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.

CNN Fact Checks: What was truth, and what was not?

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.

From the spin room...

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. 2020

    Romney on that stage throwing all those LIES, It sent chill down my spine...

    OH GOD, Romney LIED with his eyes wide open, just like cheney, no shame, no fact, all the denails.........

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  2. Carl

    Romney lied repeatedly fact checking organizations are having a field day with this debate.

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  3. Tiredofthelies

    Obama was absolutely clueless and speechless. He couldn't speak a coherent or meaningful statement of fact. Obama can defend his failure and it certainly showed the first time Obama had to answer to the people.

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

    Mr. Romney did a masterful job this evening of making his lies sound like truth.
    God help America if this evil man is elected.

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  5. evalu8er

    Mitt was a junk yard dog; Obama was presidential and had good manners. He tried to stay in the framework, Romney talked on and on and on.....looked inexperienced even if he was more "excitable."

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  6. Bryan

    Impressive showing by Romney. He knew his facts. His body language was better. Obama seemed to want to just repeat a lot of the same things. It will be interesting to see the new polls

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  7. Anonymous

    Obama definiiely off his game! But fact checkers are already ripping R a new oine! So he won or did he ?

    October 4, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  8. Bil

    Our economy would suffer if Obama is elected. O wait!

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  9. Anonymous

    Oh, dear. Looks like the election is over and we will see a President Romney in come January 2013. Guess the middle class can look forward to another 8 years of George W. Bush III.

    If nothing else, my fellow Americans are consistent in never seeing beyond the glitter of their new shiney toy, and boy oh boy is Mitt their newest shiner.

    If this doesn't get the progressives off their butts to vote, nothing will. Oh, well. It's not as if we aren't already living out THEIR failure to vote in the 2010 election .... no matter that they have become the biggest complainers now that voting rights have been taken away, women's rights have been taken away, and... yet, for all of that ... I hear very little from those who sat out in 2010 in a willingness to say anything good about the man they abandoned simply because they - the sit at home pouters - didn't get everything they wanted in his first 2 years in office ... thus allowing for the obstruction that followed from the Congress they allowed to be voted in.

    Looks like we're headed for a repeat of 2010.

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  10. Matthew

    Everyone always hates the winner! We cannot criticize Mitt Romney for being decisive, strong and direct and for the moderator being weak at best. I was going to vote for Obama but Romney obviously is a leader, he lead this debate tonight and probably can lead the country better than what we have had for the last four years.

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  11. DN3

    This poll has a sampling error of +/-4% with a sample size of only 430???? Ahahahahahahaha!

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  12. eric

    What a bunch of cry babies on "Oh boo hoo. Dear Leader has no record to run on – so since big bad Mitt has different ideas that actually might fix our country's problems we'll call him a liar, since it's not possible for Dear Leader's ideas to be wrong." Obama's had four years to fix the economy, and not much has improved – and in some respects our country is in worse shape. It's time for a change in leadership. Really, though, how is anyone surprised by this? Obama's resume was incredibly light when he was elected. Who would have hired him to be CEO of a major corporation? If we wouldn't hire him to lead a major corporation, then what business does he have in running the largest economy in the world?

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  13. Mick

    What funny comments. It is like listening to fans of a football game whose team lost and they are blaming the refs, and saying the players played dirty, and yet their team got beaten pretty handily. Both men interrupted. Both men went over their allotted time. Both men had numerous chances to state their case. It sure is interesting that if this poll was reversed in favor of President Obama all of you naysayers would be extolling Obama's virtues.

    I can't even imagine what four more years of the same old stuff will do to this economy and this country. Obama said four years ago if things were still the same he would not be elected to a second term. Well, here we are and things are no different, in fact even worse. It is time that President Obama is voted out of office for failure to deliver on his promises of Hope and Change. Enough already.

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  14. Inkin

    How frustrating that Obama let Romney take control, and ride right over him.. Obama has the truth, and the character,
    and the decency behind him, but he just won't fight back. He let Romney lie and lie and lie, and was just too much of
    a gentleman. What a tragedy for this country if Romney and ryan win. Obama better fight back soon, and fast, and loud,
    ... if not for himself, then for the rest of us.

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  15. Al

    Am I the only one to notice that mitty was telling more LIES. For those who think mitty won the my question for you is, since when can a man knowingly tell a bunch of LIES and still be considered the winner. I think, no, I know mitty put his foot in his mouth again and it is going to come back to haunt him in the near future. OBAMBA/BIDEN 2012

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  16. Kirsten

    I am a Canadian, from what i observed Obama was the clear winner, he was calm and articulate. the President was able give very clear ideas of what he plans to do where Romney just spouted out garbage with little or no details to back up what he was saying.

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  17. Joe

    It's so funny to see an organization like CNN actually state that a Republican won. That's why they had to pick the worst picture they could find of Romney. media folks are children. Report the news without the childishness. you are sooooooo obvious.

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  18. John

    Obama's chances are still 86.1%

    October 4, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  19. BADGUY

    Romney certainly DID prove he can insult and brow beat better than Obama.....BUT....everything he said contradicted everything he's been saying for the last 6 months:
    1. He said he would NOT cut taxes for the Rich. Say What? The Ryan plan lower's taxes on the Rich from 34.5% to 25%
    2. He said he would continue paying for public education. Say What? Romney/Ryan back school vouchers to destroy PE!
    3. He said he would use HIS Mass plan to replace Obamacare. Say What? I thought Romneycare wouldn't WORK for all.

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  20. Daguz

    So now the RNC will pour more money into the presidential campaign instead of the senate races??? Ohio is in Obama's side by 11 points, Pennsylvania is on Obama's side by 15 points.
    Before the debate, the RNC advised that they were going to focus on the senate races what? I dont think a debate will erase a 7 point lead....let alone a double digit lead in MUST WIN states for Romney.

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  21. independent obsvr

    If it were a boxing match Romney won. He is awesome lier!! We gotta give it to him the win. He wins chances are nothing much will change but definitely US in the wrong path. EVen if he wins I hope Obama call him following in next debate – Lier, flip-flopper etc

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  22. Michelle

    This poll is mostly Republicans, everyone switched over from the Fox network. Most independents and undecided folks are usually undercover Republicans.
    Now I know why you don't pay attention to political polls.

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  23. Jeff

    Romney nominally won the debate (because he sounded more confident and in control), but in the long term Obama will actually be the winner because the debate supplied a lot of snippets that Obama can use in commercials, e.g., Romney conceding that he doesn't actually have any plans.

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  24. Aaron

    The 47% comment was true. The majority of the united states thinks the goverment owes them something. Best advice i ever heard " nobody owes you anything in life you want a future get off your lazy ass and make one. I grew up in poverty (look up sentral fairmount in Cincinnti, Ohio) and i made something for myself by joining the military and using the Gi Bill that i paid for and my military experience to become something better. Now im not knocking Obama Or Romney but one things for sure, people need to start taking responsibility for themselves and stop looking for hand outs.

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  25. scat398

    so now liberals just wanna claim romney was lying the entire debate. Seems to me the press simply didn't get to frame romney the way they wanted to today.

    and another thing, what was up with the moderator assisting Obama, that was really bad form. we all know 95% of the press votes democratic but you have to at least try and keep it neutral at the debate.

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
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