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. Anonymous

    the debates won't change my opinion............Romney does not give a dam about me, and he is not going to make the country a better place to live. all the republican candidates lacked a direction, but they sure can point the finger. i want solutions, not criticism. the country is better since we put Bushy to bed, lets hope congress can "try" to get along, otherwise we will not accomplish greatness , but will wallow in the muck!

    October 17, 2012 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  2. Liz

    Romeny is not trufhful. Neither can he empathize with any middle class because he's never been there. He has a lot of $$$, now he just wants the power and has been wanting it for a long time, so he will say & do anything to get it. I need someone who understands what it takes to building from the bottom up.

    October 17, 2012 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  3. Ann

    Obama articulated his plans? Who said that? And when one dares to ask Obama about Libya, it is an offense to his administration.

    October 17, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  4. Anonymous

    I thought Mitt seemed a little worse and Barack seemed a little better. I got the impression Mitt changes his position a lot and can't get facts straight. I think Barack had a more presidential demeanor and was not as rude.

    October 17, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  5. bridesmaid

    I'm voting for Obama, but I cannot see that either he or Romney won this "debate". They were both just trying to cover their rear ends when it came to mistakes they have made, and they were both apparently telling half-truths when it came to describing the other guy's experiences. Why am I voting for Obama? Don't see that Romney plans to do anything differently than George Bush, and those eight years were close to ruinous for our country–only Romney's peers profited, so they are all for another eight years. I fear that it could be a death knell for American prominence in the world if that happens.

    October 17, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  6. Richard

    I'm a democrat. Obama has screwed up in office sense the day he got into office. He is the worst president since jimmy carter. I was in the military when jimmy carter was my commander in chief. He blundered on every turn while in office. He was a danger to the United States as well as the troops that served under his leadership. Obama wants to do away with our nuclear weapons,giving full advantage over to any country that have full nuclear weapon capability. This will be a major mistake to be nieve to think that other countries will do away with their nuclear weapons. We will be at the mercy of any country in the world. Next Obama shut down the drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Now look at the outcome of higher gasoline prices. Obama you are out of touch with the American people. I refuse to let you and your socialistic governing take control of my life. My vote will not be for you. I love my country too much to let communism or socialism take over my life. Sooooooo long Obama!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  7. Josh

    The moderator was absolutely horrific, and Obama lied through his teeth over and over, yet somehow people mindlessly jog behind him. Do some research, especially on that whole "check the transcript" debacle, Romney was correct. Obama is not a president.

    October 17, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  8. tFRAN

    We need to be a smarter nation. I am all for pushing for education. Maybe we can be smart enough like Obama and get our minds on building America together. Let's face it, our congress has the worse ratings and they are still there. I tend to believe that our nation is moving in the right direct with this President. He is for educating our children, cleaning up our environment, equality, affordable and responsible healthcare, building our infrastructure and lowering our unemployment. Technology is he answer to tomorrow and engineering. He was careful to not go into Syria and risk having a confrontation with Russia. Our nation can become strong economically if we can stay out of wars.

    October 17, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  9. Derek

    Seriously this poll is based on 457 people and OBAMA wins? WOW how bout ask as to why middle class familys are losing Earned Income Tax Credit along with Child Tax Credit? Some of us survive on this and OBAMA wants to take it away. I though you were trying to build the economy not take away from the people who sink thier money back into the economy......... VOTE ROMNEY

    October 17, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  10. Mike

    Obama had his chance and he blew it! Can't wait to see Obama go packing.

    October 17, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  11. Erich Schoeneberger

    Obama showed who he is tonight... a man who doesn't care about our future generations and a man who is not in touch with us.... the every day, blue collar worker... he is the socialist politician i hoped he was not... he has his agenda and does not care about us....

    October 17, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  12. Mikei davis

    Research shows ther were "0" binders full of women working for Bain Capital.that's to say none! Also the total number to women working in his 4 years dropped from30.% to 28.1% in the exec.branch...below the "glass ceiling" Mitt u are a phony liar'!!!!!!

