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. jaik

    Mitt lied and dodged, and talked over the moderator. The President failed to take him to task and muddled around in policy details instead of the sale. Mitt just promised the moon and said anything he thought would win an election. Obama was correct , but he didn't sell it, he's President and doesn't want to be an irresponsible candidate. Sort of like Bush Sr. This country is in big trouble if Mitt gets into office.

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  2. 3rd party

    CNN, couldn't find a better photo of Romney? If Obama had won you would have posted one of those halo looking up at God photos.

    October 4, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  3. Woman In California

    Sometimes, grown people act just like children. Wait until they stop pouting and come to their senses. Then, they're going to realize Willard was being Mitt tonight. The same used car salesman he's always been and always will be, whose far from being able to lead this country. Wait until they realize their kids will be sent off to unnecessary wars, his interest is only in top wage earners and that Wall Street will once again run wild. Then, they're going to come off their sugar high and vote for Obama.

    October 4, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  4. USA2012

    Another 4 years and this country is reborn into the new

    Underemployed, under-

    Thanks to the rise of the class warfare.

    October 4, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  5. ES

    Why didn't the president call Romney out on his claim that he was soooo concerned about all the people who were unemployed and being crushed, and that he had a plan to help everybody. What a great chance to point out in context that while speaking before a room of his contributors, when he didn't know he was being taped, Romney said he didn't care about 47% of the American people - all neer do wells, victims, incapable of taking responsibility for themselves and just looking for government handouts, according to this snake oil salesman. Why did you let him off the hook Mr. President.

    October 4, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  6. Funk

    Obama was at 50%... THAT was Obvious, I have a feeling he is Playing the long game, and Romney just jumped in way over his head, this is a great chess game.

    October 4, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  7. charles

    When all is said and done I must think about reality. If Obama wants my vote then prove it. You been in office for almost 4 years. You said in 2008 if I do not cut this deficit in half then I don`t deserve a second election. You actually double it and now with Obama Care it can only go much higher at the taxpayers expence. I live payday to payday and I canot afford my taxes to rise from 18% to 40%. That what Europe is dealing with is a 40% tax and higher because of "free Medical". You had your shot and you blew it.

    October 4, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  8. Brian B.

    Romney won on all levels. The Middle Class heard some truth tonight. All the lies by Barry Soetoro ( Barrak Hussien Obama) came to light. The Middle Class needs Romney!!!

    October 4, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  9. Blowing wind

    Romney feeling great
    Cause CNN gave him the debate
    Obama kept his calm
    Not like Mr False alarm
    Back and forth Mit never quit
    Without specifics that don't fit
    Evading tax
    To the max
    Americas are smart
    They want the facts and not the crap
    Backing dogs seldom bite
    Romney cannot solve America’s plight

    October 4, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  10. MDG

    I thought the President was calm, confident and I disagree with those who wanted a dog fight! His focus was to the American people... and the rating line didn't not support what Romney was saying! I think folks "talking heads" need to think about their expectation!!! I found Romney too aggressive and not factual... his compassion seemed fake!!!

    October 4, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  11. DocHollywood

    I'm not sure how you determine the winner. Was it because Mitt looked more agressive? Perhaps, but his facts were far from true, his substance lacking, his smile a painfully forced object. I thought he came across as childish in his whining to the moderator and cutting him off. Mitt looked anything but presidential. He looked desperate. I think I'll stick with Obama, an agressive candidate doesn't a president make.

    October 4, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  12. byebarry

    Obama is not a president of usa, without teleprompter, obvious.. who is writing speeches for him again?

    October 4, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  13. MT

    I cant believe how America is so quick to judge.No wonder they're into a lot of wars. Tomorrow, in the light of day
    , when they start looking for substance they will know who the real winner is!

    October 4, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  14. Joan

    I don't know what some of you heard tonight, but Romney blew Obama out of the park. Obama couldn't make it without his teleprompter. Romney grew his business why don't you see that he could put America back where it should be.

