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. Namrusse

    Romney as commander and chief scares me

    October 23, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. L

    I love that the media declared the first debate was "a game changer" but since Pres. has won the last two debates, they have been more low key. Game, Set, Match to Pres. Obama to those who don't have racist blinders on. Who has bought the media to the extent that they can not celebrate the Democrats victories they way they celebrate a GOP victory. This will be investigated for years to come. Historians will note the difference in the treatment of the Mixed President and the White Candidate. Perhaps it's just CNN being in Atlanta in the RED south. But the rest of us are not buying your spin, and are losing respect for your "news" organization.

    October 23, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. Ram215

    Poor fools keep on dreaming, if Obama was winning he would be 10 to 15 point ahead Romney....too bad you all can't see the writing on the wall which says "Obama we don't wan't you and your welfare creating any more" – godbye!

    October 23, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    last night we saw stage 3 romnesia...how can someone change their positions overnight...that scares me...he may be a good boss but not a good president..we can't trust romney...

    October 23, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. Richard

    Looks like most people commenting here feel foreign policy is a greater issue than the economy. Mitt won the first debate on the economy hands down. When people go to the polls, I think their reduced net income and joblessness (or if they are employed, in a menial, low-paying one) will persuade them to cast their vote for Romney. Just my 2 cents....that's all I have :-)

    October 23, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. The Verdict Is In!

    The verdict was in during last night's debate and it clearly and patently shows that Mitt Romney SUPPORTS Barack Obama on so many things that one can lose count! That can only mean that the President is on the RIGHT TRACK for moving this country forward! Let's Rightfully Give Him FOUR MORE YEARS To Finish the Job!!

    October 23, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. Shaun

    CNN: "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."

    I think it is not the aggressive strategy but the facts commanded by Obama gives him the edge on leadership. CCN should not make its opinion as if it is a fact. This is not a good enough journalism.

    October 23, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. James

    The debate season clearly won by Romney. Last night I call a toss up. Both had valid points and others times both were wrong. It happens. What we learned was if you knew neither you would think Romney was president and Obama the challenger. Romney has much more class and integrity. Obama looks like a guy falling behind, knows it and is trying anything to gain ground. I'm surprised he didn't try and talk about Romney's mama...

    Lastly Chris Matthew's comments about race are sickening. He should be dealt with. YOu can always tell when they are falling behind because the race card is played. It's grown very tired. How bout coming up with a new excuse
    Poor taste

    October 23, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. Impartial observer

    Interesting that the American media is all over the place regarding the debate winner. The highly respected BBC News network has the debate at a tie.

    October 23, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  10. Amy

    Sorry, I didn't realize that "zinging" someone during a debate resulted in them winning a debate. Glad we are teaching the next generation that "zinging" someone makes them a winner.

    October 23, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. Oh ho

    Obama won this debate. If Mitt Romney wins I can guarantee you he will be shipping weapons to Syria and putting troops there. I do not trust him. After all the money machine backs him they have to find a way to use up all the military arsenals they have built up and to make way for building new ones. That is the reason Mitt wants to introduce more military spending plain and simple. Anyone yo do not believe this is just naive. You cannot claim to want to reduce the deficit and create jobs but can find trillions of dollars for the military. One has to ask what is this nation priorities?

    October 23, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  12. ghostriter

    Romney agrees with the president, attempting to make a mad dash to the middle in order to gain some votes. Bound to happen sooner or later. Of course, the more extreme the position and the more time you wait, the madder the dash.

    October 23, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. anjou

    Being the President is no easy job and entails a lot of responsibilities other than home country. President Obama has done well and has clear plans on how to proceed on the further development of the nation and stands a strong leader for international politics and foreign policies. It is easy enough to say Gov. Romney stood well in these debates, action speaks louder than words and we will see it if he becomes President at all. If he does, I worry about how easy it will be for terrorists to get to us, for China to get to us if Romney will declare them as currency manipulators etc, these things aren't easy to work with and come to an understanding of what makes and breaks.

    And if the President were to lose this elections, he will get the much needed rest ... to prepare for the next elections after this one. Good luck to President Obama.

    October 23, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. NajieMoto

    The fact that most men find Romney stronger on the question of "leadership" is really scary. And it explains a lot about american men.

    October 23, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  15. jj

    Harry vanquishes Lord Voldemort. Of course. Obama 2012!

    October 23, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  16. Monicafaye12

    People who think the economy and foriegn policy are separate issues live in the Republican bubble. Get a passport Republicans and start traveling. The ignorance on the far right is unbelievable.

    October 23, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. emmania

    Media groups like CNN has a responsibility to the viewing public. CNN seem to be nothing more than a spectator. The Romney campaign said this process is like a etch a sketch. Mitt Romney over these three debates has been flip flopping, switching positions in an apparent bold attempt to defraud the public.

    October 23, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. James

    Obama is not qualified to manage a fast food restaurant. He's no experience in any business, obvious from the bail out. You can't just throw $$ at problems that just exrtends them. They have to be fixed at some point.

    Obama's a great script reader. Maybe after he's beaten he should go to Hollywood. Oh wait he's been there. If he had not spent so much time on tv and talk shows and did hos job maybe America would be in better shape

    October 23, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  19. SugarKube

    Not according to most non-CNN polls.

    October 23, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  20. byronc

    Romney lost the last 2. Luckily most everyone agrees the ECONOMY carries the most weight. Romney 2012.

    October 23, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. Dav

    obama =23 million unemployed=no hpoe=your money to illegal aliens=bye obama 2012

    October 23, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  22. mohamed riak

    My man win obama

    October 23, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  23. Daniel

    How does Romeny appear likable? If he was selling me a car (which clearly he looks the type) I would ask for another person. He's the guy who would say the car is solar powered just to sell the car.

    October 23, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  24. Mr. A

    Good job Mr. President.

    October 23, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  25. Paolo

    What planet do you idiots live on? Obama is finally being recognized and exposed for the fraud he has always been. And the best part is Obama is the one pulling back the curtain.

    October 23, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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