CNN Poll: Nearly half of debate watchers say Obama won showdown
October 22nd, 2012
11:24 PM ET
2 years 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. Veritas Lavinga

    Romney was very presidential tonight. Clearly stated the plan and what would be done in his four years. Obama kept saying what he would do but it was all stuff he said he would do 4 years ago.

    The economy is a mess, the world has never been more dangerous than it is today, and America is circling the black hole right now. If Obama wins, there won't be a 2016 election.

    October 23, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  2. AeroGuyDC

    Apparently liberals and Democrats on this forum FORGET that just 4 measely years ago BARACK OBAMA had ZERO foreign policy experience.....yet here they here on this forum blabbering about Romney not having foreign policy experience.

    This is why liberals have zero credibility. They can't see beyond their own noses....how can we expect them to make sense????

    October 23, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  3. kenny

    So Obama said Romney would have a reckless foreign policy... yet Romney mirrored Obama, but seemed more presdienttial.
    Did you catch how Obama said Romney had changed his position from five years ago... well guess what Obama.. things change in five years , moron.

    October 23, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  4. Dan Balbi

    Romney was very strong as usual. Obama is always "going to do this" and "we will do that". How about DOING SOMETHING....ANYTHING. The only "thing" that Obama has done for the last four years is talk and take NO ACTION. Time for a change.

    October 23, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  5. Mireya

    Romney looked "presidential."
    Obama looked smug, bitter and desperate to look "aggressive."
    "Aggressive" does not mean a win.
    Romney appeared to be just as fit for this office as any other option...and Romney looks like he will be worth a chance.
    I have decided to vote for Governor Mitt Romney.

    October 23, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  6. An Honest Independent

    Obama's time has come and gone. He had four years of fiscal failures and the American people deserve better. Romney is far from perfect but far superior. We appreciated your service Obama, enjoy your retirement.

    Obama said to vote him out if he failed in four years. Ask and ye shall receive!

    October 23, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  7. Samantha

    Obama won of course!

    October 23, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  8. Stef

    Obame clearly won.

    October 23, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  9. Marc Rauch

    Romney won the debate, again. The world is not a safer place than 4 years ago, America's image has not improved in the past four years, and Obama continues to prove that he has no idea of how business works or what will improve it.

    Interestingly, in CNN's analysis of the debate, CNN proved a critical point that Ryan made during the VP debate on foriegn policy. Ryan would say "We're 4 years closer to Iran having a nuclear weapon," and Biden kept smugly saying that Iran had no way to deliver the weapon (that they had no missile capable of delivering the bomb. But CNN showed a life size version of the missile that Iran has and that can carry the nuke, and that it can reach Israel right now. Obama and Biden don't know what they're taking about.

    All Romney had to do was not hurt himself. He did not hurt himself. He will win the race.

    October 23, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  10. will

    Great debate Obama! W

    October 23, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  11. Army ret

    Rommey won, by showing that he know what he was talking about ... The army still carriers bayonets , as dose marines ... FYI ... We need someone that we can trust in the WH, that knows business .... And as respect for our militarty ...
    OB is a Socialist and as not followed our laws at al!!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  12. Natan

    Romney has only looks. He does not have what it takes to be a president. He was cheating tonight off of Obama's notebook.

    October 23, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  13. Chris

    Ah now you've switched it from Obama winning, to "too close to call", now to Obama having a "narrow edge" over Romney. What's going on CNN? Are you intentionally saying the debate was closer than it actually was to keep us simpletons arguing on your website for longer?

    October 23, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  14. nauj

    Romney was the empty chair tonite!

    October 23, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  15. Samantha

    Romney worries me!!!!!!!!!!! he is not a form person.... he is weak........... Obama 2012! after this debate Im sure who Im voting for!

    October 23, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  16. DRE

    game over ROMNEY

    October 23, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  17. Nancy Acquisto

    Mitt won because he was not being rude to Obama. I am an independent and feel that over the last few weeks that Mitt Romney is acting more like a President than Obama. I thought that last week Obama won but this week it was Mitt's. There were a few fact checkers and three so far are all right in what Mitt Romney said. The others I have not heard yet. We need someone who knows how the economy works and Obama has had his turn and has not done the Job that he said he would. I want to give Mitt Romney a chance and if at the end of his four years he has not done what he says he can do or that we are still like we are then someone else can give it a try. Hope and Change has not been there for me anyway.

    October 23, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  18. Sarah Milnes

    I don't trust Romney, I think that he would be far over his head. I didn't like Obama at the beginning either, and I still think there are better people out there, but since its really just a toss up between these two, I am hoping that Obama wins the election. Oh and I'm Republican.

    October 23, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  19. Louis Attles

    How are all the conservative Christian going to vote for Mitt Romney when we have not heard how his religion or faith will effect his policies.

    October 23, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  20. kenny

    Good grief.. can't Obama stop blaming the last administration... and quit thinking people are stupid. Well I take that back, Obama voters seem to be stupid.

    October 23, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  21. moldy jones

    I thought Romney's performance was dismal. he seemed to spend much of the debate playing victim and parroting muc of obama's remarks. i'll concede that romney may have the upper hand when it comes to the economy, but on every other issues, i.e. foreign policy or social issues, he seems to be lost. the economy is recovering, however, as i imagine it will continue to improve in the coming months. so why vote Romney/Ryan for 2012? with a romney victory, we stand to lose so much more, such as some civil liberties, the right to our nation's safety and the safety of our troops. and the freedom for women to choose what they think is best for them and their body. we stand to gain very little under romney. he claims to have a plan to create 12 million jobs, but in the last debate, said governmaent doesn't create jobs. i really don't get this guy, let alone trust him with our country.

    October 23, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  22. Steve in PA

    Romney clearly won the debate. He came across as knowing a lot on foreign policy and Presidential. Obama wanted to make him seem like warmonger in Iran to scare women but he failed in this. Romney did not come across like this at all. I thought Obama interrupted more and seemed condescending. I also thought Romney slammed Obama on the economy over and over, and scored some points on Israel.

    October 23, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  23. Clown in Chief

    the 50% is the middle 50% that isn't represented by either candidate and knows that both are lying through their teeth.

    October 23, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  24. nauj

    Obama showed more depth than Romney.

    October 23, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  25. susan

    Romney won.... Obama can't lead. . he instead wants to be a tyrant.

    October 23, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
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