    October 17, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  13. mirrorlogic

    Mitt said he was licking his wounds after losing to McCain...get ready for some more licking Mitt.

    October 17, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  14. Murray MacCutcheon

    Obama did well in the debate and his administration was quite correct in taking back the acreage leased to companies who merely sat on it and didn't advance the exploration/production. In the U.K. this was called "fallow acreage" and significant gov't action resulted in a more diverse ownership and more robust exploration programme . Several smaller and new Oil Companies began and prospered because of this.

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  15. Diablo13(

    Romney is 2-0. Lets see If he can go for the sweep.

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  16. John

    "CNN prides itself as being a global media source... and then posts a poll with a sample size of 457 people?"

    Learn some statistics. 384 is the minimum sample size required to represent our US population with a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error. It seems weird, but it's mathematically sound.

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  17. Maia

    I think President Obama is clearly the winner tonight; mainly, because he talked about the presidency in the present and future tense while Romney was force to stay in the past and future "if I'm elected" lane. I wish that Governor Romney would have talked about what he has done for the country in the last four years. Surely, a man of his great wealth added a few jobs to the American employment rate, did he not? Hopefully, he will share with the American people what he has done during the past four years to grow jobs in America. Or, did he hold out on us just to make the economy look bad so that his personal ambissions in pursuit of the White House might fair better? What will he do for the country if he looses his bid for the seat?

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  18. Nelson Claridge

    Great debate..I have decided to vote for Pres. Obama, because tonight he convinced me he is for the middle class and people like myself..the hard working man!

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  19. barry the class warrior

    Obama and Candy make a great team. Obama is a disaster, can't answer questions, can't run on record and like his whole life, gets a hand up from the media. Finally takes responsiblity for Libya after the woman Hillary Clinton did. Ball less wonder who obviously is in way over his head, guess community organizing doesn't prepare you to be president. Send this trash back to chicago.

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  20. Magesh

    Why is it nowadays the CNN polls are oversampling Republicans? I think the president would have won by a bigger margin than reported, if not for oversampling Republicans.

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  21. kurt

    Mitt is going to help create 12 million jobs. Really? Why not 24 million and as a free market wizard how much can government do to create jobs short of hiring people itself. Kill all regulation and ObamaCare and it still won't produce 12 million jobs imho. He sounds like a snake oil salesman. If we drill for more oil, will it all stay in the US if the oil market can bring a higher price elsewhere. Isn't that how the markets work? Foodstamps-yes more people on them because we are in a huge recession,duh?

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  22. JCee

    Boring debate.
    I am one of the rich I suppose. I just did my taxes for 2011, (filed late) and I paid 42% on my well over 250K income. I work 75 hours a week and take good care of my 20 employees. If Obama gets in and my taxes go up even more, I will shrink my business, fire people, spend less and not give raises. Given this reality, I won't be voting for Obama.
    Sorry...Romney is correct.
    OR... I will just raise my fees by the amount of the tax increase and then middle america will just suffer with inflation.
    Your call America. Be smart vote Romney.

    October 17, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  23. Luis Menendez

    I am an independent, and I will vote for Obama!

    October 17, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  24. Businessvote

    I think both Obama and Romney did a great job tonight however i would have liked to see Obama explain to Romney that if the country hadn't been crashing down when he too office because of Bush and greed then he could have better jobs growth numbers also I hear alot of talk about helping small businesses. What do either one of them consider small business because as a business owner I haven't heard how we will be helped and I sure haven't seen it in a few years. Small Businesses are in real trouble and need help now!

    October 17, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  25. Karma

    President Obama showed the Americans who Mitt Romney really is. I felt the president is much more honest than Mitt. Romney. His agendas are more precise with facts comparing to Romney. Romney can say anything to be elected. He denies, changes his position often, flip flop where the grass is greener. On the other hand president is much more consistent. President has solid record of job growth, foreign affairs. What Mitt will say we have not seen so far so he can say anything he wants. As a first time voter, my vote goes for the right man that is Mr. Obama.

    October 17, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
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