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. Dave

    Romney needs a geography lesson if he's going to talk foreign policy. Syria is not Iran's route to the sea, at least not their primary one. They have two others to choose from along its extensive coast lines. Check a map next time, Mittens.

    October 23, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. Lexi Winkler

    At this point, most of us have a general idea of who we want to vote for. I think it's safe to say that each party will say their party won.

    Clear Eyes, Full Hearts.

    October 23, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  3. obama unqualified

    because of obama i will not hire union businesses for home repairs. and support the 88.6% of american non union workers homes. a joke that only 11.4% of all workers in america are union. lol boycott unions right to work legislation is the ticket to eliminating the unions

    October 23, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  4. Chris

    Romney will bring us back 8 years to George Bush's idiotic foreign policies. And that won us no friends through out the world.

    October 23, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  5. Big

    I would be very afraid of an individual such as Mitt Romney, who possesses the scary ability to tell people what he thinks they want to hear depending on who is talking to. So to hear Mitt Romney saying yeah what he said: in agreeing with the President, was quite disturbing.
    The tax cut he speaks off very vaguely is an insult to middle class families. Some of us have capital gains so low it is laughable and in most cases not taxable anyway, and how many people actually have an estate to worry about being taxed. But we do benefit from deductions: mortgage interest, childcare credits, and educational credits. In regard to foreign policy, trying to bomb extremist groups into submission is an epic fail. We are well aware of the number US and Allied forces lost in Iraq, with little or no mention of the hundreds of thousands Iraq civilians that have lost their lives. This did not work in Iraq and it will not work in Libya, Syria or any other Middle Eastern country for that matter.

    October 23, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  6. ss12343

    CNN, However hard you try to project that you are a centrist news org by being overly nice to Romney, it is not going to cut it for you in terms of liberal or conservative viewers as they would always flock to MSNBC and FOX.

    So just play it fair and call that Obama was a big winner today.

    October 23, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. aphaiku

    Romney looked tired , beaten and not very presidential with a forced smile through most of the night!

    October 23, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. Jenny

    I agree Romney scares me!! Their something about him that's isn't right. I am not saying Obama is all good, but as a leader he would be the one I would like to represent the USA. I mean it's a global world and I don't understand why GOP people don't get it. Romney is so backwards.., I laugh when I see them saying recovery!! Hey right!! I mean how can I feel anything toward someone who was born on a silver spoon. I tell my husband, one of the requirements should be serve in the arm forces!!LOL!! Well, we won't get that many rich people eligible. I am not saying being rich is a bad thing!! No way kudos if you are, but he is just so arrogant!! I don't get him. I am a swing voter and decided on Obama. I hope he wins and if he doesn't, then remember that benefits will be gone. Good luck!! Also, will not vote for a person who belongs to a cult period.

    October 23, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  9. Robert from Ohio

    Obama will win on 11/6. Good always prevails.

    October 23, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  10. melsystech

    CNN polls is by GOP voters so I don't trust it, CBS News Polls makes sense. I have voted for OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    October 23, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  11. Rob

    How is an eight point advantage "just within the sampling error" when the margin is +/- 4.5 points? Mitt hasn't killed Sesame Street yet, so we should all know that 8 > 4.5. CNN had the same basic math failure after the last debate.

    October 23, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. q2long

    If we need someone who can create jobs then we definitely should NOT vote for Romney. Read the article by David Stockman (Ronald Reagan's budget director) in the last issue of Newsweek. It absolutely eviscerates Romney's claim to being a jobs creator while at Bain. He was a financial manipulator. His number one claimed credential for his presidential aspirations is not supported by the facts.

    October 23, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  13. No Sharks Needed Here

    You all remember the saying "Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water...." well it sure applies here! Just when the economy is back on the roll again under President Obama, and that despite great Republican opposition that would rather get one of their own in office rather than to support you, the American people, some still think the Romney shark would be good. Good for what you just need to ask yourselves? Good to revert to the Failed Policies of the past is what he would be good for! Know and understand that, people! He does not have your best interests at heart the way President Obama does. Let's not give this multi-millionaire playboy who is playing with our future the chance to destroy it! Wake Up and Vote OBAMA this November for a chance to Retain what we have worked for so hard all of our life and have the right to obtain as benefits in our golden years! OBAMA FOR FOUR MORE YEARS!!

