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. Dave From Philly

    Don't know why many of you even watch the debates because clearly by your posts you already decided who you were going to vote for. Then to post about who won and why you think they won. Not many objective people on any of these blogs.

    October 23, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  2. FLIndependent

    The poll should have been 80/20 Obama. How anyone can't see that this President showed that he IS our Commander in Chief last night and had complete control of the debate is beyond me. The Romney supporters are just whining because they know Romney lost and lost badly and they can't accept that we have a very competent, strong, steady, forward thinking President. President Obama is the right man for the times and he will continue to move our country on the right path to make us competitve again and a leader on the world stage. The President showed that Mitt can't be trusted and will say anything even agreeing with Obama on most things.

    October 23, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  3. auggie

    Obama won?? The ecomomy sucks and the mid east is on fire! How dumb are we if Obama gets re elected.

    October 23, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. marjee123

    You know Watson you say the economy lost you are correct and it is pointed directly to the republicans who for the two years they have held the House they have done absolutely nothing that the President and the Democrats have proposed to get the economy moving, especially the jobs bills. And for the previous two years the republicans in the senate did the same darn thing they blocked, the obstructed with their 60 vote cloture needed, remember liberman voted with the republicans and the Democrats didn't have 60 votes to bring a bill to the floor and if they did then the republicans fibustered it. THE REPUBLICANS AND THE REPUBLICANS ARE THE REASON THE ECONOMY HAS NOT MOVED FORWARD FASTER THAN IT HAS. But it is not going to do them any good to make the country suffer because they want to bring down the President he is going to win this election and most of you will loose YOUR office.

    October 23, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. allison2

    Obama was condescending, rude, arrogant and unpresidential. It was clear that his "zingers" were exhaustingly rehearsed and he was so impressed with himself when he scored one.
    We are not stupid Mr. President. This did not impress us. I was offended by how low you went. You seemed desperate to me. How dare you talk to a man with such success in business, politics and life as though he was a child? He is on a whole other plane than you when it comes to his charitable giving. All you accomplished before coming president was that you wrote a couple of books about how great you are and made millions from them.
    The way you treated him was ridiculous and we saw right through it.
    Clearly, Obama knows more about foreign policy. HE'd better!!!!!! He is briefed everyday by experts and is privy to the most top secret information of ANYONE in this world. He can call any world leader at any time, anywhere he is, yet the world is in chaos. Mitt has sound ideas, was astute and thoughtful in his responses. He's a brilliant guy and compassionate man. He will be a great president and he proved it last night.

    October 23, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  6. Diane

    I watched the entire debate and of course CNN and the rest of the left winged media says Obama won. Not true.
    Obama was so uptight last night because he couldn't answer the questions all he could do is throw some zingers at Romney. Romney was very confident and sounded great. Can the democrats just vote for a person that may help this country? It is so dissapointing to know that they will only vote their party line. Shame on you people. I don't believe that a debate is what decides a persons vote but it last night I saw who really wants to help this country and it's not Obama!

    October 23, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  7. Name

    Romney sent. Every to his web sight OK the man is a liar wake up crazy people

    October 23, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  8. Diogenes2012

    President Obama has proven himself to be totally unprepared, inept and incapable of leadership. He should have had the courage and integrity to resign when he realized he was in way over his head.

    Neither candidate really broached the vital core issues of our failing education system and the continuing deterioration of the family; which are the genesis of virtually all of our other problems., The reason college graduates cannot get jobs is not the lack of jobs but the lack of skills. Families and students are being ruthlessly bilked; especially by the unscrupulous for-profit colleges who literally destroy lives by offering worthless degrees while wasting hundreds of billions in government funding and creating insurmountable debt for their hapless prey. We should close at least half the colleges in this country and apply the dollars saved to much needed productive goods and services. Sadly, when you close the college you also close the town; so such a logical and straightforward solution is anathema to people and politicians. The inability and unwillingness to fastidiously plan and gradually implement such obvious changes will lead to further erosion of our quality of life. How many unnecessary, non-functioning and redundant colleges, military bases, post offices and other government facilities must we suppport while basic family needs are being unmet and ignored?

