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. jimperm

    I am not going to vote for Romney nor Obama. That being said, Romney sliced and diced Obama in this debate. I can't for the life of me see how anyone would say Obama won unless they were already supporters of him. Did they poll Democratic voters???

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  2. GetREAL

    Look at the facts....16 trillion dollar deficit, $4.00 a gallon for gas, half of college graduates cannot find a job, 1 in 6 living in poverty, more people than ever on food stamps. I cannot believe that this is still a race with a record like that.
    Oh yeah, dont forget about Obama Care, Libya, and Fast and Furious Wake UP America. Stop believing the spin.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  3. Ed

    For those complaining about the CNN polls, seriously? Take a look at the first debate, you didn't have nay problem with them then. Just goes to show, you can't be objective.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  4. Aaron

    Obama the clear winner tonight. Even the moderator fact-checked Romney.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  5. JosephPQ

    Romney is just too much of a risk and I don't want to see a repeat of George Bush. Definitely gonna go Obama this time. I think he's doing a darn good job considering what he inherited.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  6. Anglo Saxon

    This poll is invalid. Look at the margin of error.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  7. Tp-Ec

    Obama out, American win. That is it.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  8. tr

    Hey dem209... I am making more money than I ever made...graduate college..thanks to president Barack Obama and my wife opened her own hair salon.I am doing a lot better than 4 years ago. Funny how when Obama beat the wheels off of the ol you've had it with Obama. Sad thing about it is Robme still has not specified what he'd do. Yes yell Wifey vote for Robme ..he'll need all the votes he can get! Ha!

    Obama /Biden

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  9. Jeff

    Shame on you CNN ,Your moderator tried to help the president with his answers.....

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  10. John

    Question – to the CNN Political unit: According the article 33% of the 457 registered voters participated in the poll were Republicans and another 33% were Democrats. What affiliation did rest of the 34% have? Green Party? because they surly were not Libertarians...

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  11. Brian

    The debate went as expected. Romney was just as presidential as Obama. The president actually showed up to this debate. And Candy Crowley as moderator inserted herself in error to back the president. No surprises.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  12. E J Pelka

    Obama wins, Crowley gets the save on a bad call.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  13. Mark NJ

    I am still convinced that President Obama is the right man for the job. Romney seems to be insecure on a lot of topics. He also brags about HIS state to much. It makes me very concerned that Romney is going to screw up Medicare & Social Security, just like crazy Bush wanted to do.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  14. kathleen

    If I was Crowley's boss, I would put her in the back office for the duration of her contract with CNN. Next time get a real professional. Crowley made mistakes and was way in over her head with these two powerful intimidating men. Her poor management took away from the debate. Obama did not need his remarks on terrorism "translated", did he? Romney didnt go after Obama's error in misinterpreting the Romney tax cut-even the Obama spokesman Jen Psaki conceded ~80% of that argument after the first debate.The debate was a waste of time. I cant imagine any undecided voters gaining clarity from debate 2.

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  15. Anonymous

    Romney again failed to give any details about his tax plan stating his numbers add up but not how. You can't add 3 trillion in military spending and 5 trillion in tax cuts and not add to the deficit. Romney states he a different person from Bush yet his economic policies are the same and most of his advisors are the same. No to Romney, no to failed economic policies. Obama 2012

    October 17, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  16. myviewis

    Romney totally won this debate, Romney was in complete control, knew what he was talking about unlike Obama who kept repeating the same old memorized points that will lead us nowhere, just more of the same bad economy and no jobs. Romney = Jobs.

    October 17, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  17. YWalk

    Obama won hands down, too many lies Mitt as always

    October 17, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  18. Dave Thrush

    Candy Crowley is an overt Obama supporter, donated to his campaign in '08. In the Tank...

    October 17, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  19. reality_check

    Debating who's won the debate is pointless. Obama had a chance to turn thing around in 4 years and he failed. I'm open to new ideas and strategies.

    October 17, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  20. bat

    Of course Obama won... no question about it !!

    October 17, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  21. Paul

    Look at how Romney crushed Obama on handling the economy and the debt. That's what will really matter come election day. And I cannot wait to see how Obama tries to defend himself in the foreign policy debate. AND.. Obama was wrong on the offshore drilling, His administration decreased by 60%.

    October 17, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  22. Veteran

    Romney in charge of our nukes as president? How about Paul Ryan as president if Romney went down? Afraid yet folks?

    October 17, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  23. Ed

    For those touting Romney's track record... really? he's part of the problem, money over country. That my friends is NOT the solution.

    October 17, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  24. Lokust

    Awesome to see Romney called out on his flip flopping and lying.

    October 17, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  25. Carol

    The President was excellent,Mr. Romney appeared angry and nervous he never answers the question he never says how he will do anything. Mr. Romney does remind you of the salesman that sold you that car that was a lemon He doesn't come across as someone you can trust,but neither does CNN.Take everything CNN (Wolf,Anderson and John King) say about this election and who won which poll as probably not true and I bet their ratings have gone down because they act as if they are elected officials and they know whats best for the American people.Journalisum has really changed.

    October 17, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
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