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. Dan

    The top priorities for me are economic recovery/jobs, getting out of debt, our liberties and our military.

    1. Obama added to the deficit. He did not have to. He could have taken us out of further debt. This means that he does not know how to "balance a budget." Romney has a history of saving corporations and balancing budgets. This fiscal responsibility should be top shelf on peoples minds.
    Companies have already gone on record saying if Obama is re-elected get ready for a change in workforce. If his policies were friendly on our home front why would CEO's say this.

    2. In addition to the Patriot act, Obama signed into office a law that lets any citizen be considered a terrorist and you can disappear overnight without fair trial, your family knowing and be detained indefinitely. I thought that was very much like Bush's policies.

    3. We are losing an economic edge to China. We do need to ensure that at least we stay on top militarily. With that said, we spend a ridiculous amount to stay ahead. I know personally that military people blow up there trucks when they need an oil change. That is ridiculous. It's as if they don't spend the budget they get they won't get the same next year. Military needs to be responsible, but at the same time what gets cut if anything needs to be really acknowledged and analyzed not just signed off on some piece of paper.

    I really liked Ron Paul, but since he is no longer a choice, I have to vote for who can balance a budget and who has that history, not someone who said they could do this in 3 years and had to have Clinton come out and vouch for him so Hillary can run in 2016 again. Read between party lines people and look at who can help us at home first. Put the breathing mask on yourself first before other countries.

    October 23, 2012 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  2. Anonymous

    Nearly half? So that would mean more than half thought Romney won....

    October 23, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  3. larry Matthews

    President Obama was the clear winner last night, as he was the winner in the last election, if there was a tie in any of the dedates it was in the first debate in which Obama was too polite to Gov. Romney.

    Romney's lack of understanding of how our military runs was clear last night; when Obama had to remind him that we can cut the number of ships in the Navy because we have so many Aircraft carriers, this made Romney look uninformed, also Romney showed very poor knowledge with foreign policy— this makes me nervous about is ability to lead this country.

    Romney's economic plan is a deaster waiting to happen—Romney is good in the private sector as a businessman, where winners take all, but when it comes to running the country and the president will have to find fair, and balanced solutions for all American, Romnay's Economic plan will fail the American people and our country.
    Throughout this debate what was clearly obvious about Romney's character is that yes he is a fighter, and he fights for what he believes in, but Romney does a very poor job at listening, and working with people, its his way or the highway, as was noted in the debates— no one talks about his in any of the polls—
    I don't see how Romney will ever get anything done in Congress as President, or in working with China, and our Allies.
    Obama is the clear winner, and the best canadate for President in this election.

    October 23, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  4. papajon0s1

    Really? So debates are no longer won on merit and ideas backed up with valid reason but rather won on who "burns" who most? Or who has the best "zingers"? Wow, what does that say about Americans these days. How sad.

    October 23, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  5. ruth

    People in this country better not have :selective memory" when it comes to his first year "apology tour" it was like watching Michael Jackson bending over farther and farther when meeting world leaders....with meeting each leader he bent farther over.when he said Americans are arrogant I took offense to that ,he made the United States of America look weak,to me this is not showing leadership to the greatest nation in the world.If Obama wants to say he is arrogant ...HE IS...he thinks he above the ordinary American ...remember .HE IS THE TROJAN HORSE with that smile,after the first year I did not trust himand I still do not ...he is laughing at us and will take us to a socialist society...I have watched the movie "Dreams from my REAL Father"..you will not vote for HIM,you will not feel sorry for HIM.you will not cry for HIM ....you will cry for AMERICA as I did......

    October 23, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  6. Rob

    Obama was aggressive, rude and obnoxious. He was unconvincing and has an awful record to run on. People will judge him in 15 days. And if he were to be re elected for another FOUR MORE YEARS...then God help the economy of the USA.

    October 23, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  7. shiststone

    So, if the debate audience were "slightly more democratic" than "slightly more Rupublican" it would have been 70% in favor of Obama and 30% Romney. I do believe the media is keeping the horse race alive to keep the advertisers happy.

    October 23, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  8. pumanoir

    As an independent, I felt sorry for Romney-trying to articulate his knowledge on foreign POLICY to no Avail. Hands-down PRESIDENT OBAMA WON and was able convey his ideas and knowledges on been commander in chief. All Romney did is Agreed with the president so much that It felt has if he was about to ENDORSE THE PRESIDENT. Extra, Extra-Romney is NOW A DEMOCRAT.

    October 23, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  9. tom

    Everyone is talking about the 'cheap shots' or that (according to Mittens) he was being attacked by President Obama. Doesn't any of these people remember how much Mittens attacked the president in the first debate? He was like a rabid dog...but the president did not cry that he was being unfairly attacked. It was a debate....and some of the flip flopping and lies that Romney was spewing called for a few "OMG' moments from Obama. Romney has absolutely changed his claims on most every issue from what he's been saying for the last 2yrs. Does he think just by saying the opposite it makes anyone believe what he's saying? He's pandering to the people to say ANYTHING to get elected..regardless of how he clearly feels about the subject. Just unbelievable.