    October 23, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  9. Polli

    Words that stick in my head ,"we have them at a point we have wanted to have them for years.." or to that effect. WHAT? AM I MISSING SOMETHING??? OBAMA DOESN'T HAVE ANYONE ANYWHERE....HIS DEBATE LAST NIGHT SHOWS YOU HOW DISRESPECTFUL HE IS AND THE SULLEN LOOKS GAVE AWAY EVERYTHING.BUT HE DOESN'T HAVE ANYONE ANYWHERE EXCEPT THE USA...AT THE LOWEST PPOINT EVER IN OUR ENTIRE HSITORY. BEWARE...HE PLAYS A GOOD RECORDING BUT HE CAN'T UPHOLD WHAT HE SAYS. We all lnow that cutting 1 trillion from the military has weakened the USA. It is more like he was describing where he has the USA...ready to dismantle the usa so he can install his obamaland laws. Don't be fooled.

    October 23, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  10. ScottS

    Glad that Romney was finally called on the carpet for all of his policy flip-flops during the election. Romney might "look" like a commander in chief, but Obama was clearly the winner, as he's actually been the president and done a reasonably good job given the absolute mess he inherited in 2009. Why on earth should we risk a change back to the Republicans?

    October 23, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  11. H. L. Mencken

    Fox News is rapidly becoming my favorite sitcom on TV. Right after the debate, the designated airheads jumped on the "fewer horses and bayonets" line from Obama and righteously declared that the US Marines still affix bayonets to their rifles,,..which can only mean that our president hates the corps, and by extension probably the entire military What a joke. From Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings to THIS. MSNBC iis just as slanted, but FOX News is really pushing the envelope of stupidity.

    October 23, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  12. Paul R.

    Al Qaeda is NOT a "geopolitical threat." They are a fluid terrorist organization with no fixed base of operations. Additionally, both the Joint Chiefs and the State Department has said that Al Qaeda has effectively been gutted with little chance of regrouping to any meaningful level and have not carried out a planned organizational attack in two years. So who IS our greatest GEOpolitical enemy?

    October 23, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. Deb

    Willtherealleaderstandup: It just means 12% were undecided. The polls of pro/con seldom add up to 100%

    October 23, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  14. Loridoke

    It doesn't matter who thinks who won. the FACT is that Romney came off presidential and all Obama's accusing him of lying was fact-checked to not be lies. Obama acted like a truant school boy. His zingers were small-minded and beneath the office of President of the United States. that one about the military and not using bayonets or horses anymore...Marines still use Bayonets and Our soldiers used horses in the first raid on Afghanistan...the just efected a statue of our modern soldier on horseback at Ground Zero. special forces unit rode into the back country of Afghanistan.. Obama is an empty chair president. He doesn't know half of what he should and blames everyone for what he doesn't know. Lord help us if he gets r-elected. Romney/?Ryan get my vote in stead of Obama/Howdy Doodty ticket.

    October 23, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  15. yep

    At Guy. "Our country is worse off now than it was 4 years ago." Are you kidding? 5 months prior to President Obama taking office we were losing 500,000 jobs a month on average and where was the dow? Now we have had 33 straight months of job growth and the dow has doubled. You really have a short memory or is it that he is just black?

    October 23, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. ali

    wiltther – first you don't add the margin of error to get to 100%. The difference if those people who either didn't answer, didn't have an opinion or thought they tied.

    October 23, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. allison2

    Obama was condescending, rude, arrogant and unpresidential. It was clear that his "zingers" were exhaustingly rehearsed and he was so impressed with himself when he scored one.
    We are not stupid Mr. President. This did not impress us. I was offended by how low you went. You seemed desperate to me. How dare you talk to a man with such success in business, politics and life as though he was a child? He is on a whole other plane than you when it comes to his charitable giving. All you accomplished before coming president was that you wrote a couple of books about how great you are and made millions from them.
    The way you treated him was ridiculous and we saw right through it.
    Clearly, Obama knows more about foreign policy. HE'd better!!!!!! He is briefed everyday by experts and is privy to the most top secret information of ANYONE in this world. He can call any world leader at any time, anywhere he is, yet the world is in chaos. Mitt has sound ideas, was astute and thoughtful in his responses. He's a brilliant and compassionate man. He will be a great president and he proved it last night.

