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. bb

    Romney's debate performance was an unmitigated failure. He has no clue on foreign policy and had to switch to the economy.

    October 23, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  2. waytogo

    Suddenly, Romney is a Peace Loving Moderate? Who are you kidding? You have been siding with Netenyahu to bomb Iran any minute! Netenyahu in his recent UN speach questioned President's " Red Line" and wanted to know how long he should wait before he Bombed Iran and why he should wait?! I & Now Suddenly Romney is – what ?!!!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  3. InterestedObserver

    Even FoxInsiders is calling it 62%/38 to Obama. Romney got his butt handed to him on an entitled rich guy plate.

    October 23, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  4. It pays to be a winner

    It doesn't matter what the media or any left-wing nut bag thinks, says or does. Romney will win in a landslide. The majority of Americans including a large percentage of Democrats simply do not want four more years of Obama's policies, which has given us 23 million unemployed, 47 million on food stamps, $4.00 for a gallon of gas and on and on and on. It's inevitable – Obama will lose like Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale and rightfully so. The social experiment that was Obama is at an end.

    October 23, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  5. Connie

    Romney is far more genteel and presidential than Obama could ever hope to be. Obama is a sham and ill-prepared to hold the office of POTUS. It's Obama's rhetoric planting the seed in your mind that Romney flip-flops on issues. Obama is the flip-flopper on many issues. Yes, Romney did agree with Obama on SOME issues but Romney isn't only a very successful business man; he was also a governor. Obama was a community organizer. LOL. And look at the mess he's gotten us into. One sure thing about Romney, he won't BOW to foreign leaders and he won't apologize for America's greatness as Obama has done.

    October 23, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  6. Ga. Girl

    Romney beat the socks off Zero. That's why zero looked mad – he knew he was losing!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  7. Frank

    Obama won. And 48%-40% is a poll with most republicans voting. All the other polls have a MUCH MUCH MUCH, did I say much? higher gap. Like 30% in some.

    October 23, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  8. paula

    I'm wondering how much money obama has spent to get his ads put up? And pay news stations to give him an edge. That he clearly does not have. He is like a child. He thinks repeating things will make it stick.....I think not obama

    October 23, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  9. Bruce K

    Romney stated it is not government's job to create and grow jobs. So why is he blaming Obama for not creating more jobs? He also showed he is as much in the dark ages on the military as he is on women's issues.

    October 23, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  10. Anonymous

    Romney=fall of america Obama=fall of millionaries

    October 23, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  11. waytogo

    We know Obama; we Like Obama; we elected & will elect Obama. Governor, you are no "Obama" !

    October 23, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  12. Shawn

    Romney again won because he once again got in points on the economy.

    October 23, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  13. canada

    Romney dropped his glove and surrender. U go obama

    October 23, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  14. kita

    Romney stated the facts but not sincere at all! Obama four years term has taking a stand ,of course it take time to get the econocmy together. Far as middle class, Mr.Mitt Romney Does any one of your many grandchildren serve our country? well mine do and I want him to do his job and come home.Obama 4 more !!!

    October 23, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  15. Prolean

    Math: 48-40 with +/- 4.5 error has no clear winner- the difference would have to be over 9. Accounting for the sampling error they could be 43.5 (minus 4.5) Obama vs. 44.5 (plus 4.5) Romney.
    May the best man win and hire more math teachers!!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  16. DTMAN7

    I have never seen a CNN poll ever give a GOP candidate the edge...ever... We did see Chris Mathews wanting to jump off a building after the first debate and Rachel Morrow stated Romney won the debate but lost the post debate. Thats about as close top defeat you'll ever see from that crew. My opinion is the President wont the first quarter, and led narrowly at halftime, but finally his defense crumbled, Romney scored and won late. And look, if you answer 1+1=2 and I am asked the same question, should I say "3" to be different? I think on many points there are common sense approaches anyone would take to solve and issue....so Romney agreeing on some things in foreign policy is what it is...logical. Cutting defense spending however, is not.

    October 23, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  17. Gp

    I thought obama looked petty and very unpresidential, while Romney looked vastly more presidential and measured. Also obama has serious economic flaws and that showed through again today. Obama is campaigning solely on an anti-Romney platform, and the more Romney looks reasonable, the more this strategy backfires and makes him look little.

    October 23, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  18. Tara

    The Obama campaign has tried with obvious success to paint Mitt Romney in a false light. Obama attacked Romney very aggressively all through the debate tonight to try and make him look like someone he isn't. Judging from the comments, there are a lot of people who buy into the false character assassinations. I'm impressed Romney didn't take the bait. That is a sign of true President material.

    October 23, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  19. liberal

    Romney is not presidential material.

    He was the last one left standing after the whole gopey clown and C and D list (Cain, Trump, Bachman, Perry, Gingrich etc.) were voted off the island.

    Obama / Biden 2012

    Hillary / Cuomo 2016

    October 23, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  20. JimmyC

    Obama won handily. Whether that translates into votes is hard to say, but there's no question about the outcome of the debate. Even Romney supporters around here were a little depressed by Romney's showing.

    October 23, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  21. Stef

    Dear CNN, how can you call a poll "scientific" when you admit that there is 8% more Republicans that participated in your pool ... It does not make any sense to me and confuse everybody .... I used to trust you CNN but you clearly mess up with your Polls of the last 2 debates ... And to call 48% and 40% a "too close to call" is an insult to our intelligence ....
    Are you and Fox about to merge????

    October 23, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  22. TheBigBang

    President Obama is solid tonight. Romney in every angles he talks like a real president, much better knowledge on foreign policies. But the real issue is job, job, job. Chinese please help us! Amen!

    October 23, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  23. Brandi

    Finally found some folks who get it. Mitt has time and time pointed at the president and said..China this, China that. We need fair importing and exporting...hello....he exported jobs TO CHINA!! How do people think he is a swell guy?? Destroyed so so many jobs, to make more millions. When is enough millions? Ryan wants to smash together more kids per classroom...my bet, his kids attend private school. Another edge up for his kids.
    He insults other countries...sheeze.
    Lost my job when I got hurt, waiting for surgery...so I will not be able to get health insurance when I get the all clear from my injuries, because 3 months have passed.....how lucky am I under his plan? Work for 31 years, and won't be able to get insurance through my own employer....how fair is that?
    Lord help us, if he wins.

    October 23, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  24. Sonya

    Obama all the way!

    October 23, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  25. Rhonda m

    We will all die if Romney Win.. he'll make sure of that

    October 23, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
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