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. jbm66

    I am very upset at Obama for not calling out on Romney's lies. Why should CNN fact check do Obama's job? This might have an effect on Americans who do not research. The part where Romney said he would not cut taxes on the Rich took my breath away. How can you lie to the American people like that and not be called on it?

    October 4, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  2. Jon

    Romney kicked some butt.

    October 4, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |

    Romney says he's not going to reduce taxes on the Rich? Why, then, has he backed the Ryan Budget plan that LOWER'S taxes on the Rich from 34.5% down to 25%. WHAT IS Mitt's tax plan? You think the Republicans in Congress are NOT going to reduce taxes on the Rich? If they put such a plan on Romney's desk, he won't sign it? Yeah....Riiiiiight!

    October 4, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  4. Dale

    CNN declared Romney the winner from a poll conducted by 430 American's? CNN is Fox 2? Obama was the only adult in the room, with a 3 year old, calling him names. Obama won tonight, and he cares about the middle class and the poor. Romney wants a 5 trillion dollar tax cut for the rich.

    October 4, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  5. cwt

    please not Romney!!! this country cannot afford another Bush-man. vote obama to clean up bushs disaster

    October 4, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  6. Lee White

    Truth Hurts – Romney did nothing but lie tonight so the truth must hurt.
    President Obama will win this election in a landslide. Romney will not be able to lie and etch-o-sketch his way to the presidency. Romney scored no points and in 30 days he will be conceding. Thank god.

    October 4, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  7. Phil

    I suspect Obama is not gonna play all his cards until the last round.......he kept his cool, and perhaps played coy...Mitt may have won this battle but will he win the war? Never underestimate Obama......I think Obama will come out in the last round and crush Romney.....

    October 4, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  8. GI Joe

    Romney either lied tonight, or he has been lying the last 6 months. Not a thing was the same. Another flip-flop? Guess we'll see next week as he goes back to campaigning. Oh wait. It's time for another long week-end for him.

    October 4, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  9. Eli

    It's funny to read all comments..:))) Saying that Romney is lier, so who is Obama..he had 4 years and he didn't do nothing good for America, of course he tried, but sorry he failed..!!!! Let try other guy and i believe he will make better job than Obama. Romney 2012!!!

    October 4, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  10. John

    Romney appeared confident and sure while Obama seemed mild and non confrontational. I would like to add once again Romney did dimiss voters by saying people who are on medicare 60? Older should stop watching now (the debate) assuming they would vote for Obama.

    October 4, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  11. Kyle Pazandak

    Here is my take away from the debate.
    Romney will offer what ever Obama will + a tax cut. This will end up being budget neutral because we will cut Big Bird and most of NASA.

    October 4, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  12. Mary

    Best zinger of the night from Obama. "Romney doesn't want to share his plan for the middle class, unless it is just too good! Romney moved to the center. Do the conservatives really want this?

    October 4, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  13. Trish

    Romney clearly won. He's an honest, hard working businessman and for those who think he lies? Seriously? When you can't look someone in the eyes, like Obama DID NOT, that my friends, is a heart FULL of lies. Romney will lead this country to a much more healthy place. CNN at least, gave Romney his due, unlike ABC, CBS or NBC ever will. They will always love the liberal.

    October 4, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  14. paniolo

    If Obama education was that important , why wasn't it part of the blank check bank bail out ? Or the just sign it now we'll read it later Obama care ? When do you people put the D, R and I aside and put your children and country first ?
    If Obama care was that good why is not so many millions are still in fear of the regulation costs that GSA continues to expose ? I don't want 37 CZARS running my country, especially the ones with felony records.

    October 4, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  15. Tom Goodwin

    What kind of photo is that that heads up this banner? Come on CNN give the victor at least a fair shot....that is embarrassing.

    October 4, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  16. SAM

    You cannot defend the indefensible. And ST, Obama is a silver tongued lawyer, and we all know what that CAN mean.
    Obama looked like a scared confused child often, and his charm which is abundant can go only so far.
    Or does it still work on you guys?

    October 4, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  17. hoapres

    Romney did a LOT better than what was to be expected. Whether Romney's performance is a game changer in the election only time will tell.

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  18. DB

    I don't care who won the debate. When Romney said if you're over 60 you don't have to worry about Medicare he lost my 53 year old vote. I didn't work my whole life so he could take medicare away and give tax breaks to the rich who haven't created many jobs since they got their first tax cuts.

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  19. Abe

    America NEEDS Romney.

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  20. Nash Nari

    Being a far lefty liberal, I can say that "Romney won hands down". In style and in reeling out point#1, point#2, etc. Obama at one time said I have a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan in my web site. Duh!! People came to listen to your debate so that you can explain it to them, and not look at your web site. Few more points:

    1. I was astonished that Obama could not defend his #1 legislative achievement. Affordable Healthcare, against this guy Mitt. Obama, henceforth, should stop saying that Obamacare is modeled after MA Romneycare. Stop that bullsh1t.
    2. Obama should clearly understand that People are looking for jobs, jobs, and more jobs. He has to have a narrative that ties everything he wants to do in the next 4 years into a giant job creation machine. I was amazed that Obama didn't understand that.
    3. Deficit. Couldn't defend himself well on this. Clearly put out numbers that Bush tax cuts I and II and two unfunded wars (give the numbers, please like Bill Clinton did), and 2004 prescription benefits bill Bush passed, are the ones contributing to the deficit.
    4. He scored bad big time on Dodd-Frank bill and didn't shatter the myth that under lack of regulations brought us into this financial mess we had in the first place. Obama could not diligently articulate the positive aspects of financial regulation bill. Too bad. Romney kept repeating the lie that the bill perpetuates the "too-big-to-fail" policy of the previous government and Obama could not refute that effectively.
    5. On the education side, Romney has repeatedly mentioned to his donor audience in May 2012 that he would reduce the size of the education dept and now in the debate he said that he would reduce the funding for education. Obama could not point out this inconsistency.
    6. Why didn't Obama bring the 47% issue? He lost big time on not bringing that up.
    7. Lastly, Obama's body language was not good and at times he looked impatient and all those facial expressions, not good.

    Romney, all lies and lies and reversing himself on the $5 trillion tax cut. Hope Obama does a better job

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  21. langer5635

    Diggin' the sour grapes comments. This is what happens when a minor leager who has only seen softballs because the sycophants he allowed to get close to him gets wiffed by the sliders curves and knuckle balls he has never seen

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  22. Kevin7197

    437 random voters hardly reflects a country. Just sayin'.

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  23. C.R.

    I'm sorry, I don't normally comment on news articles based on the websites that give them, but I do not believe that the polling data collected are accurate. CNN is essentially creating their own article based on unsubstantiated and scientific data. I could easily "write" an article on the benefits of deforestation by using polling data asking if chainsaws are better than axes. Shame on you CNN for extremely weak reporting, base your article off of reputable data. You are truly the yellow press!

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  24. derek

    I am SO happy with how Romney took apart Obama point by point tonight. When EVEN MSNBC hosts like Ed Schulz are "absolutely stunned" by how Obama was "off his game", you posters in here saying that Obama won are completely laughable!

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  25. Dave Mancini

    Romney won by a landslide. Hopefully folks in the USA will wake up, get over the hype of Obama, elect Romney so your country can get back on track.

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
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