    October 23, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  14. Name RC

    What Debate was CNN watching?

    October 23, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  15. kids cars

    ride on cars The unique features mentioned above and all electric cars on display here. Gap insurance is becoming increasingly popular for new cars, but what about used cars? Number four is the range. Manually trying to produce or direct hydrogen toward one's automobile needs can be avoided.

    October 23, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  16. #Romney2012

    People seriously blow my mind. And not in a good way.

    October 23, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  17. Say What?

    To obama disqualified:

    You mean if your house was on fire you would not accept firefighters putting it out ... simply because they belong to a union? What about a guy trying to rob you, or maybe KILL you? You would turn down police assistance because hey belong to a union? Police and Firefighters Association members unite!

    October 23, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  18. Sandra

    I would like to see fair... unbiased reporting from the media. CNN has done that in the past, however the polls during this election are totally wrong. The numbers do not add up. Please keep your credibility by reporting the facts. The public is smarter than most people think.

    October 23, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  19. Charlies

    Does general public define "stronger leader" as a blood thirsty war monager to constantly bomb other countries and then spend our hard-earned money to rebuild them or capable of leading this country out of this astronomical national debts and economic slumps?

    I prefer the latter.

    October 23, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  20. DJ

    Whatever, if you say so...I wouldn't trust anything Obama has to say cuz he is a snake oil salesman from Chicago that has told one lie after another to gullible Americans as we' ve watched the economy go from tough to a disaster on his watch. He has lied on the economy to foreign policy selling America and its alies out to the Muslim community, Russia, and China, while disrespecting our closest alies like Isreal, Canada, Great Britain,and our close friends...he has fooled many Americans, disrespected and alietated the Catholic church along with other Christian faiths that don't follow his anti Christian policies such as abortion, assisted suicide, abortion, denial of religious liberty, just to name a few...he is a slick talker with evil intentions. Wake up America or the next four years will be hell on earth...

    October 23, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. Name. CD in Florida

    To the person called morning Americans the numbers took off the day the war started. Don't even go their blaming the president from day one it had been his goal to end the war read the manuscript

    October 23, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  22. Steve

    If you define "winning" as having a more aggressive and combative demeanor, as the Democrats have done since right after debate #1, then Obama "won."
    If you define "winning" as accomplishing the larger percentage of what you set out to accomplish, then Romney won.
    Romney's goal was to appear calm, presidential, thoughtful, favoring peace through strength, informed, and knowledgeable. He did all those things for any undecided voter who might have been wondering if Romney could do those things.
    Obama's goal was to again be combative and aggressive, but that only appeals to his core base, and those people are already going to vote for him (or at least not vote for Romney).
    In sum, Romney moved some undecided voters into the Romney camp, but Obama did not move any undecided voters into the Obama camp.
    The few people who were still subject to being convinced were the ones who wanted to see how Romney looked and sounded on foreign policy. All in all, I think those people were more likely moved toward Romney than toward Obama.

    October 23, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  23. GBfromOhio

    I'm biased as I have already voted for Obama, but he clearly seemed to have a much better grasp on the specifics as well as the synergy of foreign policy. Romney was not Palin, but not in the same league as Obama. Think Obama's performance will maybe blunt some of the Romney momentum and perhaps pick up a few undecided voters, which is crucial in this razor thin election.

    October 23, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. rose

    The horses and bayonets remark blow me way. He does have a point there if we went back to horses and bayonets its less costly then nukes and drones. Less human life lost The men that fought hand to hand were hero's in their time not the terroist cowards of today. This type of remark could only lead to WW3.

    October 23, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. KEN

    How any voter could seriously consider a pandering, flip-flopper who appears, like a trained parrot, to repeat memorized phrases without analysis, synthesis, and clear articulation of specific initiatives is a sad and troubling mystery to me. In other words, is the typical American voter stupid enough NOT to see through the Romney character? He is NOT close to Presidential material!!!

    October 23, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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