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. Chris

    This is why CNN is so great! Romney wins by a huge margin, based on the opinions of 430 registered voters.... Wow. Great news headline.

    October 3, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  2. Kim

    Where the heck is the link to vote on who won the debate?! I want to vote because I watched the entire debate and I don't agree with the results you are posting on TV or the internet.

    October 3, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  3. Mantha

    If we decided winners by who displayed the most child-like behavior than Romney. He did not look like a president tonight. He came across as a royal jerk, interjecting extra rebuttals he wasn't supposed to, shouting down the moderator. Obama followed the rules, and we're punishing him for doing so. I'd be willing to venture a guess that his likeability numbers drop.

    October 3, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  4. Mm

    So, Romney acted like a schi tzo bully, told about a thousand lies, gave no specifics..with a moderator asleep in his seat..and that is good enough for people? After all we've been through, my...what low standards they have.

    October 3, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  5. Kam Gordon

    Come on now, Can't you see Romney is a used car salesmen with hidden Facts!

    October 3, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  6. Michelle Obama

    I'm changing my vote to Mitt after tonight.

    October 3, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  7. arzu

    Mitt Romney no matter what he is president 2012 anyway:))

    October 3, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  8. DJ Particle

    I see you fixed the photo, but if the incorrect presentation was present when the poll was being taken, it still means the poll is flawed

    October 3, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  9. Bostonian_Wire

    Romney did well for this debate. He was aggressive and more "alert" HOWEVER, he is not going to win. Yes he will get a bounce in the polls but he is not going to get that much nor was this a game changer. This is right out of the '04 presidency and Bush did not not well the first debates and Kerry did, Kerry still lost. Obama needs to wake up and Romney needs to stop being an etch n sketch.

    October 3, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  10. Teshia

    Who made the calls

    October 3, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  11. Kyla

    Romney bullied his way into lying for over an hour nonstop. that is winning? maybe in the Charlie Sheen sense.

    October 3, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  12. Joyceb4014

    Romney wants to win at all cost and will say anything and everything to achieve that goal. This is the same guy that doesn't care about 47% of Americans! Common people, are you gonna buy another George Bush? From this we will never recover should he become president!

    October 3, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  13. Ahmed Bilal

    Ron Smithe –> They released the poll a while after the debates. See, they actually had to CALL 450 adult americans. It takes a little bit of time. What funny business does that sound like?

    October 3, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  14. Mimi Ross

    WONDERING WHY THE 47% COMMENT WAS NOT MENTIONED? a smart man...and this is not a topic people dont know...dont believe me...check your news feed...him being silent on making EVERYONE talk about it...those talking will spread it to even those who did not see the debate be
    cause all people dont watch and follow politics...think about it...sometimes silence is more impactful ...then speaking your whole mind...and thats biblical..Far more wiser to wait to use that ammunition RIGHT before election so it will be fresh in people minds...can we say....calculated moves

    October 3, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  15. Maddie U

    Who voted in this poll?? it seems like the public at large did not take part in this poll

    October 3, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  16. smashcat

    Mitt is delivering a huge scam to the American people. The one who yells loudest "wins." Debates are a joke, and this proved it.

    October 3, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |

    One night does not make a President. I have been watching Romney for over a year and have never seen anything In the man that would make me vote for him. I think he cannot be trusted and would destroy our country. Ann is an insult to women and Mitt cannot get out from behind her skirts.

    October 3, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  18. oxclaudiaxo

    based on a survey of 430 people gee i wonder, how many registered democrats they phoned up? i watched the debate and received no call. Fail survey

    October 3, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  19. John Tater

    I'll still be voting for Obama, but Romney clearly won this debate by a big margin. He did it, however, by repudiating everything his party stands for and has advocated. That left Obama flatfooted, with nothing to do but wander off into pathetic anecdotes about the poor lady in Peoria who told him yadda yadda.

    October 3, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  20. parts

    Uh..430 Human Beings !! LOL


    Like in football.."Nobody wins the Super Bowl in October"

    Maybe this is what the President needs..his base will not be complacent ..

    October 3, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  21. AZ

    It's not just who won the debate; it's whether the debate changed the way you're going to vote.
    I thought Romney won the debate, but I'm still voting for Obama.

    October 3, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  22. Margo

    Thematics Robme wins, on specifics he looses...I love how people would vote for him based on lies...if you vote robme you deserve to work for the his little slave...

    October 3, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  23. Bil

    Obama seemed uninformed and out of touch with his job ( to busy golfing and campaining) go Romney !

    October 3, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  24. Terry

    Voted for Obama, but must admit Mitt did come across much better and concise than the President. I would have looked forward to how we are going to increase real estate prices and reduce unemployment from President Obama. Mitt did a good job laying that groundwork, not much from President Obama.

    October 3, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  25. Go_Obama

    67% Romney won as Democrat contestant and 25% Obama won as a Republican. Survey sampling error 100% Obama is Democrat and Romney is Republican... Duh!!!

    October 3, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
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