watching ANY coverage from now on. Sick of it.

    October 23, 2012 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  14. Eric C

    Romney did seem defensive and just a bit unsure. He also tacked way over from the right to the middle, agreeing with the President and endorsing his policies on a host of specific matters. Romney did not seem concerned about outdoing Obama on foreign policy, as he probably is content with repeating his list of economic indicators that have gone South since Obama took office. Of course, this ignores the REALITY that Obama's first months saw a HUGE decline that could not possibly have been his responsibility, and that we have come back from the depths of this crisis. Obama has not been a strong leader, but he sounds more pragmatic and realistic, and Romney's promises are even more pie in the sky that Hope and Change were...

    October 23, 2012 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  15. Bill

    I think Romney has the upper hand when it comes to doing business with China and Romney would make an actual attempt to make trade more equal. My thoughts on the who one the debate is that Obama looked more thugish with the petty cheap shots to belittle Romney and I think it will work against him over the coming days. Romney seemed more presidential.

    October 23, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  16. john

    Obama won the debate; he was knowledgeable and had certitude; Rommey on the other hand was just a talking point mess.

    October 23, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  17. kyle

    Romney win the debate ? what debate were you guys watching . the president used romnys own words against him, and provided facts not a bunch of crap. the only true thing romney said tonight was that he wanted to be president!!! And he will tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear to become it.

    October 23, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  18. Muru

    CNN Political Unit...being political or being timid...or being biased?

    Whatever, the reality is any country in the globe acts in the interest of securing its nation and people should follow somewhat of a different approach than the 20th century! World has changed, a damage can be carried out bunch of morons who could get into couple of planes and bring the twin towers down along with the American economy! Yes, we dont want to show weakness...at the same same time showing arrogance is not going to help either. A balanced approach is what needed...and I strongly believe thats what President Obama has been doing, for the most part!

    October 23, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  19. truth hurts

    Obama's slide in the polls will continue tomorrow and until the election. This debate locked Romney in as a SERIOUS person, in full command of the facts. Obama was petty, arrogant and condescending while making NUMEROUS errors and telling many lies. Anybody that has been paying attention over the last 4 years knows Obama is simply NOT up to the job and he proved it again tonight. The night was for LARGE topics and debate, not Obama's small and petty attacks. Just more of the same Obama failed campaign strategy, which they will ride all the way to defeat in 2 weeks.

    October 23, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  20. Reality check

    Some of us are getting really emotionally attached to our candidate of choice. Remember that they are politicians and they only concern is getting ahead in their careers like the rest of us. They spend millions learning what it is that we want to hear them say. Calm down

    October 23, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  21. Gerald e. Jones

    the most important concept in life is truth...if i have to choose a leader and i do....i pray that i will always side with truth
    no one is perfect but truth is the foundation for leadership and a chance for success...

    October 23, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  22. Middle Ground

    Obama clearly won this debate – to try to make the case otherwise is foolish. Funny how Democrats can admit when their guy does badly, but so few Republicans can. There is something especially impervious about the "lack of reality" bubble that many on the Far Right live in, but it leads them to yell at empty chairs, defend trickle down economics, and deny global warming. Oh, btw CNN – you can't say 48 to 40 is "too close to call" – 8 points is way out of the margin of error. That headline needs to change.

    October 23, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  23. hot air warrior

    During most of the debate Romney sounded like "Chicken Little ". "The sky is falling , the sky is falling" I am sick of Romney's broken record and his negativity lists. Who knows what Romney the flip flopper would do.
    I am voting for Obama.

    October 23, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  24. Tiffany T. Quach

    With Romney wanting to use the 1920, 1950 and 1980 policies for the 2012 globalized world that had lead us into two endless wars, cost trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives, it is saying we are too good so we are going backward or stay at the status quo. That is how once great, rich and most powerful China did until they failed and their people eventually starved. It took China around 500 years to recover and still in recovery. To me president Obama is not just for the 1% or the 10% on top, but for every American!

    Tiffany T. Quach

    October 23, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  25. rick

    I will never understand how people can have such distorted views on either side.
    the passion and hyperbole that people are spinning to prove their person is the right one is the real concern here.
    at this moment we are all so seperated by this presidential election that i wonder if we can ever be one country again.
    i certainly like one candidate over the other, but not enough to make the kind of comments i am seeing on all the blogs.
    stop the insanity, make the choice thats best for you, but STOP MAKING EVERYONE ELSE WRONG ABOUT IT!

    October 23, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
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