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. JMAC

    Romney clearly dominated the debate! He owned that stage....

    October 3, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    CNN should post a better photo of Romney with this poll result. If he won why not show a photo of him looking like a winner. Or is there a bias.

    October 3, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  3. ST

    Don't be fooled folks, Romney is a businessman like any other, they can sell anything (even if it has no value), by polishing their tongues in a very stark way.

    October 3, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  4. NickB

    Did those 25% even watch the debate?

    October 3, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  5. CNNveryBias

    Nothing is more entertaining than watching liberals squirm around trying to explain why their candidate got embarrassed on the world stage. The answer is simple: because your policies DO NOT WORK. Never have, never will.
    The greatest debater in the world couldn't defend your failed policies.

    October 3, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  6. Anthony

    So people are complaining and saying obama won that debate? Are you all after a socialist state in which the gov controls all of our lives? Wake up, Jeez.

    October 3, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  7. Only the Truth

    Obama said nothing about the 516 billion dollar Medicare Cut

    October 3, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  8. dave

    Romney dominance. Even CNN can't deny the truth!

    October 3, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  9. Mm

    Romney's debate performance..continuous lying for overall hour.

    October 3, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  10. Krsiten Torring

    Romney has plans for this nation. What does Obama have? All I heard him explain was how Romney was wrong. I do not plan on voting for Obama because I see no sign of change in his actions. He has done nothing these past four years except push obamacare, make people think its okay to live off of the government and push the two parties further apart. I don't want 4 more years of the exact same thing obama. I'm 18 years old and I want a job, my own choice in health care, a nation with a lesser debt and more pride in my country, when I graduate from college. I don't believe you can provide that.

    October 3, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    I was leaningRomney buy fell completly on his side tonight.
    Explained just how he will help the economy shrink goverment thru attrition, create jobs, and also give us plenty of jobs thru oil industry and by helping the job creators (Small business)
    I thought he hit it out of the park. and from hearing the liberal channels, they also think he did well and won and that really suprised me.

    October 3, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  12. Open-minded viewer

    Romney never provided specifics regarding what he was going to do if "Obamacare" was repealed? I also didn't provide specifics regarding how he would put americans back to work. Basically he faulted President Obama for everything, but offered no tangible solutions. CNN, shame on you for posing poll results from such a negligible sampling of views!

    October 3, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  13. Rocotaco

    Not even close--Obama looked very very weak in defense of his government down philosophy verses Romney's less government. American people have stated they do not want heavy handed government and this will play very badly for President Obama.

    October 3, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  14. Michelle

    Obama did in the debate what he has done for the last few years. Nothing effective.....

    October 3, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  15. Jeff

    Mitt did great, Obama stumbled, he showed us his true self, Obama believes all the lies he has made up and when confronted by them he can't speak.
    Mitt can get the job done!!

    October 3, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  16. S Grant

    Wow...your sample of 430 adults is quite small (small print as well). CNN should post an online post-debate poll to get a better sampling from the millions of viewers that watched tonight. Very disappointed in CNN!

    October 3, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  17. truthie

    Romney lost the first hour with his interrupting and he looked scared. His diatribes were word salad. He rambled and interrupted himself. Obama sensed that Romney was faltering but did not go in for the kill. Romney found his footing late and righted himself. However, he made so many statements in contradiction to past statements that Obama's campaign will delight in in producing split screen videos of Romney contradicting himself. Obama looked at the audience in the room, not the camera and that does not work. A win for R tonight but it won't matter in the long run.

    October 3, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  18. DN3

    In style, Romney beat Obama. But in actual substance, Romney was talking out of his behind. He almost sounded like a Democrat in the end.

    October 3, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  19. Christine Weber

    You must be kidding....Romney was rattling on in a desperate effort to sound like someone who really cares! Obama was calm and collected, able to give the information needed, whereas Romney seemed all over the place....I also tried to find out where to vote in a poll...mystery to me...Obama won not Romney..Medicare to the States?? Great if you live in a rich state..what about the lower income states?? So many points where Obama wins!! Education? Obama wins!! voting for Obama...Does my vote count? Perhaps CNN should let us know the secret we page to cast the vote!

    October 3, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  20. Scott Wilkes

    It makes me laugh when I read people say things like, "Romney lied through his teeth." Really, you know that for a fact? I thought the candidates were allowed to be the authority on declaring their own plans, etc.

    October 3, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  21. susan

    Obama was so weak. He seems to have no energy for the American people.

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  22. Nancylee

    I didn't have a chance to vote in the poll, but I must have watched a different debate. Mitt ddn't say anything new, was disrespectful to Jim Leher and made so many comments that don't pass the truth test.

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  23. Ruthy

    obama was as boring and uninteresting as ever

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  24. atc333

    Obama won for content, and facts, Romney for aggressiveness and success in distorting his position, attempting to appear more moderate, and denying the very positions which won him the Nomination.

    There is a saying which applies to some people. Romney is one of them "You can always tell when he is lying, because his mouth is moving". Romney's mouth was moving very fast tonight.

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  25. sissy

    Romney did win that debate. Anyone that says otherwise is a diehard Democrat. Republicans/Democrats are not what they used to be, but this debate was clearly won by Romney and Independents across the country are watching this closely. CNN, thank you for reporting HONEST headlines tonight 🙂

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
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