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. Dara

    MN, it is clear you are an uneducated citizen. It's scary to me that so many misinformed, uneducated, close minded people will be voting in this election.Romney won the debate? Did he win when he completely avoided every question he was asked? Did he win when he insulted half the nation? I feel sorry for you. You are so wrong.

    October 23, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  2. Bob Thomas

    Funny...Obama says the Romney's tax plan won't work, his jobs plan won't work and his debt plan won't reduce the debt.
    I think he was reading the wrong Teleprompter! This is his opinion and no one knows if it will work. What we do know, is that Obama's plan hasn't work.. Higher unemployment and now 16 trillion in debt!! Even the dumbest liberal can see that!
    If anyone of you 23 million vote for Obama, you deserve to be unemployed!!

    October 23, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  3. Amber

    All those who think Romney is the clear choice... I hope you are not in the middle class. If so Romney will be making things go sour. So either your rich and don’t give a hoot about the rest of the country or you just so un educated that you can’t read between the lines. For those who are so desperate to get Obama out of office you can’t see how Romney is going to make things way worse. It’s not about "blaming Bush" but you expect Obama to fix eight years of mess in four years, could more have been accomplished? Maybe but that doesn’t mean we are on the wrong track. Romney is Turing us right back around to where we started.

    October 23, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  4. Maya

    I was wondering from last night's debate that 'Are we really looking for a great president for United States or looking for a Police for the world?" Why should we worry or give importance to everything thats happening around the mid east? We have our own economic mess to clear here and we need to stop borrowing money from China. Romney reapeatedly asking Obama, why didn't you go this country or that country to fix the issue. First fix the issues that are inside, then worry about others. Stop acting as a world police!!! Clearly Obama is a good leader and Romney will be a good Police. You decide whom do you want!!

    October 23, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  5. LarryH

    I don't care who won the debate. I care about who people will vote for. Any sitting President who can't beat a challenger on foreign policy is an idiot ... and Obama certainly is not that. I was much more interested in seeing the reaction of the focus groups of allegedly undecided voters who (a majority) agreed that Obama won the debate on foreign policy but they felt that Romney is stronger on economic issues ... and that's what they think is the most important.

    October 23, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  6. Khaleeshi

    Willard looked weak and seemed to be reciting last night – as we have seen so far he would be a disaster on the world stage. He looked so foolish in the UK and Israel. Will Willard ever stop lying? If he could just take a stand on ANY issue and stick with it that would be a major accomplishment for him. How can anyone trust Willard when he takes a different stand on every issue every day?

    Obama/Biden 2012

    October 23, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  7. bckerr

    On last nights live polling of who won by a lot a little etc. It showed a huge margin of victory for Obama, I am not an Obama supporter but, let the chips fall where they may and call it like it is. Obama clearly cleaned Romney's clock and won that debate, the live polling by a 54% Obama margin clearly made that point. However, I have noticed that ALL media companies are calling the race and debates wrong in order to get the ratings and viewers to keep watching and glued in. You should all be fired and the news in the USA retooled for truth, not fake, made up polls to get viewer ratings. Sad state this country has become.

    October 23, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  8. GMJEDI

    "We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines." – REALLY?? Treating someone like a child is not presidential. ...and you people think he won? lol

    October 23, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  9. Leonard Edelen

    Anyone with any sense at all know President Obama won the debate. Now enough of this debate talk and let's see who wins the election!

    October 23, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  10. Obamanite

    It's funny how Republicans think it was alright for Romney to be agressive during the first debate but when Obama is a little agressive, he is "not Presidential" and being a "bully."

    October 23, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  11. Joy

    To me no matter who you are voting for Romney won the 1st one...I think Obama won the 2nd but was close with Romney and I think Obama won this last one.

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

    The problem with debates that deal with questions of fact is that the voters do not know the issues well enough to tell who is lying or obfuscating. Adolf Hitler won his people over with lies that sounded forceful and believable and Obama conducts himself in the same way.

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

    There was no contest. Mitt rumbled on and on without any factual idea of what is actually being done. Obama knows the facts and it is going to take to fix things.

    October 23, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  14. NJP - Hampton, GA

    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!!!

    It also seems as if Romney is very trigger happy and wants war, or he is trying to "force" President Obama to start another war so that the Republicans can say that he did not keep his word to end war. He is talking out both sides of his neck. President Obama won hands down!

