CNN Poll: Split decision on debate
October 16th, 2012
11:46 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Split decision on debate

Hempstead, New York (CNN) - Give a slight edge to President Barack Obama.

Forty-six percent of voters who watched Tuesday night's presidential debate said that the president won the showdown, according to a CNN/ORC International nationwide poll conducted right after Tuesday night's faceoff here at Hofstra University on New York's Long Island. Thirty-nine percent questioned said Republican nominee Mitt Romney did the better job.

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Obama's seven-point advantage came among a debate audience that was somewhat more Republican than the country as a whole and is within the survey's sampling error.

The president's edge on the question of who won the debate appears to be the result of his much better than expected performance and his advantage on likeability. But the poll also indicates that debate watchers said Romney would do a better job on economic issues. And the two candidates were tied on an important measure - whether the showdown would affect how the debate watchers will vote. Nearly half said the debate did not make them more likely to vote for either candidate, with the other half evenly divided between both men.

Tuesday night's poll only reflects the view of voters who watched the debate, not the views of all Americans. The reactions of all voters across the country to the second presidential debate must wait until polls are conducted in the coming days.

Nearly three quarters of debate watchers felt that Obama performed better than they had expected, with just one in ten saying that the president did worse. Only 37% said that the former Massachusetts governor did a better job in the debate than they had expected, with 28% saying Romney performed worse than they had expected prior to the faceoff, and one in three saying he performed the same as they expected.

According to the survey, Obama had a 47%-41% edge on which candidate was more likeable. But on some key issues, Romney came out on top, including an 18-point lead on the economy.

"Mitt Romney was seen as better able to handle the economy, taxes, and the budget deficit among the debate audience, but it seems that issues were trumped, or at least blunted, by intangibles, including the expectations game," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

By a 49%-35% margin, debate watchers thought that Obama spent more time attacking his opponent. The president was expected to be more forceful in attacking Romney following his lackluster performance in the first presidential debate in Denver two weeks ago.

Other questions showed little daylight between the two candidates among debate watchers on some key characteristics. Romney had a 49%-46% edge on which candidate seemed to be the stronger leader and 45%-43% margin on who answered questions more directly, while Obama had a 44%-40% advantage on which man seemed to care more about the audience members who asked questions.

Debate watchers were divided on whether Romney offered a clear plan for solving the country's problems, with more than six in ten saying the president didn't offer a clear plan.

What will it all mean in November?

On that measure, the debate can best be described as a tie. One-quarter of debate-watchers said the event made them more likely to vote for Obama, and an equal amount said it made them more likely to vote for Romney. Half said it would have no effect on their vote.

The sample of debate-watchers in this poll was 33% Democratic and 33% Republican.

"That indicates that the sample of debate watchers is about eight points more Republican than polls taken among all Americans throughout 2012, so the debate audience was more Republican than the general public," added Holland. "This poll does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans. It only represents the views of people who watched the debate."

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC, with 457 registered voters who watched the debate questioned by telephone after the end of the debate. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

By a 37%-30% margin, a CBS News poll conducted after the second debate also indicated that Obama won the showdown.

- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Also on the CNN Political Ticker

- Colbert says he can't tell differences between Romney and Obama

- All tied up ahead of second Obama-Romney showdown

- Obama ad makes case for economic policies

- Romney message this week: 'A clear choice on debt and deficits'

- Largely hidden away, Obama reports debate prep 'going great'

soundoff (1,208 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    I think we have entered a new era of political polling, being driven by electronic/social/web-based media that is out of control. Or, I should say it more correctly, that our political polling science has just crapped out completely. At the end, I'm sure somebody will get it right, and that's all we'll hear about for months. That is, how 'exact' and 'accurate' our polls are..................... so................. don't argue with us about polls !!

    I've looked at dozens and dozens (as most of us have), and one thing they all have in common is that they're all 'filtered' or 'loaded' with some caveots or exceptions. And, most importantly, those filters are NOT necessarily statistically reliable. Give me a break............ decided or undecided............ registered or not registered...... (I've never registered for any party but have voted all the time)................and the worse characterization of all........ liberal or conservative.............. Except for the 'registered' thing, all those are emotional biases which may change from week to week, given that we are bombarded with so much info to influence our thinking.

    So, where's the basic.......... and most accurate statistical poll. Just people count, without any biases or filtering.

    October 18, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |

    actually, CNN was much more generous towards obama compared to CBS - this race is going to be mean down to the wire and based on intense HATRED - we all know and feel it.

    October 18, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  3. GDC

    I stopped watching ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, and HLN. My IQ went up 50 points. It is NOW 189.

    October 18, 2012 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  4. moderateles

    I just looked at partisan trends that was put out in September 12' and it says that 37.6% of Americans consider themselves republicans. This poll had 33% republicans voting. Explain how this poll's dynamic was comprised of more republicans than the nation as a whole. It doesn't add up. CNN wake up. I'm worried if you keep underreporting republican numbers, then the next thing you'll be reporting is Romney's inauguration.

    October 18, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  5. Eric

    What irks me about the whole conservative stance on the Libya issue is this. They want to blame the President for lying about what really happened, and claim we could have saved 4 Americans had his administration acted differently. I agree with the latter portion of that statement... American deaths abroad are a terrible tragedy whenever they happen. But to use this tragedy for political gain sickens me.
    However, where were these same conservative outcries when the Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction that caused the deaths of 4486 American military men and women, over 100,000 Iraq civilians, and countless collateral casualties, and mental/physical disabilities (47%'ers)? Now their guy want to invade Iran? Do 4 senseless deaths mean more to them than 150,000 senseless deaths... many of them women and children bystanders who never wanted to put themselves in harms way?
    A vote for Romney makes no sense to any American with more than half a brain.

    October 18, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  6. Dave

    The facts about the debate have now come out:

    Obama did not answer the fast and furious question.
    Obama could not explain why deficits, debt and unemployment are so bad today.
    Obama lied about Libya and declared that it was the result of a protest.
    Obama blamed low gas prices 4 years ago on the bad economy!

    Romney won the debate in spite of the liberal media reports and in spite of others breaking the rules of the debate (Obama's wife applauded and cheered, the moderator interrupted Romneyh 28 times and gave Obama 3 extra minutes).

    Even the NYT said Obama had no plan for the next 4 years.

    October 18, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  7. yourmom

    vote Romney 2012 save America's Economy

    October 18, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  8. yourmom

    Obama Did lie about fast and furious and the guns that were sold in fast and furious have killed 60,000+ Mexicans and 4 border patrol troopers get him ouit of office save America

    October 18, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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