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. nanak

    I will be voting for President Obama again. I think he should be given 4 more years to try and see his work completed and hope he gets the help he needs for our countries sake. Enough of this one-sided crap, he is a very smart, caring man but is hindered by the hatred of others. So sad!

    October 17, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  2. Ed

    Romney supporters are just really tap dancing tonight. This evening the moderator was the problem, Obama was lying, CNN polls are bias. I think it's just time to accept the fact that Romney was handed his butt tonight. When you play the game a certain way, he, and all his supporters should indeed expect the opponent to play by the same lack of respect. So time to take your lumps. Now that the rules are fully established, expect more of the same in the next round. Isn't it fun to horse collared? What goes around, comes around.

    October 17, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  3. neutral guy

    funny....cnn says obama won..when it was within margin of error...but COULDNT say paul ryan won when he was ahead but in margin of error

    October 17, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  4. Neville

    I watched the debate. Obama was much better and more trustworthy than Mitt Romney. I don't trust him (Romney) and his proposed policies. I was glad to see the President show some balls by dismissing Romney's claim that the president is weak on foreign policies especially the Issue with Libya and the terrorist act against our embassy. GO BO!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  5. Josh Wander

    How could you say that, "President Obama beat Mitt Romney in their second presidential debate, according to a new CNN/ORC poll." When he didn't even break through the margin of error????

    October 17, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  6. JimmyC

    It;s beyond my comprehension how anyone can vote for Romney. He doesn't have the intelligence to be president, and he is only out to help the rich. Ok, I'm wrong–I understand why the Rich and big business want him, but the other 90% of the population will be much better off with the president. Wake up people.

    October 17, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  7. Teluu

    Mitt was toast by Obama this time. He can't get the facts right.

    October 17, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  8. Mark

    Candy Crowley has just admitted that she was wrong on Libya!!! She had no right to correct Romney in the middle of the debate.

    October 17, 2012 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  9. postedbygeorge

    Cnn your moderators need moderation.

    October 17, 2012 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  10. John

    "You guys are nuts!
    Nice headline and poll results CNN."

    You are aware that a CNN/ORC poll was one of the first to announce Romney as the winner of the first debate, right? Because it was all over the front page soon after the first debate had concluded. A bunch of people whined about how it must have been wrong and how it oversampled Republican voters, but now we have the same kind of whining from the other side when it turns out viewers found Obama the victor of the second debate.

    October 17, 2012 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  11. h

    I'm certainly glad I watched the debate for myself so I know not to belive a bogus poll. sheesh CNN, I'm an Obama supporter, but really, you expect anyone to take this poll seriously when Romney so clearly beat the stuffing out of Obama... leaving him speechless and dumbfounded on several occasions. Anyone who says "O" won this debate is obviously biased toward the man. I think polls like this could be why so many people have trouble taking CNN seriously!

    October 17, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  12. Ryan Carey

    To the guy that posted a comment about the lie-o-meter, Romney's current strategy, as has been the GOP's strategy for some time, has been to muddy the political discourse by resonant and sincere dishonesty and hope that people are dumb enough to start believing the bs. It's hilarious to think people on the right believe they are somehow righteously beholden to the truth.

    October 17, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  13. Bubba

    Crowley should recuse herself from ever moderating any debate for the duration of your life span for her deliberate intervention into the debate of her own personal bias that was in fact incorrect. She is a pathetic partisan who should be terminated for her actions and barred from ever reporting another story for any news organization. Shows how pathetic her employer is also.

    October 17, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  14. Chris

    Why has CNN had more republicans participating on their debate poles?
    It's misleading!

    October 17, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  15. smum

    Can someone in the media stop paying attention to the so-called "undecided voters"? It is painful to keep listening to people who, based on their questions/comments in front of a microfone, convey their "clueless mind". I am convinved that they are NOT undecided, just love the attention and the opportunity to believe in their "own minds" that they are smarter than the rest. Pathetic!

    October 17, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  16. Scott

    Romney won because he did nothing to hurt himself. Obama has already hurt himself with his awful record. He is toast.

    October 17, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  17. Statistics

    You do realize that that polling sample is from 457 people or roughly .0000914% of the population. Solid work there on getting an accurate reflection.

    October 17, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  18. jeremyeubanks

    Great Job Obama! I was a little concerned before the debate that you had lost your steam. You have not! You are now back on track to take this train FORWARD!

    October 17, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  19. matt houston

    Yeppers.... you just can't apologize your way out of a hidden video clip.

    October 17, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  20. Mr. Mark

    I see Candy Crowley and her network CNN are both in the tank for Obama. Play the whole recording in the Rose Garden. The day after the attack the PRESIDENT DID NOT CALL IT an act of terror. HE BLAMED it on the video. CNN Candy Crowley, the president, and CNN itself are simply lying about what he said.

    October 17, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  21. Larbsy

    How can Wolf call the debate a draw when a poll that admittedly skewed Republican had Obama at 46% and Romney at 39%???? And why wasn't that fact pointed out again in expaining those other poll results where Romney edged out Obama only a point or 2 on a couple issues in a poll that again skewed more Republican than the actual population. The commentators went on to use these Republican-leaning poll numbers as concreate proof of something other than what happens when you ask a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats extremely political questions**** Thought CNN was better than that??...............I just tried to post my comment twice and fo some reason it did not make it on.**

    October 17, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  22. coltraning

    you always can tell when the tinfoil tea party brigade has lost, because they start blaming the Moderator. Gee whiz, for being a journalist. Hey tinfoil brigade, you did hear the crowd cheer for her and Obama after they called Mitt out for the lie, and this was a handpicked group of undecideds. They were as sick of the hyperactive lyin' mitt the saleman as I am. Man up and admit your guy lost!

    October 17, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  23. jim deedler

    Romney looked like he was begging at times and was constantly interupting everyone. Once again he could not answer the Tax Question...He gave answers out of turn and lost this debate on style and substance.

    Obama showed strength, passion and command of the facts. He was a clear winner this debate in style and substance as well as truth.

    Winner Obama!!

    October 17, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  24. Graham Jackson

    I believe 7O% of the debate Romney was controversial and did not look presidential, he looked angry and flustered. He seem willing to say what ever it takes to become president. I have been watching CNN For the last 10 years. I can honestly say I feel as if, CNN is a little light in expressing more factual detail about our Congress and Gov. Romney changing his policies in the middle of his campaign. Romney should be held more accountable by CNN; which I believe is the most honest media show of them all. Don't take it light on Gov. Romney, because of the pressure of the 1% who's backing him. Please, don't take this as a grand assault... I'm just try to listen to what I hear and this is something I notice different. Please, except my apology if you feel different. But, if this is the case balance it out a little bit more.... I will continue to view, listen and hear what is said as I do other station like Fox and MSNBC.


    October 17, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  25. Wayland Yan

    Romney supporters=Obama Haters=Ex Bush voters/supporters, do you really think these people really know or have a clue about anything that's going on (aka believing Bush's WMD "assertions" and supporting the invasion of Iraq for example) and would any sane/educated person rely on their "good" judgement?

    October 17, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
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