    October 23, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  15. Jack

    Romney criticizes Obama for going on an “apology tour.” Interesting that at no time did Obama say the word “sorry,” which usually means you are apologizing. However Romney then tries to criticize Obama for not actually saying “terror” in a speech about the consulate attacks even when he actually did use the word “terror.” Yet this is all beside the overall point. Romney, keep bringing up subjects that distracts the issue from the economy. You’re plan adds up no better than Obamas. There are major flaws in both, in large part because of the mess the bush administration left this president with. Obamas plan focuses more on helping the MAJORITY of the American people. Not a small percentage that are already extremely well off. People will vote for the candidate that will fix the economy. The American people are smart enough not to change their vote because you try to make the President look like an American without any pride for his own country. They now see your flaws, and your flaws speak louder than the lies you are telling the very “people” you expect to trust you.

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

    How can you say that Obama won when his accusations were full of lies? Check the facts! He wrongly accused Romney MANY times, or misquoted facts MANY times. This was a hail mary debate for him, say what you want and hope nobody checks.

    October 23, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  17. CLIFF

    You crazy libs think Obama is going to win you dont know history he is Jimmy Carter on steroids. It was going to be a win by Carter but a close one and Reagan won by a land slide. It will be that way again just use common sense I dont know one voter who voted for McCain and said I screwed up Im voting for Obama. But I know many many people and see many many people that said I voted for Obama and I wont be fooled again. History repeats its self but I know history isnt big on you libs education agend just social issues.

    October 23, 2012 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  18. sunny

    Obama might have looked like he won the debate with his lying and attacking but Romney was spot on with the issues.
    Obama's facial looks were horrendous, showing such disdain and hatred for Romney and interrupting. What else has Obama have but to attack to overshadow his failures. What it comes down to is this: you want a marxist, socialist leader vote for Obama or a democratic, strong nation vote for Romney.

    October 23, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  19. Chris

    It doesn't matter who won this debate. The election is about the economy, nothing else. Romney clearly has the advantage. People on this site say that Bush caused the meltdown of 2007 but that is untrue, it is a false narrative. The economy was great for 7 years during the Bush years. GDP was high and the economy was creating 300k jobs a month. It was not until 2007 that everything exploded. That was not due to Bush policies, the mortgage meltdown started in the late 70's with the Carter admin and policies they passed. I'm not saying Repubs are innocent on this but Dems are the most to blame. Research on what caused the mortgage meltdown and you will see the dems are more to blame than the repubs.

    October 23, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  20. American786

    President Obama has taken Mitt to the cleaners. Mitt was lying, and was evasive. He had all his passion for war monger bibi of israel. If he is christan as he claims, remember what Jesus said" Blessed are the peace maker". God forbid if he is elected, then get ready for WW3.

    October 23, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  21. Vote 2012

    Mitt Romney is scary, he's schizophrenic, he's no Commander in Chief, the thought of that is very frightning. We don't need to experience another 9/11, that day the economy was stable, everyone went on about their daily routine, to work, students off to school, children off to daycare etc; and suddenly we were under a terroist attack. With President Obama as our President, this Nation will Move Forward with a strong economy, and we will be continue to be proctected from terroist attack on American soil. Ohio, don't let Mitt Romney fool you with his schizophrenic ways, he has a fork tongue and talks from both sides of his mouth, he's mentally unstable. I can't imagine him talking to world leaders and suddenly change his mind. He can't handle the 3 AM phone call now or later and don't forget he will continue to ship jobs oversees, including yours, he already made that clear.

    October 23, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  22. Debbie Garland

    We obviously were not watching the same channel. I did NOT see Obama win anything. I only saw he trying his best to walk around the subjects as usual and say a whole lot of NOTHING.

    October 23, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  23. Loco3165

    The results are in....Liberal Democrats have no understanding of reality. I can not believe somebody posted that CNN is right wing leaning, compared to who? Hugo Chavez....MSNBC? Romney made a strategic decision not to roll in the mud with Obama, he may have lost debate points but he won the war. Even the CNN analysts are smart enough to see that. I just wish you left wing liberals had half the brains you think you have! Romney will be the next President of the United States end of debate(s)!

    October 23, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  24. Kit Kat

    Don't forget most of the world was watching, and from Canada in my opinion President Obama won, Gov Romeny is a flip flopper. Who do you want to run your Country? and don't forget the newcomer VP pick if ever anything happened.
    Case closed!

    October 23, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  25. nofearman25

    You know we all hear the liberals complain about FOX News. The liberals have had a monopoly on news outlets for decades. Now it is about 5 to 1 , with Fox being the Only right leaning outlet. So it is Fox up against blatantly left leaning outlets like CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS or in many cases Left Wing nutbags (i.e. MSNBC) .. Thank God we have at least ONE news outlet that gives us news that the others will Bury when it is unfavorable to Obama, i.e. Libya,

    October 23, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
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