    October 4, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  15. ted

    There is just no way that i can grow as a business at my current size if the Romney Plans go into effect. It would limit my deductions just too much for me to expand. And if i can not expand I would have to fold. I am far to young of a company if I can not get past the break even point then I am just toast.

    October 4, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  16. RonB

    It's easy to lie. When people see that he lied to them then it will be seen.

    October 4, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  17. formerdem

    Romeny won, Obama lost just as it should have been. I'm a 47%er, and I'm smart enough to know obama's policies have been crippling this country just as FDR did. If you want a longer deeper recession/depression vote for obambi. If you want Reagan like growth vote for Romney, enough said. I'll never come back to the Demoncrat party till they clean house to rid us of Progressivism.

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

    Interesting. Obama wins ... It's because he's the smartest guy in America who cares so much. Obama loses ... It's because he's so kind and gentle. Romney wins ... It's because he lies so well. Romney loses ... It's because he has no soul.

    Reality? Romney is a CEO, a leader who can stand up under pressure, who knows what he wants to say and says it. Obama is a college professor not used to having his "students" challenge him and used to reading from his book.

    Romney is no John McCain in these debates.

    Tonight was the drama. Next week is the comic relief!

    October 4, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  19. Kem

    Mitt won the debate hands down. He looked the American people in the eye, unlike Obama. We live in blue collar working class neighborhoods and Obama's policies have destroyed our way of life. I've voted democrat for years but this year I'll vote for the republican. He may be rich but he understands how to get job growth without bankrupting this nation.

    October 4, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  20. DocTock

    Mitt demonstrated "All hat and no saddle" – no specifics, just smirks and campaign rhetoric. How about some substance? Oh wait, that's his campaign. Hide his specifics, his stance, his actual point of view – he has none.
    Obama missed on many chances to point out that Mitt is totally inconsistent in his point of view throughout his political life and spouts what the base radical Right wants. He only stands for the mega-wealthy like himself who hide their money in off-shore accounts and thinks that anyone who isn't worth several million USD isn't worth wasting his time worrying about. POTUS Obama, you really should have hit harder!

    October 4, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  21. VKJC

    Romney was passionate, but scarce on details.
    He wasn't as condescending as I thought he would be, but he was borderline disrespectful to Jim and the debate process.
    Obama was too determined to keep his cool and appear presidential.
    There are a lot of people who wanted him to look more like a fighter.
    Personally, I was grateful for his professorial clarity.

    October 4, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  22. bryan

    what's wrong with you, CNN. 430 people are not a remotely representative sample for 100M+ voters.

    October 4, 2012 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  23. John

    Romney won.. he just got a platform to talk to 50 million people without the media filter. Nobody is going to walk away from this debate with a lower view of Romney but millions are going to see him in a more positive light.

    October 4, 2012 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  24. smartin

    It was clear that Romney won the debate. I am an independent. Romney was clear, aggressive, and straightforward. God forbid it but Obama rambled about Michelle, brought up the said story of the bad economy he inherited and basically "ummed" his way through. Like another person said, Obama didn't even look like he wanted to be president. I don't think Obama is impressed by his own bad numbers (high unemployment, slow economic growth, huge budget deficit). Honestly, how could we vote for Obama?

    October 4, 2012 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  25. H20

    There is one reason and one reason ONLY that Obama didn't bring up the 47% or Romney's money...Because there is NO basis for any of it! 1. Obama knows he twisted the comment about the 47%. 2. Romney doesn't have to apologize for being successfull. Let's not forget that Obama is a millionaire too. But what you fail to ask is HOW is Obama a millionaire when he has only ever been in politics? Romney earned it WHILE employing people. Oh I also LOVE how CNN puts the disclaimer about "only polling a small percentage of Americans and how it can't speak for all Americans". But let Obama win a poll....It's like the entire country had been polled.

    October 4, 2012 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
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