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. Soundbug

    Sad, that by some of the comments posted here that some people will never change their indoctrinated party affiliation no matter how obvious the right path should be. Maybe these people are trolls paid to sway the vote. It wouldn't surprise me.

    October 23, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  2. Skip Barbour

    WHY does Mr Obama not refer to anything about GOD' ??

    October 23, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  3. Jim

    Marines still use bayonets. The 1980s are calling? Obama was more interested in cute zingers than a serious discussion.

    October 23, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Joe Jo

    How can we trust someone who keeps changing their policy, constantly shifting from the right to the center and even the left? Which Romney will step into the White House? Can we trust someone who doesn't have a clear position on the issues? It occurred to me that Romney will say and do anything to be President. In this office, we need people of substance who have a deep understanding of the global political issues. Romney didn't even know where Syria was in relationship with Iran calling Syria 'Iran's route the sea'. Imagine how folks in the middle east would have reacted to a U.S. presidential candidate who can't even get his geography facts straight!

    October 23, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  5. Stephen

    One thing is for certain neither of the last two debates were near as convincing as the first debate. So you might as well settle for President Romney. I know it stinks you are going to have to quit going to the grocery store witjh your EBT card in hand with your pajamas on and with rollers in you hair. I know it stinks you're going to have to get rid of your Obama phone but when you get a job you can afford your own and then tax payers can quit supplying your day to day needs.

    October 23, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  6. John

    Romney was weak and confused last night. He folded like a cheap suitcase. What took you so long Mitt. Obama was the commander and chief....

    October 23, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  7. Fred

    Amazing reading some of these posts calling Romney the liar when the fact checks show Obama lied several times during this debate. He was wrong on the Car Industry, wrong on the troops in Iraq and the most important thing is he is wrong on the economy. The only real FACTS are the economy is terrible, jobs are scarce, companies are not investing because of this president. When did it become a crime to be successful like Romney has done. He has run a business, he ran the Olympics and he did those SUCCESSFULLY. Obama promised to cut the deficit in half from 10 trillion to 5 trillion and it has gone up 5 trillion. That is a 10 Trillion difference. Obama criticizes Romneys plan and Obama's plan is the same one that created 5 trillion in new debt and that does not even include health care. As far as foreign policy, what would any candidate do differently? No one wants to go have another war so the only thing we can really do is try to peacefully have sanctions against countries like Iraq. Bottom line is no net new jobs, 5 trillion in new debt, no new ideas, more on food stamps, 47% of country receiving government assistance. Eventually, we will run out of everyone elses money and then what? Give Mitt a chance, he has been successful before. Obama had his chance and we are worse off by all measures after four years.

    October 23, 2012 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  8. Zip

    Obama might win a debate here and there but he's already lost the presidency. He's a disgusting failure.

    October 23, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  9. Tatyana

    If a man who brought Arab Spring, helped Мuslіm Brotherhood to grab power, dropped an image of America in the world to the point that arabs feel free to kіll our diplomats and their country still exists, wins the debates on foreign policy – something is wrong with us

    October 23, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  10. Charles Tapp Ottawa Canada

    Same old Romney rhetoric "I am gonna do this, I am gonna do that" , but always leaving unsaid "HOW"..

    To me ,with his style, he is still that startled deer in the headlights ....and exudes no confidence in what he is saying. I think he would be a disaster in the White House. Stay the course everyone -re-elect the best man OBAMA

    October 23, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  11. 111Dave111

    Mitt Romney Foreign Policy Team: 17 of 24 Advisors Are Bush Neocons.
    * John Bolton, who served as President George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, embodies the reckless neoconservative thinking that was largely responsible for getting us into Iraq under false pretenses.
    * Cofer Black was one of the most brutal figures in CIA history, heading the agency’s Counterterrorism Center at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and perhaps the most vocal advocate for extraordinary renditions and torture.
    * Michael Hayden you will remember was at the helm of the National Security Agency during the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping.
    * Dan Senor, one of the most right-wing pundits on Romney’s list, is a regular contributor to Fox News and was the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority and managed to paint one of the rosiest pictures of a post-Saddam Iraq that in reality was rapidly descending into chaos.
    * John Lehman, Former Reagan Secretary of the Navy, may be the principal neoconservative behind Mitt Romney’s belief that the greatest strategic threat to the United States at the present time is Russia.
    * Robert Kagan, is also a leading neoconservative.
    * Romney also has called former VP Cheney a "person of wisdom and judgment."
    - The idea of Bush-Cheney officials serving in a Romney administration should be a scary prospect for all Americans.

