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. Mike L

    Considering Obama has access to security briefings and, supposedly, get updated at cabinet and other meetings, Romney did pretty well will 40% to Obama's 48%.
    Of course the poll didn't take into account the fact checkers who only after the debate vindicated many of Romney's statements that Obama attacked.
    This is another instance where "style" may have overruled "substance". Romney looked more presidential to me, compared with Obama's wisecracks, grins and interruptions. Maybe more pollsters like their presidents to be aggressive and derisive. I prefer my president to be calm and deliberate.

    October 23, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  2. Dosappointed

    Seeing these comments reinforces my belief in the value of the electoral college.

    October 23, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  3. Ancient Texan

    Romney laid out real solutions to real problems both here at home and also worldwide. Obama did what he has done for 18 months; misrepresent Romney's position on every point and then attack Romney on the dreamed up positions. Obama acted the part of a angry, arrogant bully.

    October 23, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  4. MIddle Class Swing State Voter

    I don't trust Romney. He's changes his position too much and has done this all his political life. Check the records. He pandered to the base to get elected and now he has totally abandoned them.... and they don't even realize it. Their only focus (from day one) is to get Obama out of office and they will vote AGAINST their own interests to do it.

    Let keep moving FORWARD America!

    October 23, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. Name

    I love Obama confidence

    October 23, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  6. mbluesky

    Interesting the way the Romney apologists are repeating Republican lies. The idea that Obama apologized for America in an apology tour has been rated "pants on fire" by Politifact, Michael. And Guy, the "promise" of 5.4 unemployment has been debunked as mostly false, as well. But Romney just keeps repeating lies and fools like you keep believing him, or at least repeating his lies for some unknown reason.

    October 23, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. Women Not Supported By Romney

    During last night's debate I did not hear Mitt Romney, even once, mention his support for women! Now isn't that something! That's Very Telling and speaks Volumes about his contempt for women in general. By contrast, President Obama mentioned his full support for women copious amount of times! Romney continues to Flip-Flop on his positions and actually SUPPORTED President Obama's policies many times! That can only show that the president is doing a Great Job that Romney would emulate if he got in. But we don't want to revert to the failed policies of the past under Republicans! Their policies have failed because they simply don't work. The threat of a Romney presidency should scare everyone who deserves Health Care, Social Security benefits, Medicare, a good Education, a Clean Environment, etc. because the first thing he would do is either eliminate some of those things (Health Care and Education) and go on to severely CUT other programs much needed! Think About That YOU Who Need Those Things The Most, Before You Vote! The Clear Choice and our ONLY Hope is President Obama in 2012!! He Rightfully Deserves A Second Term In Office!!

    October 23, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  8. Rebecca

    This woman saw all 3 debates.
    Attitude does NOT = jobs, but
    Obama & Biden = Snarky & Smirky
    Will vote Romney.

    October 23, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  9. Doug

    The whole government is at a standstill. they are like a bunch of spoiled children fighting over a candy bar. these people are supposed to represent us. Instead once they are elected they are in the good old boys club and forget why we elected them in the first place. As long as there is a party system, nothing will get done.

    October 23, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  10. Jack

    Listening to Obama you would think this country is doing great here and abroad because he can do nothing wrong. Time for a fact check. Time for a change to someone that nows how to run a business/government. Obama is clueless on these issues. Four more of the same means bankrupt.

    October 23, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  11. mseveral

    I was happy to see Romney agrees with President Obama's assessment of the world, that he embraces his policies, and endorses his actions that have successfully promoted our country's interests. What the debate showed, was that President Obama is a stronger leader in advancing our country's interests. The CNN poll is largely meaningless, except for the question on who won the debate. Particularly meaningless is the question on whether Romney was seen as a commander-in-chief. First, there was no base-line to make a comparison. Perhaps before the debate 70% of the people who were questioned would have said he was. If that was the case, then the 60% would constitute a drop in support. Also, with the Republican bias in the same, it appears that only about 50% of Americans feel Romney is qualified to be commander-in-chief. Not only count me among that 50% who don't think he is qualified, but also among the 47% of Americans whom he dismisses and holds in contempt.

    October 23, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  12. kf

    To the guy who thinks the economy has stalled because the market is bad for one or two days, thats like judging the outcome of a football game after two bad plays in the 4th quarter when the team is already up by 30 (for you sports fans). S&P is up 75% since he took office. Home price index, which is usually the leading indicator of economic growth is up around 15%. Reason why the market took a dip was because of speculation on Spain's debt problems. Know your facts.

    October 23, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  13. Drew

    Both sides saw what they wanted to see. Sad.

    October 23, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  14. Jeckers

    Women Not Supported By Romney –

    You may have missed this, but Romney very clearly said that one of the keys to changing the role in the Middle East is by changing their discriminatory views on women. Allowing them to go to school, become productive, etc... I think you missed that – check the transcript.

    October 23, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. Bob

    Just saw 2016. Obama needs to go.

    October 23, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  16. It's clear what Romney's plan is now

    It's clear what Romney's plan is now. Romney just wants to copy whatever President Obama has done and will continue to do. The problem is that the "Follow the leader" game doesn't work at this level. The President has to be a leader who will make the best decisions, even when it is not popular or politically expedient to do so. It comes down to an individual's character to make the the best decisions.

    October 23, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  17. Jim970

    Foreign policy debates always favor the sitting President. Can't really bring myself to call that much of a "win". Obama's foreign relations record is really no win for America.

    October 23, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  18. Alicia

    CNN I don't know who you are polling (I know your polls skew republican) but that was a rout!!!

    October 23, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  19. SS

    I can't trust Romney with handling anything regarding national security/foreign relations. Guy is clueless and I don't want to go back to the shrub days.

    October 23, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  20. Romney > obama

    Open mic gaffe: "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility," Obama told Medvedev when the pair met in Seoul in March to discuss plans by the U.S. and NATO for an anti-ballistic shield with participation by Romania, Poland and Turkey. Moscow was adamantly opposed to the shield.

    Hmmm, I don't want obama selling our security to Russia after the election–and then covering it up.

    October 23, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  21. obamaCares

    Real vs fake. We all know always wins

    October 23, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  22. Ann

    This just in from Drudge..."Voters are getting letters that look like they are from local elections offices, questioning their citizenship. But Local 6 has learned the letters are fake, and they are going out across Central Florida and other parts of the state." "Officials said the voters who have received the letters thus far are white, registered Republicans who consistently vote in elections." Can you say desperate, Democrats?

    October 23, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. Deni

    Spotting the conservative hypocrits through these posts is not difficult as they have a distinctly different set of rules and accountability for their default-candidate. Complaining and accusing the President of being sarcastic and rude? And Romney is the height of etiquette? Puh-lease. Everytime a conservative loses an argument or debate instead of acknowledging they've been bested and commit to the facts in future debates they immediately resort to the tactics of a 9 year old and the blame game ensues. At the end of the debate, it was clear there was one winner and it was our President. Romney didn't do too bad and of course Obama did better – he's knee deep in foreign policy everyday. He's the President. It's HIS JOB and he does it very well. Obama-Biden 2012.

    October 23, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  24. jet214

    Some day they'll look back at this debate and focus in on how sweaty and stressed Romney looked, it's another Nixon v Kennedy. The camera was not kind to Romney last night. You could fee land see his stress.

    October 23, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  25. SS

    Don't Romney in handling anything regarding national security/foreign relations. Guy is clueless, don't want to step back to the Bush days.

    October 23, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
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