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.

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. cj

    Potus odd his game , Romney was on his but fact checkers already are hitting him hard...but Romney was just too agreeable , he seem to say on thing in his stump speeches one thing tonight. But Pres Obama did not challenge him , that was a disappointment.
    The moderator was aweful by the way!

    October 4, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  2. Big k

    Romney crushes obama. obama can't even look Mitt in the eye. That's sign of a liar.

    October 4, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  3. midgick

    Watch the next debate between these 2 candidate. Obama will rip Romney's hid off his lying back. This guy completyly re-invented himself in 4 week period. The fact checkers all agreed that Romney told more untruths than Obama.
    By the way, the Mass. health plan that Romney took credit for was crated and made to happen by the late Kennedy, not Romney. I hate liars and hate people who take credit for other peoples lifetime work. Also Romney lied about his making Mass. the best educated State. Again, it was the Democrates under the Kennedy's that help make that happen, but in reality Mass. always had great Colleges and Schools. Romney did absolutely nothing for Mass to have the great education system, he just went with flow. Same thing with his health care . It's Obamacare through and through.

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

    The debate was very important. Debates strip away any media bias and outlandish tv ads. With both of those aspects typically in Obama's favor, it was Romney's shot for both exposure and to challenge the president toe to toe.. The polling changes in the coming days will show that Romney made the most of his opportunity.

    October 4, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  5. BobG(Milwaukee)

    Someone got a lesson tonight! You Obama lovers need to get your man schooled in economics. OMG

    October 4, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  6. Sue B

    The President was calm steady and reasoned. Mitt with his passive aggresive fake smile seemed fake to me and said nothing of substance. Let them have their moment in the sun, it will only be a few days before a puffed up Mitt says something to ruin it.

    October 4, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  7. Swing State

    Romney needed this more. Winning one of the debates doesn't equal winning the election. Also, this doesn't change the fact that he has no solid ideas.

    October 4, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  8. The Dude

    Seriously...430 people in the pole...which district of Utah did you pole...ridiculously stupid to even report the way did you watch the debate...Romney will be cited with at least 4 outright lies that I caught in the next couple news outputs

    October 4, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  9. John

    Obama hardly took notes during the debate. Romney was taking notes actively and answering each point. His experience as ex CEO showed in this debate. It felt like President came to give a speech, not for a debate.

    October 4, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  10. Ame2012

    Obama failed again, like he did 4 years now. It's time for a change. Romney knows what he's talking about more than Obama. Vote Romney if you hope for great prosperous America again.

    October 4, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  11. GaryDMN

    Obama did win time of possession, he had the mike longer. Other than that, Romney won.

    October 4, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  12. CT

    Romney nailed it. Obama is a moron . All he can do is to give lecture and this time he wasn't even do that.

    October 4, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  13. Duke of the Northern Woods

    Obama is toast. This election will be a runaway.

    October 4, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  14. Mark

    How can you tell if a politician is lying. Because his lips are moving. They are all liars.

    October 4, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  15. kenny

    who watched it... lol.. anyone under 40??? i'm sorry we're just too busy with LIVES to sit through a couple of grown men lying to run the richest most powerful country in the world. seriously anyone under 40 watch this???

    October 4, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  16. Andrew

    You people that are trying to spin this as anything other than Romney having the better night are delusional. It's amazing you can be completely void of both rational thought and unbiased emotions. It's amusing and sad all at the same time.

    I would encourage you to show some base level of objectivity... it would serve you and your agenda well in the long run.

    October 4, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  17. Oscar Briggs

    And Obama is a lawyer. Lawyers never lie....

    October 4, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  18. mjcharron

    I heard a lot of talking but there was one candidate who missed a lot of facts. Mitt Romney is guilty!

    October 4, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  19. Planet Kolob

    I can sum up the debate this way:

    Imagine a kid who gets straight D's all semester and the teacher tells him he needs to get an A+ on the final exam to pass the course. The student gets a B instead of an A+... It's not that the B is a bad grade, it's a pretty good grade, but they still won't pass the course.

    That kid is Romney.

    October 4, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  20. Gobama

    Romney is presenting his "O" face, because he's about to screw the American people

    October 4, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  21. Me

    It is so funny, Romney was flawless and all you sorry people can say is he was lying, it is pretty funny to read!!! LOL

    October 4, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  22. RevCleo

    Romney cleaned the presidential clock

    October 4, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  23. The Dude

    My god his whole stance was...I'm going to do exactly what you are doing but better...can't tell you specifically how I will do it better...I just we really to be expected to be that stupid.

    October 4, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  24. David

    Obama had one major problem which prevented him from winning the debate: his record. He blamed Bush from 2009 through 2011, but people with brains in their heads are starting to see the big picture. He inherited a mess and made it a whole lot messier. Promise to cut the deficit in half, and then go on to raise the national debt to $16 trillion?! Unemployment continues to be above 8% and has been above that level since one month after the inauguration? Gas prices have more than doubled? Housing prices continue to decline? And what does Obama do? He gives $90 billion to "green energy" companies, many of which are failing and involved in scandals. Sorry, but no debating skill can make you look good when your performance as a president has been so lousy. Easy pickings for Romney. If Obama wins, it can only be because the American public are truly as stupid as they seem at Obama rallies.

    October 4, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  25. JC

    Seemed Jim Lehrer was not in control. I felt he deferred too much to the President and the total speaking time reflects that.

    October 4, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
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