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. jlee

    This is for those of you that really believe in Romney, this man has done nothing but tell lies after lies after lies. He is saying whatever he needs to say to get into the 'White House'. It is obvious that he cares only for upper class people, he reveals that every time he opens his mouth. Anyone one with common sense knows that Obama is not responsible for the mess this country is in. That credit goes to 'Bush' not President Obama. Some of you would'nt know the truth if it smacked you in your face. President Obama is doing everything within his power to move this country in the right
    direction. He's done more in four years than 'Bush' has done in eight years. You might as well get on board, because President Obama will be re-elected. He's the best man for the job. And I support this message.

    October 23, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  2. BOB FROM BRIDGEPORT

    Cueless and i am not talking about Romney but you poor souls that follow this idiot off the cliff. It is serverely painful and unexplainable unless you factor in race how anyone with half a brain can this shape changing i~ll say anything to win Romney. Go figure.

    October 23, 2012 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  3. Anonymous

    Obama clearly won the debate. Whether or not that will be enough to convince more to vote for him is another story. Romney looked terrible. Sweaty, nervous. He did not have mastery of the subject matter. I am an independent voter and after careful consideration, avoiding party lines and Fox/MSNBC rants, think I've decided. Obama has done fairly well and will get my vote. Mr. Romney is a victim, in my mind, of his parties right wing.

    October 23, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  4. Benjamin

    The sample was 4% more Democratic. Obama lost the debate.

    October 23, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  5. Steve

    I love reading the comments regarding debates as it just show people reinforcing their own preconceptions. Folks regurgitate each sides talking points thinking they are somehow full of wisdom. It'ls really funny.

    October 23, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  6. clint

    How can anyone tout the economy ??... when the guberment is spending .40 cents on the dollar from borrowed funds???.... really ??... that is the dumbest thing I've heard ... at .40 cents on the dollar the economy better be zinging along!

    October 23, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  7. ohio voter

    Nicecatch
    I agree with you. I don't understand how this country can seriously consider
    a romney/ryan administration. They are backward thinkers and talk about us
    falling behind. All we have to do is elect these two with their blind thinking
    and we are toast. Education, social policies, and if they think they have a corner
    on fiscal responsibillities they are spinning one heck of a marketing scheme.
    Their numbers don't add up and neither do their policies. I am convinced after
    last night's grand slam from Obama that if we do elect romney it will say a lot
    about our nation–it will really let the rest of the world know how absolutely stupid
    we are. And after Bush we won't be making up ground again. We will be toast.

    October 23, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  8. ReasonableXX

    To think that 40% of people thought Romney won shows a ridiculous bias. Once again, Romney offered no detail or insight. He changed his positions from the campaign multiple times...again. When he did seem to have information on a topic he sided with the Obama administration and what they have already done. If people would take the time to actually compare what Romney has been saying in the last couple weeks to what he has been saying for the last year plus, it is comical. All the sudden he became some world peace loving hippy last night while at the same time advocating an increase in spending on the traditional military. You can't have it both ways. The world has evolved and some must our military and foreign policy. I realize all politicians bend the truth but Romney is flat out ignoring the truth and making 180 degree flip flops. Not just occasionally...constantly. He has zero integrity which is typical of a successful CEO. If elected Romney, might find some short term success early in his term but ulitmately he will lead us into the same failed conservative policies that do more long term damage than good. It has happened time and time again. The wealthy will come out on top either way...its the rest of us who will pay the price.

    October 23, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  9. Anonymous

    While I grant that the President had a stronger performance in rhetoric, I believe the two gentlemen were nearly even in overall performance. Governor Romney's debate strategy was obviously to avoid conflict (and thus a slip-up) in order to appeal to the largest group of American voters: the center-right. By appearing presidential and mildly aloof from the President's cheap attacks, Gov. Romney made up for his lack of foreign-policy experience.

    October 23, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  10. Cane89

    What did he win? As an undecided voter, I found the coy responses (i.e., horses and bayonets) troubling, given that Romney has been making these statements about the military for months. Is that the best our President has to offer in counter Romney's suggestion that the military is not for sale?

    October 23, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  11. obamaphone

    I will vote Obama because he gave me my free obamaphone. Now I can call all my homies and not have to worry about working at all! I get all these free gov't handouts for me and my 8 kids, thanks to Obama! Vote Obama! He's the best welfare prez EVA! Holla!

    October 23, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  12. Andrew

    If you're a Government manager or politician, or their Welfare Clientelle, the past 4 years have been great. Your Incomes are UP due to deficit spending / phoney dollars printing. BUT if you're a Middle Class taxpayer, your incomes are down under Obama. The average Mid-Class person with a Job in USA working for a private employer has suffered a $4,000 decline in income under Obama.

    The Only thing OBAMA grew is the Government and Govern. Dependents (the non-productive takers of society). Time to get new Leadership.