    October 23, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  12. gb

    Do you ever report without slanting left?

    October 23, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  13. riazzo

    Obama wins? yea he wins alright, On manipulating lies!
    Fact Check! Obama was DEAD WRONG on Mits past record on each and every count. And all that deny he lied and he was wrong are living in denial that their King is a manipulating Liar. Good Day!

    October 23, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  14. ClearSolve

    It looks like Mr. Romney endorsed Obama for the next President. Romney agreed with everything that Obama did and will do in the future, only excepttions are that, Rmoney will repeat Bush policy that created this economic mass. Romney would give us tax break by borrowing money from China, will go to war to sacrifice American lives and borrow more money to finance the war just like Bush did. As an independent my choice is clear now.

    October 23, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  15. Tom

    LOL – "Obama pulls Commander in Chief card" and wins because of "zingers"? Really? Making a joke is what you think the leader of the Greatest Nation on Earth should do? That is how a President demonstrates to the world our American Exceptionalism? The man is a clown and needs to be removed from office before his ill fated policies cannot be recovered from in our lifetimes.

    October 23, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  16. MaryJ

    Obama babbled better, but basically said nothing to demonstrate his foreign policy actions are appropriate or working. Go Romney! He will be an excellent president and help bring this country together. Let's stop talking about the middle class and talking about all americans. That is the only way this great country can move ahead.

    October 23, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  17. SMKO

    Welcome back Mr. Obama you are truly the commander in chief

    October 23, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  18. Malinois

    @Marine..... You didn't hear our Commander in Chief. Let me translate..... He said with the improvement and moderation of warfare.... You probably can get by with one Bayonet.

    October 23, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  19. Dan Raghunandan

    Obama clearly won, but does it really matter? Most of us are too stupid to do any research on our own and believe the llies and half truths that are told in the political ads on TV by both parties. IMO the Republican Party do not care for the middle class in this country, and with Romney now stating that he cares for 100% of the people when ibehind closed doors its quite the opposite. With regards to the Democrats, Obama has done some great things for America, but he has also made some mistakes. As an independent, I voted for Obama in 2008 because of the promise of a better future for my children, but after 4 years of not being able to work with Congress to get anything done, I am very disappointed. It is not Obama's fault entirely, especially when the Republican leadership in Congress stated that their main goal is to make Obama a one term President. But Obama should have been able to do a lot more to help the middle class and because he was not successful in accomplishing this, he will not be re-elected.

    October 23, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  20. baaron

    Romney was calm, cool, and collected; while Obama was scared. And he should be because in 2 weeks he will be fired!
    Finally, we will build a stronger America, with good financial standings w/ all countries because right now we are week. We owe everybody and their brother and that does not look good for America. Mitt Romney knows how to get the economy going again which will make us strong and secure!

    October 23, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  21. faithamerica

    What we all forget in foreign policy is that the United States tried not to engage during World War II, remember what happened, the United States got dragged into the war not on US terms, but as a reaction. Whether we like it or not, the US is too big to be ignored. Either the US engages on its terms or the US will get dragged in flat footed.

    October 23, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  22. A Good Listener

    Romney doesn't sound like a conservative republican at all when he speaks. He endorsed the president's policies and offered nothing new to change the economy.
    He also sound like he was running for president of the earth with all his plans to control other countries governements. it was ridiculous and no real conservative should even consider voting for him after listening to the confusion and large amounts of money he wants to spend for power here and abroad. No real conservative would be for that. I don't know who these people that are voting for Romney think they are fooling. We live in a transparent world, everyone heres what Romney says, he is not trustworthy.

    October 23, 2012 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  23. Sebastian2

    If you missed any of Obama's answers during the debate?
    Don't worry. Romney just paraphrased them and used them as his answers, too.

    October 23, 2012 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  24. Albert Friday

    Obama has learned nothing in the last 4 years. We need credibility in the Whitehouse again.

    October 23, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  25. Steve

    So the other half thought Romney won? Awesome headline. Who writes this crap? No matter whom you thought "Won" the debates, the facts are clear. Obama has run our country into the ground with his hidden Communist and Socialist agenda. Don't be fooled again America. This time, Don't think your are cool and hip voting for the first multiracial president. Use your brain. Use the facts. Vote for a true American who will get our country back on its feet and back on top. Evening the playing field by weakening our military presence and slowly destroying our economy is not the American way Mr. Obama. We don't care for your "Change". Things were werent great, but sure were better before NObama. Everyone get out and VOTE!!!! Vote for a true American. VOTE ROMNEY for president.

    October 23, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
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