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. Catherine

    HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT ANYONE CAN BELIEVE ROMNEY WON THIS DEBATE. Romney was shaky, evasive and in most cases gave zero details of his plan. Obama was controlled, detailed, Presidential, spoke the truth and provided details of what he would do. I am shocked at the polls... where are all the smart people.

    October 4, 2012 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  2. Gina Gambino

    I'm sorry.......Obama's world will surely unravel. Romney did a great job! The VP debate will make Obama look even worse, because you can guarantee Biden will put his foot in his mouth again,

    October 4, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  3. Darren

    Romney promised everything under the sun lol, shows hes a great businessman,but I don't think any americans are fool enough to believe him. And I promise 10 million jobs,lol, what a liar, couldn't stop laughing.He's got all the answers, what a loud mouthed tool, the devil is in the details,cut everyone off their food stamps,housing,social security...I feel sorry for the poor people if he gets elected, cause man are they ever gonna suffer!

    October 4, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  4. Anonymous

    I think Romney was too aggressive and told some lies!. Obama was trying to be gentle and presidential... that didn't work at all!. I say Obama should take off the gloves next debate and give it all he's got. By the way, this does not mean Romney has won the election..... a long way to go yet.....

    October 4, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  5. rmiddle

    Romney had better style, but the message is the same...Give wall street back to the bankers so they can run unchecked and take us into a depression, let insurance companies run health care so we can all pay more, and by the way, middle class, you are on your own because you are going to be off-shored No thanks! this is what got us to where we are today.

    October 4, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  6. Patricia

    Obama lost. He has been losing from day one. Romney had passion and soundly explained how to build America back up from the roots. Old school with a modern twist. Obama is going to get a tounge lashing from his rich boss George... Wake up liberal lovers. You are like a school of minnows with no clue of the brainwashing that has overtaken you.

    October 4, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  7. Don

    The press is exposed and Obama is exposed as a made up media president. Maybe Sandra Fluke should call and console Obama.

    October 4, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  8. Tall Tree NAV

    I think Obamney effectively utilized hollow rhetoric while Rombama countered nicely with empty promises. Didn't change my mind though – still voting Libertarian.

    October 4, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  9. Anonymous

    I think there's something phony about these results. It reminds me of the time where photos showed President Bush with a box under his suit coat you could only see from the back during his big debate with Sen. John Kerry. I think it was a a transmitter/receiver to let him hear advice from aides. These numbers make no sense beside the response I saw from about a hundred people at a debate watch party tonight. No one thought Romney won!

    October 4, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  10. CR

    Doesn't matter if Mitt won the debate, he will never get my vote. He tried to appear as if he cared about those of us who are middle class citizens, but we all know he is out of touch with what it is like to truly be a struggling American. President Obama has been the most caring, compasionate president I have ever seen. He truly wants to change things for America. Mitt kept bringing up "the last 4 years" like that would ever be enough time to fix what Republicans and Bush did to America the "8 years before". Wake up America! We were in financial ruin and on the brink of a depression by the time Bush got though with us! If Mitt is elected, I can only see more of the same in coming years.

    October 4, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  11. VKJC

    I'm still very confused about what Romney's tax plan consists of.

    October 4, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  12. Roy S.

    I would have loved it if Obama had said he was reversing all his mistakes with our nation, but HE DIDN'T EVEN APOLOGIZE to us for running us 16 Trillion in debt! He won't get my vote.

    October 4, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  13. Thoughtful Voter

    If you look closely the poll you refer to showing Obama the winner in blue D was taken before the debate and asked who do you think will when the debate your eyes and ears...please.

    October 4, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  14. Dale

    CNN declared Romney the winner from a poll conducted by 430 American's? Smell's like fox network?

    October 4, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  15. Anonymous

    Romney will have to be ready to call a liar, a liar, when Obama comes at him in ads on TV tommorow, and in person at the next debate.

    Every time Obama attacks with verbal knives in the next debate, Romney will need to respond with verbal swords.

    When Obama draws a verbal "Saturday Night Special", Romney will need to have a verbal shotgun ready.

    October 4, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  16. alice

    What is going on with CNN-–first the Benghazi unbalanced reporting and now taking your "scientific" voter pole by calling a larger number of Republicans . .. of course the Republican percentages would be greater. I am so disappointed in you all.

    October 4, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  17. Brian Andersson

    I'm voting for Romney now. Was an Obama supporter.

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

    What happen to Obama tonight ??? I thought he was an articulate speaker. He looked like he was hiding something from the American people. He was not like 4 years ago. He must have benefited off of 90 billion. Who knows. I'm still undecided on who to vote.

    October 4, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  19. adrifter

    I listened to the debate while driving. Romney easily won. Will that make me vote for him? Not a chance.

    October 4, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  20. jimbob

    So let me get this straight: if you remain calm, point out your opponent's contradictions, and rationally lay out your ideas in a substantive manner, you lose. If you change every position you've had for 2 years, get red in the face, and yell a lot, you win.

    What kind of Bizarro World debate did you guys watch?

    October 4, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  21. Ton

    What you saw tonight was a total victory by a real leader of people, mitt Romney. Obama was exposed. And the liberal media wasn't there to protect him. I believe Romney will restore America's standing in the world and help create 12 million new jobs by bipartisan collaboration. Goodbye hope and welcome in a leader with real experience and an understanding of how the global economy really works. Now Americans will have a real shot at the American dream.

    October 4, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  22. David in FL

    Substantive, likeable, articulate, prepared, knowledgeable, detailed yet presidential... no I'm not talking about Obama

    October 4, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  23. jake

    Yikes, was it just me or did Obama look ready to quit being President. I don't think he ever realized what a tough job he was getting into. He'll be happier as an ex-President, giving speeches, writing books, going to talk shows. Nice enough guy, but just not a very good President.

    October 4, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  24. derek

    Ovay, some of you Obama supporters are not very awake (or you haven't read the article before commenting – no surprise there). It was a TELEPHONE survey Kim, you can stop looking for the link to vote now! lol And for some other slow people out there, the Rep and Dem symbol mix-up when the story first came out, DOESN"T matter. OVAY – it was a TELEPHONE survey!!! They didn't SEE the symbols. OVAY!!!

    October 4, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  25. Max

    Romney did a sensational job in the debate. Hello President Romney! The country needs your desperately!

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