CNN Poll: Most watchers say Romney debate winner
October 3rd, 2012
11:30 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Most watchers say Romney debate winner

Denver, Colorado (CNN) - Two-thirds of people who watched the first presidential debate think that Republican nominee Mitt Romney won the showdown, according to a nationwide poll conducted Wednesday night.

According to a CNN/ORC International survey conducted right after the debate, 67% of debate watchers questioned said that the Republican nominee won the faceoff, with one in four saying that President Barack Obama was victorious.

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"No presidential candidate has topped 60% in that question since it was first asked in 1984," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

While nearly half of debate watchers said the showdown didn't make them more likely to vote for either candidate, 35% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney while only 18% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect the president.

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More than six in ten said that president did worse than expected, with one in five saying that Obama performed better than expected. Compare that to the 82% who said that Romney performed better than expected. Only one in ten felt that the former Massachusetts governor performed worse than expected.

"This poll does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans. It only represents the views of people who watched the debate and by definition cannot be an indication of how the entire American public will react to Wednesday's debate in the coming days," cautions Holland.

The sample of debate-watchers in the poll was 37% Democratic and 33% Republican.

"That indicates that the sample of debate watchers is about four points more Democratic and about eight points more Republican than an average CNN poll of all Americans, for a small advantage for the Republicans in the sample of debate-watchers," adds Holland.

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The poll suggests that the debate didn't change opinions of the president. Forty-nine percent of debate watchers said before the debate that they had a favorable opinion of Obama, and that number didn't change following the debate.

It was pretty much a similar story for Romney, whose favorable rating among debate watchers edged up just two points, from 54% before the debate to 56% after the debate.

The economy dominated the first debate and according to the poll, and by a 55%-43% margin, debate watchers said that Romney rather than Obama would better handle the economy. On the issue of taxes, which kicked off the debate, Romney had a 53%-44% edge over Obama. And by a 52%-47% margin, debate watchers said Romney would better handle health care, and he had the edge on the budget deficit by a 57%-41% margin.

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Debate watchers thought Romney was more aggressive. Fifty-three percent said Romney spent more time attacking his opponent. Only three in ten thought Obama spent more time taking it to Romney. By a 58%-37% margin, debate watchers thought Romney appeared to be the stronger leader.

"Romney's only Achilles heel may be the perception that he spent more time attacking his opponent than Obama, which may explain why two-thirds of debate-watchers said that Romney did the best job but only 46% said that he was more likeable than Obama," says Holland.

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The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International, with 430 adult Americans who watched the debate questioned by telephone. All interviews were conducted after the end of the debate. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story

soundoff (314 Responses)
  1. okminty

    So the moderator allowed Romney to have the last word most of the time and cut Obama off. He must be getting too old to do this. Put him on Ss and Medicare and get someone younger.

    October 4, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  2. guitarpsych

    America has not evolved yet- we are still a young country. All Englands political parties are to the left of either of ours. Most of the developed world would not have bought Romney's arguments, but America may.

    October 4, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  3. David Keesling

    Obama ran into a faster talker than he and couldn't react. He stuttered, paused more than usual and looked foolish. He was destroyed... I voted for Obama last time... He's going to have to cure cancer this month before I'd do it again.

    October 4, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  4. Mark

    I thought Romney got clobbered, and who are the spinmeisters to tell me any different? I know what I saw with my own eyes.

    October 4, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  5. mario chalmers

    this is complete bull. watched the whole debate...romeny got schooled.republicans...mostly uneducated... get over it

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  6. David in FL

    Obama has spent many fortunes trying to demonize Romney, then fizzled flat when he had to bring the discussion face to face.

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  7. eaRTH

    Wow, I'm Canadian and I can't believe that Obama backers have the outright gall to accuse Romney of lying!?
    If lying person is not tobe voted for then Obama is the last person that should be president. Your predicting that Mitt will lie...Obama HAS lied over and over...Guatanimo Bay...Arizona killing not religiously motivated...Stevens murder not terrorists...didn't know his reverend for 30 years hated America. C'mon, seriously?

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  8. Randy

    I must have watched a different debate. Romney lied through his teeth and acted like he was overdosing on red bull. This is what makes a winner?

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  9. BHall

    Yeah and Obama has never run a lemonade stand and that has never been more obvious than tonight. Maybe your messiah can ram through a law allowing pre-written speeches with teleprompters for the next round.

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  10. RL

    Romney wiped the floor with Obama tonight! Obama was fumbling & bumbling his way through this one. Even one of his biggest supporters, Bill Mayer said Obama actually must really need a teleprompter. Can we please elect someone that can think for himself, not just skilled at reading a speech from a telepromter

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  11. Penny Gibson

    Romney took it to the President and the President just looked like a school boy.

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  12. Claire J.

    At least someone spoke with some substance out there, and that would happen to be Romney. There is no way that Obama can compete with Romney on the subject of Economics, considering that his background is in law, while Romney has experience money, whichever it may truly be. The two debating on the matter in honest matters showed Romney to be the more prominent one of the two and to say that Obama seemed as if he had just come out of Economics 101, repeating terms and reciting common fact on terms, while on the other-hand, Romney actually seemed to be analyzing information, giving details on as to how to fix the problem. Of course, if the matter were to be turned on law and matter's lawfulness, then naturally Obama will have the advantage, but no. Though the president is part of the Executive branch where a duty is to enforce the law, our country at the most is not suffering from laws or lack of laws but rather our "economic crisis." Romney spoke the most precise of the two based on content and meaningfulness rather than the old emotional appeal that is typical of Obama, but then again in the end, words are words.

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  13. BA

    Only a fool or dishonest person would say Obama won this debate. I see comments about the CNN poll being biased.. You got to be kidding me. CNN is one of Obama's biggest cheerleaders.... It has been a great night..

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  14. aretha

    obama will surely win

    October 4, 2012 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
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