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. JOHN

    President Obama won this debate for sure!

    October 23, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  2. The_Mick

    Is this the same poll that gave Romney a slight edge by CNN right after the 2nd debate" The polls I've seen elsewhere are 2:1 Obama for the third debate. Obama has undone so many problems caused by Bush and completed other things including killing bin Laden and providing the means for the overthrow of Gadhafi who was hated by every president since Reagan except G W Bush and the early 2000's GOP who called him "reformed" for the benefit of their Big Oil buddies.

    October 23, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  3. Dat Nguyen

    I feel like Rommey is not able to run the president at all. Obama is still a great candidate for now. I vote for Obama

    October 23, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  4. Canadian Girl

    In President Obama, I think my neighbours elected a good man who has caught more than his share of bad breaks in this term of office. Leading a country when the economy is robust and strife and disasters aren't erupting everywhere else in the world isn't a bad gig; how this man has managed to hang in with everything that has been tossed at him – especially what has to be the most hostile Congress in the history of your nation – and still manage to rid us of Bin Laden, says a great deal more than he's been given credit for. I think your President deserves a second term, for what it's worth. I believe your country will better for it 4 years from now. Thanks for allowing me to offer another perspective – good wishes to good neighbours!

    October 23, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  5. Dane

    first comment I see here is Obama went on an 'apology tour'...CNN just fact checked this..it is a complete and total conservative lie generated by fox news. So anybody that says Obama apologized to anybody is just clueless.

    October 23, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  6. Dylan

    After four years of a run around its tuime for a turn around! Go Romney! liberals make me sick

    October 23, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  7. Cano

    Obama will win in November with 289 electoral votes. FiveThirtyEight upgraded Obama's chances for re-election to 70%.

    October 23, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  8. scott

    Romney looked constipated while Obama was speaking. All Romney could do was pass off Obama's policies as his own. It is unbelievable how much leeway the media and public have given Romney to etch a sketch himself into a moderate without fact checking or past checking his former comments. Romney will lie about anything to gain the power of the presidency.

    October 23, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  9. Simon

    An overwhelming win for the President. Just exactly what would an Obama debate win look like in the eyes of CNN?? You can win much more than the President won tonight! Come on CNN, you can't be an impartial judge between good and evil.

    October 23, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  10. Adam

    CNN is getting less credible by the minute. If you're going to post a poll that you expect people to take seriously, at least give us some details as how you conducted it – who was polled – how you arrived at your sample – and how many people made up your sample. 12 year old kids with online blogs post their unreferenced thoughts online – credible news organizations don't. So, which is CNN?

    October 23, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  11. nauj

    1% : 1 million votes!

    October 23, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  12. carla

    It was clear that Obama, even after four failed years as president... still isn't up for the job... while Romney knew more than Obama and called out Obama's lies over and over. The American people deserve better than Obama no vision man

    October 23, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  13. kirui

    obama did excellent job in the debate.Mitt should know that lies kills.

    October 23, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  14. 777CJ

    Romney/Ryan 2012!!!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  15. Paul

    Romney finally showed he has no substance, no real plan, no...nothing. Obama all the way.

    October 23, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  16. Cindy

    I think instead of electing a single president we should elect co-presidents,,,one Republican and one Democrat. Then maybe they will learn to work together for the sake of the country!!

    October 23, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  17. Rosa

    Obama won big! I'm voting Obama!

    October 23, 2012 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  18. Tofreethink

    To the simpletons who repeat "Romney is a liar" and "We don't know Romney's stance," know this: A true moderate, realist, and results-focused leader realizes that the answer IS often 'it depends.' A centrist will indeed side with the other side sometimes. Romney has just the type of mindset the USA needs right now.

    Signed,

    Someone who voted for Obama in 2008, but will not make the same mistake again.

    October 23, 2012 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  19. Jose

    Fox Insider scored it 62% to 38% for Obama.

    It was just obvious that foreign policy is where the President lives, and Business World is where the contender lives. Sure he can remember some talking points, but it felt like a high school senior giving a book report on the Middle East, not a man who has sent men into harms way, weighing the odds of every decision and the American blood it could spill.

    As a neutral American who loves our men/women in the military (as well as law enforcement) I was very proud of our President tonight.

    October 23, 2012 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  20. JL

    Here's what the few people who weren't watching MNF or game 7 of the NLCS thought of the debate. "Not sure who won, but both certainly know more about foreign affairs than me."

    October 23, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  21. steve

    Romney's poll numbers go up... Obama's will continue to go down... just like last debate that libs insist he won. Too bad he was preaching (or screeching) to his base... not the heartland which is made up of battle ground debate.

    October 23, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  22. slotrak

    Mitt Romney's foreign policy: I'm gonna to do everything the President's been doing, but I'm also gonna to call China names.

    October 23, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  23. kita

    Obama no question he dont dance around any questions!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  24. Romney Flip/Flop

    Obama WON!!! Romney flip flopped and contradicted his own positions in every other sentence! He doesn't think Obama's stratagem is correct when it comes to changing Iran's nuclear ambitions, but he is also FOR strong sanctions, the kind the president has been putting into place for the last 4 years. He wants to get tough on China, but accuses the president of being protectionist when it comes to free trade. He wants better education, but doesn't want to invest in scientific research. He thinks there needs to be a 'red line' for Iran, but won't say how he will enforce such an action.

    You can't trust Romney from one day to the next to keep a fixed position. The guy says what he thinks people want to hear, and leaves his credibility at the door.

    October 23, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  25. Nelson

    In the3rd Presidential debate we see why Romney should not be the Commander-in-chief and the one to manage our taxes and budget deficit. Romney forked-tongue double speak, and tax and deficit maths that do not add up, are unacceptable to us.

    October 23, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
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