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. Anonymous

    Obama was again rude, petty and unpresidential again tonightl He kept interrupting Mitt Romney and yet Mitt was cool, caWlm and very presidential. We need him in the White HOuse. 4 more years and we'll be just like Greece and Spain.

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  2. Josh

    Why do we need a navy anyhow? We can't reach Iran by sea, according to Romney.

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  3. Nupes4Obama

    Obama clearl blasted Romney on each subject. Romney did not pass the Commander in Chief test. Romney never stated what his plans were on foreign policy. Fact check: When Gov Mittens was governor in MA, his state was 1st in ediucation but 47th in job creation. HMMMM. I thought this guy go bring jobs.
    #Obamawins2012

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  4. Ruke

    The true take-away from this debate is that Mitt Romney agrees with Obama on the majority of our foreign policy actions and future plans.

    And this both helps and hurts Mitt Romney. It helps because, as in past debates, attempting to paint yourself as equal to the POTUS is an effective strategy... and during this time in particular, any foreign policy stance more aggressive than our current one will lose essential middle-ground voters.

    It hurts, because as someone that described themselves as "extremely conservative" and being championed by the same GOP that very recently rallied passionately behind McCain, with a very clearly aggressive foreign policy objective, anyone who has been following these ideals of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party can clearly see an attempt to pander and say what will win votes as opposed to following the platform of the party.

    But, most people are not informed enough to recognize this.

    I mean, I personally hope Mitt Romney was 100% honest about his true ideals tonight, but I don't truly believe it to be the case.

    Regardless, when it comes down to it, "me too" isn't an effective foreign policy and it isn't the words of someone basing most of their argument on being a better leader.

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  5. Hank

    The only question remains is have Americans matured enough to recognize what an ineffective leader Obama is or will we repeat the mistake of 2008.

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  6. Chris

    Romney is a liar who keeps jumping sides to get votes. He tried to be more human and nice today because every poll shows Obama more likable. Obama is the clear choice, WE CAN'T TRUST ROMNEY!!!! republicans are really sad trying to find every excuse why Obama lost or isn't right lol, just racist, evil, crazy and arrogant people y'all are. It was y'all who gut bush in the office for 8the years.

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  7. Leffton

    I feel relaxed after tonight's debate-science will continue!

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  8. Nicecatch

    "Denying he went on an apology tour??? All of American KNOWS he did it and now they got to see Obama LIE about it on national TV" Jesus, I swear you people live in your own reality. This claim has been debunked several times. And you have the nerve to complain about lying??!?!?!!!?!! All your candidate has been doing for he past 3 weeks is lying about the policy positions he's taken over the past several years. He lied about his support of the hard timeline for withdrawing from Afghanistan. He lied about his view on the government bailout. He lied about giving a tax break for the 1%. He lied about his healthcare plan covering people for pre-existing conditions. He lied about his administrations views on abortion saying he had no plans for any legislation and that he only supports it for rape, incest, and the life of the mother but when asked during a republican debate on national television if he would sign a bill that banned abortion in ALL cases he would "be delighted to sign it". He lied about wanting more teachers when he's said time and time again on the campaingn trail we needed less teachers and even criticized the President for wanting more of them. I could go on and on.This guy is running from every single position he's supported for the past two years and hopes there are enough people not paying attention that he can get away with it. And you guys don't seem to care, so don't sit there and complain about a candidate lying because you sure don't seem to care about it when your guy has being doing it incessantly for the past several weeks. Its down right cynical.

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  9. Farah

    I love how Romney agreed with everything Obama said but said that is what he would do. I think Romney needs to become more educated on foreign policies and the US army and navy. I was undecided until the second debate, but after tonight i know that Obama has my vote hands down! And I'm not in the 47%!

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  10. george

    Mitt playing safe by concurring with the President. He positions are all over the place. He is a desperate camper.

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  11. Nathan

    This is what leaders do. They talk real facts. Good job Mr. President. What a comeback. We are impressed.

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  12. Dan

    You're kidding ,right?"truth hurts".The president was precise,forthright and correct,Once again,Romnesia struck our forlorned republican candidate.He contradicted his own previous positions any number of times.Not an opinion,FACT!.....Dear CNN 48% saying The President won to 40% to Romney is Not too close to call.President Obama won.It's Mitt Romney's pants on fire.You can smell the smoke across the land.Good night!!

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  13. anonymous

    Of course, Obama won the debate!

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  14. Steve

    Everybody agrees that obama won, so its a toss-up?? Hows that work?

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  15. Four and The Door

    Obama again seemed confused and like a deer-in-the-headlights with his"answers". Then he got angry and went personal. It was a clear Romney win again. Mitt Romney stayed calm, focused and positive. And delivered clear, insightful commentary on the issues. I am sure nobody will accuse Obama of any of these tonight.

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  16. mross

    Obama was desperate, and Romney never took his bait. It's over. Romney will be the new president, and all he had to do tonight was just coast through this debate. He did so. Romney has all the momentum now and all you Obama supporters DEEP DOWN, know it. Just be honest.

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  17. Joe

    Isn't it amazing that when Republicans win debates, liberals say "yeah, Romney won that one...we agree." But when Democrats clearly win debates (as tonight) it's "oh no...the number are wrong. Obama won by 30 point? Oh no, that doesn't count..um...fox and hannity have the real numbers...um...those numbers show Romney actually won."

    October 22, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  18. Me

    The bottom line is this. If you want a worthless piece of garbage that has failed at every attempt vote for obama. If you like the way the country is going down vote obama. If you want someone who is a failed father, husband, person (even his wife and kids are ashamed of him) vote obama. If you want a socialist who will take away all your rights (what you have left) vote obama. And if you want a mentally challenged / drunk vp vote for obama.

    Enough said

    October 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  19. Republican Voter

    I am easily fooled by words coming out of the mouth of rich white men.

    October 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  20. aaron

    Romney won.

    October 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  21. billh44

    "President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did not identify a clear winner.

    Debate viewers split 48% for Obama and 40% for Romney in the poll, a margin within the sampling error of plus or minus 4.5%"

    48% vs 40% is not within the sampling error margin of 4.5%. President Obama beat Romney by 3.5% over the sampling error margin.

    October 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  22. Hort

    Romney...... blah, blah, blah. Out of his mouth ......blah, blah,blah. He says the same old thing. Over and over and over. Maybe he is trying to hypnotize us?

    October 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  23. jimmyjones

    so Obama won eh?

    October 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  24. Fuji124

    There is nothing Mitt Romney could say to make me vote for him. He is actually Dick Cheney in one of those Mission Impossible masks. Seriously. Obama 12

    October 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  25. Bondman

    Romney totally changed his campaign and is now running as the "peace candidate." This should come as a great shock to his neocon advisors like Bolton and Senor. It is interesting to note that Romney did not mention the word "God" once. That is not going to make some of his base very happy.

    October 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
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