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. Earl Willis

    OBAMA will win this election. Bin Landan is dead! And job numbers or below 8%.

    October 23, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. johngf

    It doesn't say much for those polled if they chose Obama's efforts over those of Romney. Obama in his cheap remark about "horses and bayonets" is not presidential in any way. Obama was rude, impolite, disrespecrful, impolite, crude, impertinent etc., therfore I have to conclude America is in big trouble if this is the rhetoric people prefer for a President.
    One more remark when Obama said something like "it just doesn't add up"; I completely understand that it would be far too complicated for Obama to understand as evidenced by several of his other responses. Poor America if Obama wins.

    October 23, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. Lucky18

    It's clear, Romney chose, once again, to change his story. Out on the stump he says one thing, in front of t.v. cameras he says another!
    If that isn't apparent, I don't know what is!

    October 23, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. Bernard St Louis

    Presedent Obama has what it takes to govern four more years including answering that 3:00 am call.

    October 23, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. Name niranjan khanal

    As bush saw fake WMD in Iraq Romney will see it in Iran and will make our economy worst with another war with Iran .

    October 23, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. John Q.

    Not sure why CNN would say Obama won. At best it was a tie. Obama was clueless as usual, and his standard defense of deny, deny deny was put to good use. His Bayonets comment showed how truly ignorant of current military threats he is. But this is why military voters support Romney 2-1...

    October 23, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  7. q2long

    17 of Romney's 24 foreign policy advisers are former W. Bush advisers. So someone who knows virtually nothing about, and is inept at, foreign policy (witness his overseas trip this Summer) and who has no core beliefs on anything (witness his many flip flops on virtually every issue) has surrounded himself with a bunch of neo-con advisers (who can mold him to their liking). Loved listening to how he would "make" certain things happen in other countries. A frightening amount of hubris. Plenty of reasons not to vote for the guy, but last night was the icing on the cake.

    October 23, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. Bill C

    The foreign policy issues do not matter unless your president is a man you can trust. I do not see how anyone can trust Romney because he refuses to release his taxes for the full 10 years like all the other candidates did, and has bank accounts in the Cayman Islands Switzerland, and other foreign tax havens. He also cant be trusted because on one of the tax returns he did reveal, He deliberately did not take charitable deductions for the sole purpose of looking better to the voters, and all he has to do win or lose is file and amended return after the election. He also refused to reveal what tax deductions he will take away from us, while keeping the Bush cuts for the ri9ch and reducing or eliminating the tax on capital gains which will favor him personally. He supports the voucher system for Medicare not for seniors over 55, but is quite willing to throw the middle class under the bus if they are under 55. so in the end our children & grandkids are screwed. Why will he not go after fraud and find ways to save Medicare for our kids & grandkids?? The man has changed his mind so many times no one can trust him not even the tea party or Republican base. The man who's own representatives stated that they would not run their based on fact checking!! Wow just confuse the voters with lies and no facts and ask them to trust you. Wow, I don't see how anyone can trust him period.

    October 23, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. nicole

    I think that romney skiped over alot of the foregin policy discusstions so to me i think we need some one who is going to clearify how we are going to fix what is happing not someone who will beat around the bush.

    October 23, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. Sade

    Mr. Obama won the foreign debate. Handled it great. Mr. Romney whining he was being attacked when the truth was communicated by Mr. Obama. (well, gracious). Obama wins!

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

    To EARL WILLIS
    Who is Bin Landan? I have a second cousin with the last name of "Landan". Wonder if they're related.

    October 23, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. In Response to Jenny's Comment

    You say something about Romney isn't right. Can I just say one thing about Obama? $16 trillion in debt. Romney believes we should stop borrowing money from China because that's where most of our debt is coming from. Obama cuts funding from our military, therefor making us weaker than we should be. Obama has created 5 million jobs in the past four years. Romney promises 12 million. Obama says Hope. Hope is great and all, but hope is not a strategy. Romney says Clear Eyes, Full Hearts. Obama says Move Forward...when we're clearly moving backwards.

    Romney got the Olympics out of debt. He rescued Massachusetts. I seriously don't get why people are so against Romney. He is a business man who knows LARGE amounts of money. Isn't that what people want?

    October 23, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. maria

    Seriously people????? You want another 4 years of misery domestically and overseas?!! Wake up!!!!!!!

    October 23, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. Iowa

    And boom goes Romney's chances

    October 23, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. Justin

    It worries me that 40% of the people thought Romney won. That's pretty sad.

    October 23, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. suedatajo

    The most important and the weakest point for Obama was Benghazi 's failed security.not even one question was asked about that. .Why they skipped in the interview that would have been a fair debate to be discussed for Romney to make a strong case. When he was answering or discussing economy, unemployment and debt he was constantly punched , stabbed with unfair interruptions by Obama. Obama won by distracting Romney from the reality check that would hurt him. hence Obama was successful in stabbing the truth.

    October 23, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  17. Name Kathy McCord

    you know Obama won this debate he is th the next president

    October 23, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. Greatlakesgram

    Obama's remarks about the military are the result of his meetings with the joint chiefs- in- staff of all branches of the military. So to say they are ignorant is...ignorant! Romney on the other hand seems to be using notes fom his advisers, rather than any real knowledge at all.

    October 23, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  19. KEN

    How anyone could consider a pandering, waffling Romney who repeats memorized lines like a parrot – with no evidence of real analysis, synthesis, or articulation of issues in specific- as a candidate for President clearly escapes me. I hope the AMerican electorate is still not as stupid as it was whwn it elected BUsh twice! This guy at this time is even worse. NOT Presidential material!!!

    October 23, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  20. lB Colorado

    Don't you think Obama should have come out on top in this debate? He is the Commander and Chief and should without question know more about foreign policies than Romney. Obama was not sharp on foreign policies when he was debating 4 years ago. Romney, though, not perfect, I believe he is a quick study and will do what is best for the country. All of the comments that either of them make will come back and haunt them if they (he) does not do what he said he would do. Obama said a lot of things back in 2008, I actually hoped that he could and would do what he said. He did bring the country to new hope, but if you talk to the regular people today, they are not better off than before. Before, they actually did have a job and don't now. Obama was fighting with knowledge, cause he is in the mess and should have that kind of knowledge, but he did not 4 years ago.

    October 23, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  21. Dave

    What this shows more than anything is that Democratic viewers are able to admit it when their candidate lost. Republicans would say Romney won no matter how poorly he actually did.

    October 23, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  22. Gertrude

    I like NO Sharks Needed Here. This is very true – check it out. Mitt is NOT in our corner, He will run at the first sight of trouble. Why have his sons NOT been in the military? (Joe Biden;s son is in the military)

    October 23, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  23. maxmillian20

    For sure it was a hands down win for President Obama, he's so intelligent, concise, and very presidential with all his answers and rebuttals to Romney who looks so uninformed about world affairs. It appears to me that Russia and other countries hope Romney wins the election so that can run over us like they did during the long eight years of Bush.

    October 23, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. 1Name1voice

    Ask your self this 2 questions! How much of my soul am I willing to sell off in the future 2. Is it worth it for my kids ,kids to pay for it? If you understood that question and can answer it ...GO VOTE!!

    October 23, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  25. Vince

    At John Q: Having worked for a defense contrator for 27 years, Obama was correct in his statement.
    The military wants more technology and less expensive hardware. Romney showed once again that he is not ready to be President. He is babbling the rhetoric of the 1980s. The military has moved past that and wants UAVs and sophisticated spy equipment not more expensive ships and aircraft.

    October 23, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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