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. Saul

    obama didnt not did good..he didnt proof nothing on his record..we need to change not a "D" Or "R"..but we cant give hime 4 more years..n im hispanic..

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  2. Eric

    This debate pushed me further from Obama, I'm undecided, but am getting frustrated with the biased moderating, and with the constant calling out of republican candidates, while allowing democratic president/VP to give non-answers. The Presidents refusal to answer several questions, including about his pension, and about Libya, and the moderators incorrectly fact-checking Romney mid-sentence really puts me off Obama.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  3. John The Electrician

    You all have to know that paid GOP agents are posting under multiple names. Pretty obviuos when the posts are copy pasted with different names. In the morning it will be dems doing the same thing.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  4. richajam

    Obama looked good at times – even better to most people who thrive on reality TV. Overall he seemed like he was listening to a audio teleprompter to steer him when and where to go.
    Romney seemed more natural at crisis management and comfortable under pressure.

    Tonight, I just moved my selection from undecided to Republican. My parents will be rolling in their graves but it has come down to the next 4 yrs where Action must rule over words.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  5. coolie

    Why is Mitt not winning MA and MH??? I think he did bad there.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  6. flavoter

    Some saw the President as angry!! Joe Biden was also seen as interrupting angry person.

    The people seeing all this anger are these the same people who went out to town halls in 2010 to angrily shout others down?

    How soon they forget.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  7. Joe

    CNN, you got it wrong! Romney won the debate tonight. Obama was caught red-handed in lie about Bengahzi and he will now pay for it at the voting booth.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  8. mrpopular

    Early voting at my precinct starts tomorrow... I'm taking my photo ID and voting for Romney.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  9. Jesse Kalfel

    The President corrected Mr. Romney's false statements. Romney lost on women's issues, education, and his fiscal ideas. CNN seems to be pro Romney even when Obama scores high. Is there some Foxiness going on there?

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  10. KJ

    Spin the facts all you want, but Mitt Romney was correct about the administration slashing onshore and offshore drilling permits by over a third and 62% respectively. Similarly, there was no good reason to stop the pipeline from Canada after almost seven years and thousands of pages worth of studies.

    Barack Obama still doesn't understand capital markets, microeconomics, and how bankruptcy works evidently. Any one leaving the town hall meeting tonight would be much more likely to be run over by a Toyota Prius than a Chevy Volt. Why? It's the difference between a free market (demand) economy than a socialist (command) economy.

    Fiat would not likely own Chrysler now. And General Motors would have still survived without stealing money from GM bondholders and lining the pockets of the UAW union.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  11. Magster

    I want voters to remember that just b/c a particular candidate won a debate (as declared by likely voters polled) does not mean they have won an individuals vote. I am one of those voters. I also think we need less "spin room" in our media coverage and more fact check and subject matter expert analysis of the candidates policies.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  12. jess

    I am still waiting to here Governor Romney's specific details on how he will improve America's current status – For our
    President, it is quite obvious because we currently see what he is doing everyday. It also seems Governor Romney tells you what you want to hear (mind you, he is not very consistent with many of his plans)

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  13. bob

    If anyone really votes based on these sporting-event-like pseudo debates – then they're really stupid. One more bush-like administration and this country is gone. Even those with three functioning neurons should be capable of rejecting Romney and everything the bum stands for – which isn't much – just take what you can get, learn nothing, and screw everyone else.

    October 17, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  14. John Smith

    Of course, when President Obama is at its best, he will always beat Mitt Romney.

    October 17, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  15. CB

    Obama was definitely a more stronger character tonight. However, his record stinks and most people I know will not be voting for him again. The saddest thing is how can he continue to talk about more education, more teachers, when the children graduate and can't find a job? Are they all supposed to become teachers?

    October 17, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  16. Steve

    Romney offers nothing lies and distortion. Republicans are sadly misguided if they believe the country will fair better under him and his cronies. OBAMA FOR 2012!

    October 17, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  17. Gary Lane

    This is only exacerbates bias on the part of the media. I've read a great number of tweets and commentary that flys in the face of this poll... I hope people from both parties look outside their political ideology for fair and balanced perspective.

    October 17, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  18. Brit54321

    What was the take away from this second debate?

    “Where is the beef Mr. President?”

    Romney convincingly demonstrated to me and undecided Americans tonight that he can deliver and that our current emperor has no clothes.

    October 17, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  19. Bias does not a debate make

    What a joke. Most biased moderator I've ever seen. Why would Obama ask the supposedly neutral moderator for transcripts on the spot with an expectation of an answer? Nothing fishy there... CNN has zero credibility from this day on...

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  20. David

    It's so amazing how low-information voters keep bashing Obama but they don't know anything about the facts. Seriously. It's astonishing how so many know so little. You're a low-information voter if a) you're wondering if you're such a voter or b) if your source of political knowledge is based on emails you receive from your wacko friends and family members. In either case, you lack the intellectual standing to comment about the future of our country.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  21. Bob

    I just can not find Obama credible anymore. Time for some more hope and change and if Romney does not get
    something done in four years, go for some more hope and chance. What I can find as a turning point, is Romney telling the American people that he has done it before and is experienced. I truly believe that Obama lacks the experience needed to turn this country around. I would rather have Ron Paul. As almost everyone knows, hindsight is 20/20,Obama, you do NOT bet on American workers, you invest in America and that is ALL OF AMERICANS. NOT JUST THE AUTOMAKERS. And as to giving everyone a fair shot, NOT ONE SAID LIFE IS FAIR! GET USED TO IT.
    I work my butt off almost every day so I can live and that is 58% less then 4 years ago.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  22. truth hurts

    Romney did miss several great opportunities to nail Obama to the wall. The question on gun control gave him the perfect opportunity to fry Obama and his use of Executive Privilege to conceal information, especially after promising to be the most transparent administration in history.

    And the Libya question was another great opportunity, but we'll never know what might have happen because the moderator wrongly interjected herself into the debate in favor of Obama. She KNEW this was a major open wound for Obama and was out to protect him and did so by deflecting Romney with misinformation.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  23. texcal68

    For Romney to win, he must win Ohio, a state that he's trailing in currently, while Ohioans are voting. Moreover, President will solidify his lead in Ohio and other swing states after his debate performance tonight.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  24. Kathi

    Why did Obama get 4 mins. more?? That is a lot of time when there is little time to answer, Romney kept getting interrupted. When are we going to have a fair debate so we can hear about their plans and not the liberal monerator?

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  25. Bhaskar

    The guy who told 47% of Americans are dependents suddenly fell in love with that 47%. What a opportunistic.

    October 17, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
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