    October 23, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. Obama Won the Debate!

    A Hearty Congratulations to President Obama for WINNING the debate hands down last night! He acted very presidential compared to Romney who continued to whine and change his positions, all in line with what he has been doing all along since the campaign began. By contrast, President Obama presented the facts as they stand and adhered to what he is going to do during the next four years for this country. He certainly deserves a Second Term In Office to finish the job! If "W" Bush could get two terms without being nearly half as good a president as Obama is, Obama certainly deserves the support of the country to see that the Middle Class, the Poor, Women, the Elderly, Minorities, and many others, whom Romney would simply forget about once in office, get the benefits they so rightfully deserve and have worked so hard to obtain all of their life! No brag, just Fact! OBAMA/BIDEN 2012!!

    October 23, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  19. Mom of U Mass Student

    I am a MA resident and I would like to clarify exactly what Romney is talking about when he boasts about free tuition to MA universities as it is very deceptive. My son received a full tuition Waiver to U Mass Amherst which consisted of exactly $857.00 per semester as long as he maintains a 3.0 average. The remaining $6,555.00 fees and $4,860.50 room and board per semester are not waived. A student receiving free tuition will still have to pay $11,451.50 in fees per semester under the Romney free tuition plan.
    Unfortunately when Romney boasts about not raising taxes when he was governor he fails to mention FEES that were mostly tripled.

    October 23, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  20. mntest347

    @John –

    "That more than makes up for the Dow dropping 200 points because the economy is stalling, right?"

    The Dow is about over 6,000 points since Bush.

    October 23, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  21. hope

    Doesn't anyone realize that Romney/Ryan want to repeal Affordable Healthcare and if you or anyone you care about is on Medicare they will be hurt NOW. This change will affect those on Medicare now. Next year we will get help in the donut hole and other medical benefits. If you were on a fixed income you would understand how important this is to the seniors. If Romney would stay on the same message for more than a week or two than maybe his word could be trusted.

    October 23, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. Polli

    Ok, as a person who has been on the short end of the stick many times let me say that Obama's policies don't work, and he has pilfered millions of dollars by throwing money in a ideological bucket, then pouring that bucket out on the ground...

    Obama does not have the sparkle Romney has, that one ingredient that makes the wealthy, wealthy. Get on the skirts of the leaders, not the man who wants to get money .

    October 23, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  23. Vic

    I am petrified for my granddaughter if Mitt Romney wins. She is six. I believe that voters that choose Romney are voting inside the 1950"s box. They close their ears and eyes to common sense. His knowledge of foreign policy was limited and memorized. He offends half the people in the U.S. and many people around the world. The phrase that has been used by his party that I think best describes what he and Paul Ryan think of anyone outside their net worth, We are not good enough to be the dirt under their fingernails.

    October 23, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. Randy

    Yes, Obama won! However, for a sitting president to pull an 8 point win in a foreign policy debate is pretty bad. Obama had a major advantage going into this debate, daily security briefings, over 3 1/2 years of on the job training, and Biden (well on paper any way). As for those who claim that Romney lacks foriegn policy experience, remember, Obama entered the Senate in early 2007 and started campaigning for the White House that fall. If you think he has done so great, you are also saying that experience is not very important.

    October 23, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  25. yep

    Romney is a wolf in 5000 dollar sheeps clothing. He doesn't relate to the common American in ANY way. If he gets elected God help us because he sure won't. Sure let's all go back to the Bush era and watch this country implode and more jobs be sent over seas. Romney will stream line our Government by sending Government jobs to China. He is a draft dodging tax evading rich guy who will destroy this country!

    October 23, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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