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. Mr.President...Are you kidding...

    Obama had an opportunity for 4 years. He has done nothing other than blaming previous president. Now he is asking for 4 more years to blame him self and doing nothing. Come on...are you kidding me...

    October 17, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  2. Media bias anyone

    Fact: CNN declared the Biden – Ryan debate a draw right after it was over, despite Ryan's 48-44% edge as reported, which was within the 'margin of error'. same situation, post debate early poll numbers favor obama but are within the margin of error – and obama won?! i predicted that, had biden lead ryan 48-44, cnn would have declared biden the victor. now we don't have to speculate, we have an apples to apples comparison. i'm a 3rd party man, myself, but this apologism and spin is becoming breathtaking and nauseating.

    October 17, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  3. wha

    Why is it that when Romney won the first debate most Democrats agreed President Obama lost because he did not debate well. When Romney loses in this debate suddenly it's the fault of the moderator- weak! Romney lost because lies have a way of catching up with you.

    October 17, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  4. SwollenGoat

    Obama handily dismantled Romney and his lies.

    Well done Mr. President. Well done.

    October 17, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  5. starkey

    (1) Obama did not ask the moderator for a transcript, he asked Romney to check the transcript (2) watch the video footage of Obama in the Rose Garden. You will then hear him say it was an act of terror. I can't believe there are so many low information voters out there - how do we do better to inform voters of "truth"? Romney got caught in another one of his lies and his folks just refuse to believe it - even if there's video footage to prove it - not much you can do to help these folks. Hoping none of his followers belong to the 47% who consider themselves victims: senior citizens, vets, disabled, ...

    October 17, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  6. Tre

    The Republicans seem so mad tonight. You can see it in the posts. It cracks me up how badly they are trying to sugar coat it. To bad Romney got it handed to him..

    October 17, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  7. ginny brooner

    Drilling for oil in Alaska? Billions to get heavy equipment there. Destroy the environment. Death to the polar bear population and all wildlife. Oil spills, Another Valdez, Pipe lines thru Canada. Fracking, destroying quiet farming towns dissolve into noisy cities ran amuck...all in the name of greed. Romney would be a disaster. We've destroyed enough of our beautiful planet. I want my descendents to enjoy nature as I have in my 88 years.

    October 17, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  8. ItsTheEconomyStupid

    "on some key issues, Romney came out on top, including an 18-point lead on the economy."

    October 17, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  9. liz48

    Romney on immigration supported his self deportation strategy!!!

    He will have the e-verify system where employers will have to check who is or is not legal before they hire someone. If people cannot get a job because they are illegal, their life will be miserable and they will self deport...

    same strategy duh! I think Obama made a good point of saying that he wants to protect those who want to work and feed their families, covering those who Romney wants to self deport!

    October 17, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  10. David

    Romney had to debate both Candy Crowley and Obama, yet he survived and was the most convincing in his arguments. Crowley did her best to stack the questions in Obama's favor and interrupt Romney. Another indication why CNN has lost its viewers.

    October 17, 2012 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  11. realitybites

    Wow. There sure are a lot of republicans caling the grapes sour. What's the matter? Fox not allow for comment on their site?

    October 17, 2012 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  12. Gol2000

    Reality check... I was for Obama 4 years ago, because he promised and talked his way in for my vote. Fast forward to today. Where are all the promises and why did cost of living (ex: gas, food, insurance, shelter etc.) go up so high? I admit that some may have been Bush's fault. But why didn't you (Obama) do anything about it? Can you please stop blaming the past? Today is today. You should have stopped the bleeding. Btw, Romney is making more sense for me now and for our country.

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

    Obama did better- must have been coached by his mentor, role model and spiritual advisor Jeremiah Wright.

    October 17, 2012 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  14. Steve

    Let's wait a day or two to get some legitimate results of what people thought about who won. The 457 people that CNN called are not much of a survey, and the margin of error 4.5% is basically the size of the difference of opinion. CNN would have called this one a win for Obama no matter what. Obama was whiny, shrill, interrupting, and abrasive, but there were no ideas or details in anything that he said.

    October 17, 2012 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  15. Angie in LA

    Mitt Romney is a leader, President Obama tried but just isn't able to lead. He is out! And by the way...Governor Romney did give us many plans...........listen...we need to save the United States of America and our hard working people and our families and businesses. Obama is a good speaker but not a a good President.

    October 17, 2012 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  16. kreshia1

    romeny 1 and Obama 1 next debate let go

    October 17, 2012 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  17. i12bphil

    I'm just going to come out and say it. I don't particularly care for Romney, but every of Democrat and liberal I have ever known: some have been intelligent, some have been nowhere nearly as smart as they think they are, but without exception not one of them possessed a single ounce of common sense.

    October 17, 2012 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  18. Meez

    Mitt is just a better debater than Obama. Candy was obviously giving Obama extra time and last words. Overall, Mitt won again but not as big as the first debate. Obama was too arrogant. Mitt was a little more hyper than last debate, but he kept getting shorthanded on time by Candy. I think it's obvious that Obama cannot turn the tide in debates against Romney, especially given the debacle of the past 4 years, so unless Romney/Ryan makes a major gaffe between now and the election, it's a done deal.

    October 17, 2012 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  19. Anonymous

    go obama, you have my vote. Vote Obama 2012

    October 17, 2012 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  20. tFRAN

    The President came through tonight. A great victory. He gets my vote.

    October 17, 2012 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  21. Emejuru C P

    sentiments apart i think Obama is the right man to lead america at this crucial moment. America holds the peace and stability of the world after GOD ALMIGHTY, so it will be wrong for some Americans to not think towards that God given assignment by changing him at this time with a man that is a bit selfish. Selfish in the sense that most of his policies will make America unsafe in the face of all these attacks from some hate countries. In all God loves America and America is the Greatest, courtesy of Gods Love. So America should not be SELFISH or try to run away from their God given assignment.

    October 17, 2012 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  22. Diane47

    Who needs a fair debate when the moderator is in the tank for Obama, inserts herself into the debate and helps him lie? She is a disgrace. Very unprofessional.

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

    Went through the speech transcript after the Libya attack and nowhere in there does Obama state it was a pure terrorist attack. He clearly misstated this in the debate.

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

    The 43% of the people who believe Obama won are voting on the question: Did Obama do better than the last debate? He did not win. You just dusted off his old body and put the suite on.

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

    Obama is a Casanova-hot , empty sweet talk that ends in broken promises, while he screws Paula to pay Pollyanna. Obamacare will break this nation by killing small businesses and crippling large businesses. When it costs you a days wages for one loaf of bread, you can thank Obama for the change.

    October 17, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
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