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. NameMark

    How could anyone (you say 25%) claim Obama WON that debate? He nearly fell asleep in the middle of half his answers; I certainly did.

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  2. anonymous DEMOCRAT

    Romney lied through his teeth? Obama is a hypocritical showman with zero leadership and an ego that is accomoanied by a marchimg band ...

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  3. Ken

    Romney is the real deal, his experience and understanding of the issues, especially relating to the economy showed. And Obama showed why our economy has been in a quagmire the last four years, because he really doesn't get it.

    October 4, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  4. Name lame duck 2012

    Romney did well comparison to what?. Insulting half of America. Good job. Your ignorant ,flip flop,no detailed responses did well.. maybe jeb bush can buy you Florida like he did ole big brother .. but can he buy Ohio,Virginia,Wisconsin,ect hum I bet.

    October 4, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  5. Debra from Atlanta

    How can you run against a LIAR!!!!!!!!

    October 4, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  6. Jeep

    Romney was crisp and sharper but you have to look past the glitz. All he did was lie and gave no specifics. He did at times make Obama look bad. But Romney is a flake and loser.

    October 4, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  7. peter

    Yeah Romney came out swinging props to him he needed it more than Obama but the only issue i still have with him is he didn't explain in details what he was going to change or his plans just alot of talk

    October 4, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  8. KAP

    PLEASE !!! They only interviewed 430 people ! that's barely a proper sampling. I expect better from CNN .... how many of these 430 were Democrats? Republicans? Independents? Did you do a fair amount of all ? Couldn't you have waited and done a better survey before going for the big attention grabbing headline ? I'm ashamed to even be reading this article

    October 4, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  9. Chris

    What ? Nice sample size fools. Here in Denver 4 out of 12 said Obama and 1 said Romney they rest said they both suck. Did you do your poll in the heart of the Republican Bible Belt ? Also wait for the fact checkers to come in. Like Romney denied his tax cut of 5 trill how many times when fact checkers have already said it is 5 trill ? Plus Romney contradicted himself at least 6 times and in the end said he was going to to INSTALL Obama Care!

    October 4, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  10. Curt29

    Obama was in a tough spot tonight. He has been in a tough spot throughout this race. The reason Obama is going to win this election is because this election is not just about the economy. Sure, that is the focus, but we all realize that there are other factors. That and the economy needs time, things are going to get better.

    October 4, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  11. dirtyD

    Obama looked like a kindergartner trying to graduate highschool... ummm ummm .. stutter.. stutter take from people who work hard.. umm education (teacher unions) .. stutter.. Romney hit him on all points and called him on his lies.. Romney looked like a true leader who is ready to get this country back on the right track for people who wanna work hard and take pride in being AMERICAN

    October 4, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  12. John Robertson

    Sorry but Romney looked and sounded way more presidential tonight.. How could the 25% though Obama with his rambling on and on of won.. Must be Chicago or the 47% who actually were polled by CNN..

    October 4, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  13. i12bphil

    Dear Democrats, no one here appreciates a fine whine more than me, but you guys take the cake! (No, I'm not a Repub). The one thing I've learned in my decades of watching American politics unfold is that between the two parties, Democrats are nothing but loud-mouthed whiners. Day in, day out. Take Mantha for example. To Mantha Romney came off as a royal jerk. Why? Probably for the simple reason alone that his views don't agree with Manthra. Dissent is to be punished. This is the Democrat repressive tolerance way.

    October 4, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  14. P

    Well it's about time that some people start understanding who really cares for OUR country and can actually do some good change! People you need to vote for someone that can really help and fix this country and not just enjoy the white house facilities and benefits. And yes it is not who debates better but who is telling the truth enough lies. Knowledge is power. You can't always talk your audience to death. Thank you Romney for trying to save this country. There maybe hope after all.

    October 4, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  15. Doles

    Now I truly see how conservatives feel when they come here whining about polls going against them. To read about all these people saying that the poll is biased because it said the president lost is laughable at best. There is no sugarcoating this one. The reality is, if you are an informed voter, the debate was not going to change your mind to begin with because you should know where the candidates stand by now. However that's in the perfect world. In the world we're living, we all know most people just go by the soundbites and snapshots. Unfortunately, many of these people might go with Romney based on tonight. I couldn't keep hold on how many issues the guy just morphed into a brand new candidate! And if you can't get yourself informed, I think perhaps you deserve such guy to be your president.

    October 4, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  16. Marla

    Romney lied, and anyone who has been paying attention the last several months could see that.
    The flip-flopper made several giant flip-flops tonight.
    The frightening thing is the thought that many of the voters who have not been paying attention until tonight might believe that what he presented tonight is what his policy has been all along.

    October 4, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  17. Russell

    Romney would be a great president!!! Glad those who watched could see Romney in form. Willing to work and prepare to get the job done. Wow!! Go Romney!!

    October 4, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  18. Surfdog

    Take that!

    hard to believe the militant left at the Crescent News Network acknowledged Romney as the winner.

    October 4, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  19. Mandi

    How is Romney won the debate? Can anyone explain it to me? I thought these things are about substance and not style. Can anyone tell me what specifics Romney offered? Please, Please tell me....

    October 4, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  20. Austin

    Obama has my vote! Romney is a schmuck..anyone drinking his KoolAid is a fool

    October 4, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  21. Syl Allen

    FlLIP-FLOP Romney will say anything to get votes. He lied through the whole debate to look impressive!! Don't be fooled people he is just a mare FLIP FLOPPER. To CNN I couldn't find that link to vote, I guess it's only Republicans can find it. Lawrence Ang I agree with you 100%

    October 4, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  22. Reagan80

    Keep this in mind: except for the general election against McCain, Obama has never done as well in an election as he polled.

    October 4, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  23. FacePalm

    Obama's weakness in the debate is his same weakness as president: failing to to show real interaction with the public regarding what he is gonna do.

    His economic policies have not worked so well, and bailout money was definitely given to rich ppl too. This was the only point where Romney made Obama look like a fool.

    So how does Obama not return the favor. Point to out to Americans that Romney just changed half his views mid-debate.

    Obama stumbled his words, appeared reserved and distant, and unsure on how to counter Romney.

    What average Americans just saw in him is the same treatment they hated receiving from him for 4 years, and it was not a pleasant reminder.
    Americans wanted to see the Obama you heard in the "incriminating" Chicago-video, the passionate, caring, practical guy.

    Obama's explanations also sounded complex and almost apologetic, while Romney just made noise saying he will do better with no specifics.

    Again, Romney did one thing right this debate, he told Americans what they wanted to hear:
    1) The economy sucks and Obama hasn't been sufficiently effective
    2) I promise to make everything better.

    You will see how suckers will buy into his promise sure enough.

    October 4, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  24. RudyG

    To those who say Romney offered no details I say Obama didn't even offer HOPE of offering details!! This president is CLUELESS! If he were debating Bill Clinton he would be TOAST right now!

    October 4, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  25. Change of mind

    Unfortunately, Obama's performance tonight reflects the substance of his policies. Though I like Obama's personality, I admit I am going to have to vote for Romney to get the job done for the US.

    October 4, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
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