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. Fougere Adolphe

    Barack OBama win the debate with 60%


    October 3, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  2. jeff

    It wasn't even close !

    October 3, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  3. Kathy in NY

    How can I get to vote in the CNN post-debate polls after the Presidential Debates?? WHO, WHO are they "polling"?? It's like trying to find a live unicorn! What is the website? Is this an "insider" poll? How can average voters participate??

    October 3, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  4. colettect

    Is it a win to lie? I've followed the campaigns closely since the Republican Primaries and tonight was a Romney I've never seen. Newt was right: he lies. Sad. He may have won the debate but he lost my vote.

    October 3, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  5. dirtyD

    the funniest thing was romney busting obama on his education.. stating the money he paid to salindra could have paid for 2 million teachers... go mitt

    October 3, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  6. Claudia

    Our Country finally won Today. Thanks, soon to be PRESIDENT ROMNEY!

    October 3, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  7. Madino

    It is not who debated better but it is who told the truth the most. Let fact checkers go to work. Obama 2012!

    October 3, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  8. jonathan

    It was, at times, unfair because Romney continuously added an additional rebuttle forn each question posed.

    October 3, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  9. Obama

    It's true. I got whooped tonight.

    October 3, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  10. Mm

    Not buying it, CNN.

    October 3, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  11. not for mitt

    If winning a debate means spewing rhetoric without explaining anything, then I supposed he did win. It seems though, that in reality the show is on the other foot. The President was the only candidate tonight who spoke with any legitimacy about the economy, government and social responsibility. Any free thinking individual will see that there is only one logical choice for President, and he is Obama.

    October 3, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  12. Ron Smithe

    I tried to find this poll to vote over an hour back and could not find it. This sounds like funny business

    October 3, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  13. Lee Wyman

    Does Romney "winning" mean that he didn't hang himself on stage or something like that? Also, I didn't realize Romney was the Democrat and Obama was the Republican in this debate.

    October 3, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  14. doctorgas

    is te graph correct cause it makes it look like romney is a democrat? Unless there was something dramatic during this debate that I missed...

    October 3, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  15. colettect

    Romney won. But he lied. I've followed the campaigns since before the Republican primaries and this Romney tonight isn't the Romney I've ever seen. Tax plan: lie. Health care: lie. Middle class: lie. He won the primary, lost my vote. Newt was right all along: Romney is a liar.

    October 3, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  16. DJ Particle need to throw out your poll results. You have their party afiliations switched!

    October 3, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  17. Politicalpony

    "lol" you just had to try and spin it with your closing comment. Most of the people that didn't bother to watch the debate probably won't vote anyways. If you spend any time on FB or Twitter you'll find that the entire Internet tonight is buzzing about Romney's win. Keep your poles, I predict a near landslide for Romney

    October 3, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  18. Julie

    Really? This is the photo you choose??!! Typical bias.

    October 3, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  19. Scott

    Out of 50M WATCHING you call 430 people.nice.

    October 3, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  20. BG

    Um....I know CNN isn't as sharp or unbiased as you used to be, but do I really need to inform you that Mr. Romney is the Republican candidate (should have the 'R' by his name) & Obama is the Democrat (D)?

    October 3, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  21. Thomas

    Obama = all show, no substance, all talk

    Romney = fundamentally sound, a man of action, detail oriented

    October 3, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  22. L

    When the fact checkers take apart Romney, and when more than 438 are polled, President Obama will come out on top.
    Romney and Republicans are delusional if they think one debate changes how the American feel about the GOP platform, which hurts the middle class and has been proven to not create jobs. Obama '12, no matter what spin CNN wants to put on this.

    October 3, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  23. Indy

    Who won the debate ? Romney made it very clear that he is above offering specifics on his plan to cut out loopholes,he made it 100% clear that he will not accept any kind of tax increase to balance the budget and will stick with his Grover Norquist pledge instead of doing the will of the people. Romney also made it clear he is going with a voucher program for medi care and Romney also made it clear he believes in the failed George Bush policy that tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs and prosperity. Americans won the debate because it is very clear and they now know Romney does in fact want to take back the George Bush policies

    October 3, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  24. n

    Don't get it twisted america, Obama wins this hands down, He was calm, cool, collective and very presidential. He stayed on course with reasonable sound explanations. Romney, was rude, loud, animated, hands all over the place. Romney changed his position with many etch-a-sketch moments. He Forced a preplanned so called zinger about Obama no allowed to have his own facts. If the American people are judging who won the debate by who was the loudest and most entertaining, then by all means, give it to Romney for the most frazzled. If you are judge from a more real point of professional serious view on who made a more concrete case on who should lead this country forward, President Obama wins hands down Period.

    October 3, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  25. Joyceb4014

    Anyone can lie to look good, but facts do matter! He disowned everything he has said in the last 18 months campaigning. Who wants a liar for president?

    October 3, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
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