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. Sarah

    We need the next 4 years to recover from the economic mess Bush dug for us. We can't blame Obama for people who took out 2nd mortgages, paid inflated prices for homes, or decided to get the biggest house on the block. That was a problem of poor regulation going back years. Bush got us into wars looking for WMD that did not exist, which we are all paying for.
    Obama is finally digging us out of this mess. We will have the 12 million new jobs in this economy with this growth cycle regardless of who is president.
    With Romney we will have a nation of 3% haves and 97% have nots....middle class will cease to exist. But as Romney said tonight "Medicaid will be there for the poor"....not for everybody, it is a welfare program.
    Vote OBAMA. or be poor.

    October 23, 2012 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  2. Ron Campbell

    I thought Romney nailed Obama on the 'apology tour' argument by citing specific instances in Obama's Cairo speech where the president said that in the past America has tried to 'dictate' to other nations. If that is not an apology, I don't know what is. On the other hand, it's historical fact, and Romney's major foreign policy speech, delivered at VMI a few days ago, seems to indicate that as president, he would follow that same 'dictatorial' policy: 'shaping' Middle East politics, governance and society, for example, and making U.S. foreign aid contingent on following U.S. dictates. In fact, if the U.S. tries that tactic, China and others will step into the 'aid' breach Romney creates and that will not go well for the United States.

    October 23, 2012 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  3. Anonymous

    It's a shame that CNn is leaning for the right wing, and losing the credibility of many people.

    October 23, 2012 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  4. Ram

    I lost respect on CNN today. How can they say no clear winner and it is to close to call when their own poling says that Obama clearly won the debate by 8 points. While debate is happening they can clearly see yellow and green lines mostly in the upswing for Obama and always down swing for Romney. They don't even want to ask to the focus group who won the debate and how many people choose to vote for whom. I think it is beer to watch fox than CNN going forward at least we know upfront we are going to get biased news. CNN is right learning nowadays acting as moderate

    October 23, 2012 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  5. Robin

    Obama won!

    October 23, 2012 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  6. Josh

    Romney was a talking robot....he reiterate his ridiculous magical economic plan that will just make jobs cause he says it will...and in foreign policy he basically agreed with everything Obama has done except if he was elected our enemies will really really really think he means business and they would magically be more afraid or cooperative. Not on original idea or recognition of the subtlety of foreign policy. How is it possible in this day of video and YouTube can this man change and lie and the public does not say 'what are you kidding'

    October 23, 2012 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  7. sally

    I don't think there is any doubt in my mind that Obama has the edge on foreign policy...and this is extremely important because lack of a proper understanding can lead to stupid wars, like Iraq. We need a president who can keep his head when weaker nations act up...someone who isn't trigger happy but who has the wisdom to pursue the best reaction. That man in this contest is Obama!!!

    October 23, 2012 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  8. Neuffy

    "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."
    Exactly! Obama only "won" on clever insults. He has no record he can run on and the American people know that.

    October 23, 2012 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  9. armyav8r

    CNN, ABC, NBC, NYT, NPR and Washington Post.....oh yes, the SAME people that predicted the Wisconsin Recall election would be a "ROUT" in favor of Liberals....then the Liberals proceeded to get their tails booted. Good PREDICTION guys. Yes, polls are highly valuable. Get real.

    October 23, 2012 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  10. Marine

    I guess the commander in chief is going to take my bayonet away.

    October 23, 2012 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  11. chuck

    Yeah- Barack won- and he won the second debate- but the damage was done by the first debate performance- let Romney get up off the matt- as a result it's a close race- and whomever wins Ohio wins the presidency. Seems silly- but it's true.

    October 23, 2012 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  12. getagrip

    you obama lovers are still blinded by 2008 this man has run this economy into the ground im not gonna pay upwards of 5 bucks for a gallon of gas obama hasnt come out with a plan at least romney has an idea which means if re-elected we could all be wonderin where were gonna work or live for that matter romney can mature when it comes to foreign polic obama wasnt a genius either and still isnt thats why libya happened its time for another change he had his and failed miserably were on the verge of an economic crisis equal to or worse than the great depression and that coming from business owners i think ill take door number 2 romney instead of obama

    October 23, 2012 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  13. MN

    You liberal Democrats....are you insane? ROMNEY WON THE DEBATE!! It was plain to see the most intelligent and presidental person was Romney...It was pitiful to see Obama talking and lying.....he will not be re-elected. He had four years of doing nothing, but destroying our country and doing his best to turn it into a Socialist country.