    October 23, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  13. Dorkus Maximus

    Since when did an eight point advantage become a "slight win"? If a candidate got an eight point win in the election it would be called a landslide.

    October 23, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  14. Jason

    Obama is better on foreign policy, better on the economy, better on social issues!
    He is better on the economy for simple fact that he will not blow the little money our economy generates on wars. Bush was also supposedly good on the economy as compared to Gore...but he blew all our money bombing Iraq and Afghanistan...now we are dirt poor and choking on the debt he created. Because of republicans we no longer have the economic clout to confront china's human rights abuses because we do not want to offend the lender who is keeping us afloat. Romney should not b allowed anywhere near the Oval office. If he approaches, security should immediately haul him away as threating to national security. After the decimation of our glorious and rich nation by Republicans under Bush....we cannot now derail from the path of building back its glory again. The last 4years we climbed back up from the bottom on the canyon...the climb is only half done. The next 4yrs shall continue our climb back to the mountain top. The mountain top of economic surplus bequeathed to us by a Democrat called president Clinton. This democrat, president Barack Husein Obama, is restoring our glory, climbing us back to the mountain top!

    The threat to national security known as Myth Romney will resume the 2008 slide that president Obama placed the brakes on. The greatest threat to national security is reckless republican wars that bankrupt the nation!

    October 23, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  15. 111Dave111

    Romney keeps switching Major positions and cannot be trusted.
    Romnesia & Mittzophrenia.

    October 23, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  16. 111Dave111

    Romney now agrees with everything President Obama has done, from GM to Afghanistan.

    Maybe tomorrow he'll announce he is going home to his 3 beach homes.
    La Jolla, California, on Pacific Ocean ($12 million).
    Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, on Lake Winnipesaukee ($6.8 million).
    Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada on Lake Huron (?).

    October 23, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  17. JoeUSA

    There you go again...

    October 23, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  18. GMJEDI

    It's funny, these polls. After the 2nd debate I tuned to see what CNN was saying and they had Wolf discussing how Romney won on most all subjects and then Wolf puts up the overall poll and it said Odumba won the debate. I think its obvious whats going on here, but thats how it goes when someone knows that they are losing.

    October 23, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  19. DRA

    What in the world are many of you thinking? There was no winner in last nights debate, just both candidates making empty promises. Obama has had 4 years to get things done and he has not done a good job, that's a fact, even though he had the Congress backing him much of the time. Wake up people, our country's economy is going down the tubes, our foriegn polcy is all messed up. I don't think this counrty can afford another 4 years of Obama's administration and policy. If Obama gets reelected, 4 years from now we will all be wondering what the hell were we thinking to give him another 4 years when he did not help our country during his first 4 years. Wake up people!

    October 23, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  20. Anonymous

    The world is laughing at us. We need a strong President. I was undecided at first, but now I think Romney/Ryan is the way to go to get back on track. We need to strengthen this country, not just keep talking about how strong we are. We AREN'T strong. Immigrants are taking over our country. When my family immigrated to the US, they had to learn English and were proud to do that. They also had to become citizens which they succeeded at doing. What's wrong with us? Obama is just not getting us there. We blame everything on Bush. Things started going downhill long before President Bush was in office. We have to stop looking at political parties and start working together. I think Romney has proven, in his State, that he can do this. Congress is walking all over Obama and he's allowing it. I wasn't crazy about the looks of Romney nor Ryan at the beginning of the campaigns. But I was going on looks! We cannot go on looks when we vote. We have to go on past records and their plan for our future. Romney/Ryan seem to have a plan. Obama seems to think he can sit back and do the same thing that hasn't worked for the past 4 years. Obama Care is going to be closing our hospitals. What will we do then??:!!

    October 23, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  21. TL

    Your coverage was terrible, really terrible. Your Iran analysis –missiles flying?? when they have yet to produce a nuclear weapon?! –was so flawed it would have been funny were Iran not such an important issue. I though I was watching Fox

    October 23, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  22. Heywood Jablowme

    "The President "hit-it-out-of-the-park!" "?? Really? When all he had were one liners and zingers. He didn't talk about his foreign policy at all because it's a total failure.

    October 23, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  23. pooh2

    Obama has won by showing rather convincingly that his actions (for better or worse) have a course. The problem with Romney is that, at least from my viewpoint, I still do not see/feel the necessary integrity in him. He is obviously opportunistic, which can be an OK thing in good times, but somewhat concerning otherwise.

    October 23, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  24. Brian Terrill

    Romney said a lot of smart things only smart people could understand, and Obama said a lot of stupid things only stupid people would think were smart.

    October 23, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  25. JoeUSA

    News flash to liberals: Nobody watched this debate!
    This war was won by Romney well before the 1st debate was even over.

    October 23, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
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