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. Anonymous

    yes why cnn report 48-40? doesn't matter obama won, and romney where is a plan? what do you hide?, i can't understood him

    October 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  2. pedestrian

    @VCMD you misunderstand how the polls work. CBS does not poll watchers of CBS news, they polled undecided voters from all over the country, regardless of the channel that they were watching. CNN polled everyone who watched the debate, including those who had made up their minds already.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  3. Michael

    The president stated how much he supported vets...explains why he has made drastic cuts to the VA and raised costs for veterans!

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  4. Canada

    President Obama makes us proud neighbours to the North. We're rooting and praying for his re-election. Romney is NOT the answer. How and why anyone would vote for him is hard to fathom. Go Mr. Pesident. Great job! Keep up your great work. The world needs you Mr. President.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  5. Rhonda Czarski

    Our President Obama once again showed what a dishonest man Romney is. He can't be trusted and Romney will say any thing that he thinks people want to hear. Our President has stayed the course and never wavered. This is what cult leaders do. They tell you what you want to hear not what they will do.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  6. 4mygls

    ObamaYou are the best

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  7. Patrick in Wisconsin

    BREAKING NEWS: Mitt Romney endorses Barack Obama in final debate.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  8. Pondering

    That one wasn't close. Romney clearly won #1, #2 was Obama by a slight margin, and this was clearly Obama's.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  9. rocky

    You've got to be kidding. Dubya left the USA with the worse reputation all over the globe. Obama got our good name back and it was NOT an apology tour; that has been debunked over and o er again. Why do you think he got the Nobel Peace Prize?

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  10. Dr Wayne Parker

    A spread of 8 points is NOT within a 4-5 point margin of error. Eight is greater than both 4 and 5.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  11. Name

    OBAMA won.you are good to go my president.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  12. Fred

    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%

    Somebody needs to repeat 4th grade math- I am a Romney voter and this poll does not matter, but 40 vs 48 with a sampling erorr of 4.5% is outside the error of measure.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  13. The Left Wing

    Obama 48% to Romney 40% with a margin of error of 4.5%, and the homepage headline says "Poll: Last debate too close to call".

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Romney won debate again. Republicans don't waste their time doing surveys.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  15. Don Stephens

    Anyone who watched that debate who didn't think Obama won by a wide margin is in the Fox conservative reverberating bubble and therefore is in another world.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  16. Gary

    The tight race is a clear mandate for bipartisanship. Either candidate would be mistaken to interpret their election otherwise. We need a bipartisan approach to address the economy, the deficit and debt, SS and Medicare and foreign affairs. We can no longer defer action on key financial issues – we need leadership to address them head on.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  17. WTH

    WTH? Not a clear winner? 48% Obama 40% Romney with a 4.5 margin of error? That is a clear win for Obama...you cowards...can't you even call it when it's clear?

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  18. Bea

    I'm an Independent who wishes there was a viable third candidate. I'm no fan of Romney, but I find Obama's condescending and petty manner in the debate off putting. I guess it's who he is, he always thinks that he is the smartest man in any room. Many of us haven't forgotten his remark to Hillary during the 2008 primaries, "You're likeable enough, Hillary". Pure arrogance from someone who had barely been in the senate for 2 years to a former first lady and a senator on her second term.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  19. Jeff

    How anyone could even remotely think about voting for Obama is a sad statement of our current society and the state of our country! Sadly we seem to have a great deal of imbeciles and socialists in America these days.

    October 22, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  20. Bobby

    Can someone please explain to me how Mitt Romney won? I just don't see it.

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  21. sam2777

    Obama reminded me of why I feel so safe in this country the last few years. He knows what he's doing and I trust him to keep this country safe. We didn't need red, yellow and orange alerts; we needed a strong, smart leader and we have one.

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  22. edD

    lol...CBS was an instant poll of 500 voters. Can you say completely innacurate?

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  23. Ninja

    to: JimHolton: First of all, Obama said we have FEWER bayonets(and horses), not that we don't have them at all. You low-info voters really are something, even when you watch the SAME thing everyone else does. Obama didn't lie about Romney's stance. Romney said he wanted PRIVATE companies to put up cash to save GM. That was the FIRST thing everyone tried and IT DIDN'T WORK. NO private companies stepped up, which left the US government to do it, which Obama(and Bush) DID do.

    I could keep going, but I've done enough to prove that your grip on facts is even WORSE than Romney's(take a bow, because that IS saying something).

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  24. Nice Try

    Are you kidding me?! Come on people, we know the networks want this to be a close race, but the president handed Mr. Romney's head to him on a platter!!! Let's call it was it truly was, a significant win for the president...heck even Mitt agreed with him on most of his policies! ha!!!

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  25. Kenya

    If america wana apoint a lying arogant president like romney then the world will wonder what kind of people americans truly are

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
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