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. pimpson

    It doesn't matter. This race is over. Obama is gonna get fired.

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  2. Wanderer

    Obama 2 – Romney 1.
    I can't deny it.

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  3. Eric Moran

    JimHolton: While I agree that ships are strategically vital, we have more ships in our navy than every other nation in the world combined, and no US military unit has done a bayonet charge since the Vietnam war. The only branch that is still issued them is the Marines and they mostly use for ceremony. The rest of the time they sit in a box with all the other bayonets, because war is done over hundreds of yards or miles these days, not trench to trench.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  4. Bob

    Lies won;t get this country anywhere....If you are picking your winner from the person that tells you what you want to hear just to get your vote, the Obama is your man......But remember he told you what you wanted to hear last time, and we are now in the worst shape ever home and abroad......He looked you in the eyes and lyed about Libya.....
    Four more years will break us and a lot of you won't have jobs next time around....Good Luck!

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  5. Mitt's Lies

    48-40 is a tail kicking, folks. This is not too close to call no matter the margin of error. CBS verified the results and showed Obama winning by a far greater margin. Why did Romney lose so badly? The answer is simple...he changed his positions...AGAIN...180 degrees from just a few days ago. Yes, Americans have short attention spans, but changing your views nonstop will eventually bite you in the posterior. Tonight it bit Mitt badly.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  6. Positive

    Too close to call? Come on CNN.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  7. VCMD

    CBS gets it 53-23 for Obama. Now who watches CBS? CNN says 48-40 for Obama and says more republicans watch debates but then if you believe Liberal propaganda, the republicans should all be watching Fox-News. In that case if democrats and independents watching CNN/CBS indicate by slight majority Obama to be the winner, at best it could be a tie if you factor in the republicans voters watching Fox News.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  8. kas

    Where are these polls?! I'm dying to give my opinion.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  9. howard

    How is 8 percent within a 4.5 percent margin of error

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  10. Ryan/Romney Kill Medicare Team 2012

    Romney's Etch A Sketchy Foreign Policy Debate was a epic failure. CBS debate polls 53% Obama-23% Romney.
    Obama/Biden – 3 debate wins
    Romney/Ryan – 1 debate wins

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  11. Kim

    Bob asked what if Israel called to say that the missiles were on the way (to Iran). Romney refused to answer this question because he simply didn't know how to answer it. This was a trainwreck from Romney. Obama exposed Romney as the king of flip flop and came home with the gold!

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  12. mohamed

    Mr.Obama was very good. He did good job

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  13. truegrit1

    ROMNEY endorses OBAMA's policy - I agree – I agree – I agree -

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  14. Suzette

    I admire and respect my President. Obama/Biden 2012! Romney/Ryan, better luck next time.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  15. Tony

    Romney was less effective than an empty seat. He displayed his total lack of foreign policy knowledge, and at times, totally embarrassed himself with some of his outdated, limited world-views. Definitely not-yet-ready-for prime time.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  16. joe

    Obama won Mittens haas no clue. And Mitt did want detroit to go bank rupt knowing full well no private company would bail them out as he keeps saying thats what he ment. The man is a lier plane andd simple. The president clearly showed romney has no idea what is involved with foreign policy. Forward Polls all reflect President Obama as the winner because he make the most sense when it comes to foreign policy.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  17. octiny

    Romney got KO'D. Bye bye flip-flopper ;)..

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  18. Keep This In Mind

    I think Romney actually won. Obama came across, though not as bad this time around, somewhat was he did in the first debate ~ a little angry and petulant. Romney definitely won on the economy ~ I think that's the thing which matters to American voters the most.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  19. Nameav

    Mitt won the debate

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  20. Harry

    Romney is just a rude,flipflop,liar,greedy.Gone from this election,can focus back to his profiting,outsourcing business.Only chance to make his dream comes true for 2016 race will be choice of Sarah Palin as his vp and see if can beat Hilary Clinton in 2016.Romney the looser from tonight debate and from 2012 election race.

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  21. Shawn H

    Romney 5.0 had his battleship sunk.

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  22. Hort

    Romney...... blah, blah, blah. Out of his mouth ......blah, blah,blah. He says the same old thing. Over and over an over. Maybe he is trying to hypnotize us?

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  23. romney

    Truth Hurts please provide source to apology tour, thx in advance

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  24. Mafruha

    Last year I voted for Obama but this year I am not voting for him..
    I found President Obama is Is rude and got an ego of being president of USA.

    I liked him but he needs to handle debate an elegant ways

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  25. april

    Romney looked exceptionally presidential to me. He has convinced me in all 3 debates that hes the better canidate for the job. Obama seems to think the government makes jobs, instead of the gov't only really having the ability to make the climate for jobs. We are headed for serious future problems in our country if we dont get this budget under control. Those that are on welfare might just end up with an IOU. Like Californias gov't employees. If we dont get a handle on this $16,000,000,000,000.00 deficiet.

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
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