    October 23, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  10. Chris33

    President Obama: Governor Romney has, "the Foreign policy of the 1980s, the social policy of the 1950s, and the economic policy of the 1920s..."

    Romney looked confused and incoherent at times last night, clearly out of his element. This, combined with the GOP's fascination with legislating morality and a return to the free-wheelin' economic policies of the Bush era, is why I am voting for the President.

    October 23, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  11. Willie

    The GOP must really think Americans are naive and uneducated. If Romney was Pinocchio, he would have taken the moderator eyeball out with all the untruths and flip flopping comments he made.

    I'm Republican whose faith in his party is diminishing. I'm prepared to give Obama the chance to Move Forward.

    October 23, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  12. Jean

    I thought Obama won but I still prefer Romney. Not sure why. It's close.

    October 23, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  13. Anonymous

    The fact that the President dismissed the Navy as being outdated is not a laughing matter to all of the great Sailors who have been sent home during his term for no reason with little warning. Talk about jobs, how many in the military have lost theirs after sacrificing 5-14 years of service to their Country.

    October 23, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  14. Rob

    I thought Romney was brilliant.. He refused to give Obama room to attack him. He stayed above the zingers and he showed us he was really the friend of Israel and Not Obama. Obama argued his points well, but the fact checkers are having a field day with Obama's comments this morning.. Obama did go out apologizing.. Obama did skip Israel and he did refuse to meet with Netanyahu. If his Intelligence couldnt forsee Libya, how can it tell us when Iran has a fully functional nuclear bomb? He misquoted Romney on the importance of Russia as well. Romney is the smarter man and I finally see the brilliance in his strategy.

    October 23, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  15. Anonymous

    90 minute debate or 4 year track record.... Obama take a hike.

    October 23, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  16. Name Sam . A

    Obama must win or else America prepair to go to war.

    October 23, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  17. Howard

    Obama came accross as smug, pompous, arrogant, and scarcastic ... Romney came accross as Presidential.

    October 23, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  18. LOLZ CNN!

    Obama could describe his own vision of American.He couldn't provide ANY solutions – just 4 more years of the same. The only thing he could do was attack Romney...stay classy B Hussein O!

    October 23, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  19. Lolita

    Obama won. I wish people could give him the respect he needs.

    October 23, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  20. poiju

    The link claims the poll states Obama wins debate, then goes on to show a margin of error that would statistically indicate a tie. Journalists should be required to take and UNDERSTAND two statistic classes.

    October 23, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  21. larry Matthews

    President Obama was the clear winner last night, as he was the winner in the last election, if there was a tie in any of the dedates it was in the first debate in which Obama was too polite to Gov. Romney.

    Romney's lack of understanding of how our military runs was clear last night; when Obama had to remind him that we can cut the number of ships in the Navy because we have so many Aircraft carriers, this made Romney look uninformed, also Romney showed very poor knowledge with foreign policy— this makes me nervous about is ability to lead this country.

    Romney's economic plan is a deaster waiting to happen—Romney is good in the private sector as a businessman, where winners take all, but when it comes to running the country and the president will have to find fair, and balanced solutions for all American, Romney's Economic plan will fail the American people and our country.
    Throughout the debates what was clearly obvious about Romney's character is that yes he is a fighter, and he fights for what he believes in, but Romney does a very poor job at listening, and working with people, its his way or the highway, as was noted in the debates— no one talks about his in any of the polls—
    I don't see how Romney will ever get anything done in Congress as President, or in working with China, and our Allies.
    Obama is the clear winner, and the best canadate for President in this election.

    October 23, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  22. Howard

    The numerous failed Obama green energy companies ... which squandered hundreds of millions of hard earned American tax payer dollars ... while making Obama's cronies / contributors rich ... purchased their solar panels from China, resulting in even more American jobs going over seas.

    October 23, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  23. Johnny

    Pay attention. Obama said, "...fewer horses and bayonets...", not none. It is amuzing how people will now try to paint Obama with being out of touch with the military.

    October 23, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  24. Ancient Texan

    Obama unveils his solution for every single problem the nation faces;......ATTACK ROMNEY!

    October 23, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  25. Anonymous

    Of course Obama had an edge in foreign policy knowledge (He has knowledge that only he and his inner circle has), but not diplomacy, vision, and record. Obama, the community organizer, had the same (actually far less) credentials as Romney did coming into the debates in 2008. As far as the winner of this debate, if we are looking at class, presidential presence, plan, and qualification then Romney won. If we are looking at arrogance, rudeness, and desperation then Obama won.

    October 23, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
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