    October 23, 2012 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  14. Indyswimmer66

    "Slight edge?" Mr. Steinhauser must have been tuned-in to a different debate than the rest of us! The President "hit-it-out-of-the-park!"

    October 23, 2012 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  15. DolphT

    Obama won by TKO. Romney never landed a punch; Obama scored over and over again, making it clear that Romney is a flip-flopping, shape-shifting amateur in the arena of foreign policy.

    October 23, 2012 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  16. Chucky

    Agreed, funny. The CNN polls always seem to recalibrate to the 50/50 range, even though one candidate clearly outscores the other in other polls.

    We wouldn't have corporate entities skewing results to make things look like a dead-lock throughout the entire race in order to keep the American public tuned in and subject to advertising, would we?

    The race for the White House is like a sporting event. Keep everyone tuned to the tv for as long as possible so we can pull in ad revenue. Gross. Always about the bottom line, never about truly informing the people. Just like the government.

    In three debates, why don't we ever ask the question about corporate money involved in politics or get more in depth about the sundry Wall Street scandals the rob average Americans blind on a daily basis?

    October 23, 2012 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  17. corpsman

    Barring some crisis, Obama will win the pop. vote by 2-4 pts. and the electoral college by 10-20, just as predicted six months ago. All this hysterical poll-watching will have been a waste of time.

    October 23, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  18. maryhallen

    Toast!

    October 23, 2012 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  19. karina

    if the neo-cons here think calling us names like liberal democrats is an insult, think again. It's a badge I wear very proudly.. Progressive, liberal, compassionate, intelligent, capable of critical thought.
    As for comments blaming the POTUS about the price of gas, or for the state our economy is in today....you are all senile. How can you forget where 8 years of Bush policy left us? We were all in the crapper waiting to be flushed.

    October 23, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  20. L Shaw

    Obama spent the night TRYING to explain his failed administration. Romney hit him right where it hurts! Romney won the debate and he will win the election.

    October 23, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  21. karina

    if the neo-cons here think calling us names like liberal democrats is an insult, think again. It's a badge I wear very proudly.. Progressive, liberal, compassionate, intelligent, capable of critical thought.
    As for comments blaming the POTUS about the price of gas, or for the state our economy is in today....you are all senile. How can you forget where 8 years of Bush policy left us? We were all in the tank waiting to be flushed.

    October 23, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  22. ricke1849

    The poll is biased in the sampling and reporting. No votes were changed. This was a tie.

    October 23, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  23. Frank

    Keep patting yourselves on the back. You'll be that much more shocked on election day. Romney was presidetial. Obama ressembled a two bit thug who's official response to failure was more of the same, in addition to cheeky attacks not worthy of a POTUS.. He needed a big win and this wasn't it, LOL. Hey how do you address the most powerful muslim on earth? Mr. President. How do you address the future president of the USA? Mr. Romney. Sorry folks, your hero is done.. President Romney will do a great job when he is voted in and all the wishful thinking will not change that fact. Bill Mayer, CNN, ABC and CBS won't change that fact.. Mr. Obama, his hag of State and his pet hyena are about to say bye bye. La la la la, la la la la, hey hey hey goodbye Abu Hussein, La la la la, la la la la, hey hey hey goodbye Abu Hussein, Learn the lyrics. They're easy even for you lefties. If you're unable, then try this. Bye bye Obama bye bye. Bye bye Obama bye bye, LOL

    October 23, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  24. Richard

    This is one of the most unadulterated pieces of crappy spin reporting I've seen this season. American media is cowardly or stupid or both. To call this debate, in effect, a draw flies in the face of every post debate poll and opinion except Sarah Palin's. I am sooooo glad I don't have to live in the US and can at least watch actual reporting on the BBC and al Jazeera. The US media are in a sorry state and filled with liteweights. You should be ashamed.

    October 23, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  25. Clarity

    If you're judging by arrogance, obnoxiousness, condescension, naivete, rudeness, zingers, and the like - then, yes, Obama won. But if you're judging by wisdom, experience, insight, Presidential demeanor, poise, intelligence, and other such qualities - then, clearly, Romney won.

    October 23, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
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