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. pam

    Voting for Obama, again, and nothing will change that !! He isn't perfect but I am truly scared of Romney .....

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  2. ddland45

    I'm voting for President Obama because I don't believe that Mitt Romney's plan will help anyone except people like him. He wants government out of the way so robberbarons can turn this country into a cash machine. Romney only cares about the cream that rises to the top, not the milk that will continue to sour under more Republican policies.

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  3. Mrpinseeker

    Ouch I don't think people thin Obama won the debate. He was very defensive. Poor guy

    October 17, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  4. Steve J

    I just wish Obama would explain that Romney's plan to increase jobs hinges on letting the gas and oil companies increase production way beyond the levels they are at now. To do that Romney would have to remove most regulations and open areas that should never be touched setting us back 50 years environmentally and pretty much destroying the environment. But who cares if vast areas are destroyed for future generations. Who needs clean air and water anyway? Jobs are more important. Lets let the gas and oil companies do what ever they want to make a quick buck.

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  5. Proud Military Vet and Buckeye

    If Obama had done even a halfway decent job the last 4 years, would this election be so close?

    America deserves better than ok.

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  6. Map360

    The fact that CNN would use a Moderator to flat out stop Romney and lie about what Obama said is a travesty of journalistic ethics.

    Being in the tank for a candidate is bad enough, but the fact that a network actually lied is sickening.

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  7. Veteran

    Romney was a draft dodger and traitor to his country during Vietnam by running to France. What will he run from next if elected? No vote from me!

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  8. Yomi Olalere

    People are quick to forget the pain of those days, which is an expected nature of human, but do you still want to experience the same pain or much worse?

    I can still believe the guy that I think will not change his words on me based on his convenience.

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  9. merna

    God bless you Romney i believe you will win and be the president of the USA 2012

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  10. BA

    Really, who did CNN poll? I thought the President was definitely in the game but NEVER talked about the next four years. Romney was strong and very presidental. I figured the wonderful moderator would try to tilt it but Romney still looked more like a leader.

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  11. Nick

    So Obama won the debate 46% to 39% with a margin of error of 4.5% so it was pretty much even and this is breaking news?

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  12. miklea supporter, but

    Gallop poll got Romney 50, Obama 46. Romney look like professor , Obama like student.

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  13. RS

    Obama just opened up a can of worms tonight about Libya. He lied. Just like he did for two weeks telling everyone including the Union that it was the VIDEO. And the moderator backed Obama.................they were wrong, Crowley even admitted it! Obama may have won points but he lost the argument. Energy, Economy, Immigration and Spending and the $16T dollar deficit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He's already shown us what he can do, NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    October 17, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  14. mirrorlogic

    Shame on conservatives who support giving moral support and political energy to Terrorist. Trying to use the Terrorist Attack politically is just wrong, we all know it. They want to talk security guards and anything else, but inside they lapped like puppies at milk when the attack happen because at the time they wanted anything to boost Romney. Shameful, UN-American. Don't give terrorist political leverage to divide us.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  15. Steve

    Can't believe Romney took the bait on the last question. He brought up the 47% issue and opened the door to get slammed. And he did.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  16. Ricky

    Romney is done. My father-in-law – who is a moderate Republican – said he is not voting for Romney. Most moderates won't vote for him, and most people realized that he will flip flop in every issue to try to get votes. He cannot be trusted.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  17. iavoterman

    "Obama Edges?" That was a beat down for the ages.

    "Please continue Governor..." Ouch.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  18. SeanO

    President Obama clearly won this debate. Romney is so fake that it sickens me to watch him. He is like a robot saying the same tired stuff over and over like Obama bad, trust me, Obama bad, trust me lol. The only reason his tail is still around is because the other Republican candidates were more clownish than he is. He was the lesser clown out of the bunch.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  19. Edna

    why can't people see Romney's point? I see it very clearly...He has a record to back it up...I think he is the man. Debate or no debate, the person who can deliver is always the better choice.. Just look at their accomplishments.. I am so tired of being told " You should be happy you have a job"..There's no more choices out there. We must restore dignity back to decent working people. I believe it's in Romney"s.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  20. ALAN

    Another indisputable Romney victory... Obama is finished !

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  21. Howard

    I think Candy Crowley owes Mitt Romney and the American people an apology for interjecting a lie into the debate to protect President Obama. She destroyed her credibility and does not deserve to continue in her role at CNN. She should never be allowed to moderate a debate in the future. I find it very interesting that you ask commentors to "follow the rules of conduct" when your own employees are not willing to follow the standard rules of debate.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  22. Holly

    Hey Tom,
    It IS the economy "stupid" .. You can't spend 8 years hacking down a forest and expect it to grow back in 4 years!! Reality Check! Romney had nothing positive to say! All he offered was promises and a whole lot of pandering. He changed his plan based on what he THOUGHT we wanted to hear. That ALONE should scare the hell out of you! -but I hate scare tactics! Obama is not perfect but he DOES mean what he says. Actions speak louder than words! Obama cares about US!! -the middle class! After 8 years of George Bush you'd think people would run screaming from another snake oil salesman.. We shall see!

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  23. bode

    I Think obama do very great tonight, and i believe he meant everything he said.

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  24. amazed@humanity

    DEM209~ rose colored glasses seem to be on sale

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  25. alexander

    romney is a liar and he will surely losds this electiopn .The guy is full of liars,see him loosing grounds onm Bengazi,taxes,health care and above all the FAMOUS 47% remarks......HE IS A LIAR

    October 17, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
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