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. Sean

    CNN prides itself as being a global media source... and then posts a poll with a sample size of 457 people? There are 412 billionaires that are U.S. citizens. People want to bash the 1%... "457 registered voters" represent .0000014526716% of the population of the United States.

    October 17, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  2. Andybinga

    "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."

    Obama never said “This Act of Terror” . He was lying and Candy shilled for him

    October 17, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  3. Dejavu65

    Obama won hands down at least be honest about it.. I was honest and said Romney won the 1st debate even though I don't support him... thats the problem with the GOP and Repubs that support them they are never honest and Romney got exposed for the liar he is., thats why all comments on here from the Repubs are frantic and angry get over your lost tonight!!......score 1 to 1....Obama 2012!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  4. voterfraud

    Irresponsible of CNN to broadcast Obama "won" when poll percentages are within the margin of error. Sample size is 457 so one percentage point equals fewer than 5 people. Hardly a "win".

    October 17, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  5. Ceee

    Romney came across like a snake oil salesman. Pushy, lying, rude, and tailoring facts to suit the situation. Definitely not presidential.

    October 17, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  6. Reality

    The first debate was a whipping that could not be denied. The second debate a draw due to format. Flash polls do not matter. One problem for Obama is that he lied about Libya. This will destroy him in the final debate and these next few weeks. This is not just my option, but it is also the opinion of the talking heads on all of the news networks. Buh bye Obama.

    October 17, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  7. jeff

    The CNN/ORC poll for the vice-pres debate had ryan winning, but within the polls sampling error, and CNN called it a tie. However, the CNN/ORC poll for this debate has obama winning, but within the polls sampling error, and CNN calls it an Obama win.

    This is clear bias. CNN... Your viewers deserve an explanation.

    October 17, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  8. dave

    I like the poll above. Was it open for about 5 minutes. It sure would have been nice to have my vote counted. I guess if your completely blind to whats been going on the last four years and you like being lied to, Obama was the winner.

    October 17, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  9. Nobama

    Here goes CNN again campaigning for their candidate!!

    October 17, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  10. jl9830

    Kathi, in fairness, Romney has had plenty of time to give us a plan. And he's given us nothing.

    October 17, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  11. Mike in Rosevlle

    Mitt is done....Obama 2012!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  12. lolita

    4 Years ago this country was about to collapse ,nobody seems to mention it.I don't care who gonna win honestly but I rather like the Country like it is now than giving it to Romney who can eventually lead us to the mess again.He is talking about creating job but is he gonna be a magician?I think he will lead this country which is actually trying to recover the worse recession due to Republican in the deep nightmare

    October 17, 2012 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  13. Billy Bob

    The reporter who reported in the video of O'bama in the Rose Garded calling the atack an act of terror should be fired or sent back to school. o'bama was talking about terror not refering to the act, as an act f terror. Shame on you CNN.

    October 17, 2012 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  14. mat

    Romney was the clear winner! !!

    October 17, 2012 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  15. Singk

    Romney flip flops on economic and social issues. We need a president with strong convictions.

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  16. George Nana Sarp

    I think we all see the distinguish of two candidates, The president of United States have the ability to continiued his job he has the vision which very clear.

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  17. Sam

    Obama did great job today and in first debate. When Romney speaks felt, he is making up the story 80% not true, jumping like child, issues to issues, he completely failed in MA, now he is talking to save America, no way.... there is no consistent what Romney say on one debate to others, He did exactly with his primary. I was undecided, now I decided to vote for Mr. President Obama.

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  18. Ann

    Funny, because when CNN made the mistake of saying Ryan won the last debate, Romney supporters loved it. Not all of a sudden they hate a poll that came from the same source. I used to have respect for a lot of republicans, not anymore, now they just see what they want to see.

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  19. Cindy

    Obama clearly won. It has been obvious over the last weeks that CNN has tried to create controversey in order to ensure more viewers for their site, but this time there's not much that can be done–Obama had better answers and was more presidential.

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  20. WaitNsee

    We'll see who wins on November 7th. That is the poll that counts!

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  21. Jimpincali

    Mitt on the offensive, nervous, fact free, offensive to single women, dismissive to immigrants, wrong on key points he was trying to make ...I have made my decision now.

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  22. Tom

    I never fully realized just how biased towards the Republicans CNN is based on the analysis after the debate. Obama won the debate, it was not a tie CNN. How many of the poll respondents were women, how many were people of color. Romney has real likability problem and he did not help it tonight.

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  23. Al

    Wow! I am still trying to figure out what some of you people were watching tonight. Obama won hands down tonight.

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  24. Atasha

    My vote goes to ROMNEY

    P.S.Terrible performance by Candy Crowley

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  25. Jeff

    Zero to CNN is your score ~

    October 17, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
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