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. Miryam

    I am Canadian watched all the debats, President won the showdown. Romney still uncertain on his policies, and continue to lie.

    October 17, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  2. ALEX

    46% say Obama won to 39% for Romney,how is this a virtual tie? Then again,you guys said the same last week about the VP debate,even as the general sensus points to Biden edging Ryan by a short margin. I think your title is misleading,just my opinion. im not an "analyst",just an undecided voter that keeps piling insecurity by reading confusing articles

    October 17, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  3. PW

    "split decision?" how the **** is 46-39 a "split decision?"

    October 17, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  4. pd

    You just cannot argue a case for Obama when you look at his record. ask yourself this: if you had failed for four years at your current job, or if a colleague of yours was failing, do you think you would still have a job. He may be "cool", but Obama is not the one to get us out of this mess, regardless of who created it.

    October 17, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. sayer

    So does Mitt have a $5 Trillion tax cut plan or not? The first debate he denied it; the second debate he argued for it. Man is he a confused individual and definitely not presidential material.

    October 17, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  6. Ben

    I am a independent middle class. The debate was full of fierce attack that at some point i thought it turned out a RACE-TO-BOTTOM game. Here are the highlights i got
    1. Clearly distanced himself from George W. Bush. Smart move and strong statement. He will balance the budget, care for small business, instead of big corp, sway from GOP tradition.
    2. Clarify misconception that he is out of touch and doesn't care average American people. Solid and touching statement.
    1. Closing statement to attack Romney's infamous 47%. Very powerful at the right time. Romney didn't have a chance to fight back.

    October 17, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. lindaluttrell

    Certainly noticed a lot less eye rolling and grinning on Romney's part during the second debate. I'm still laughing about the "binders full of women." If that wasn't so typical MittTheTwit, I'd certainly find it insulting! GOOD punch closing with the 47% remark! Can't understand why pollsters won't give the President at least a TKO on this one!

    October 17, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  8. BillyBob

    Even with the help by the CNN person, the illegal white arab still lost the debate. Little barry appeared to be stricken with joe bite me disease and constantly lied and went nuts. From reading the posts from the left, still great to see they are desperate, still pathetic and still sleeping with the enemy of We the People.

    October 17, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  9. Maya

    Yes, Obama is lacking in some things that he promised, but doesn't every president do the same? If Romney is elected he won't get everything done like he promises either. We'll see him in four years trying to explain what went wrong.

    October 17, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  10. Anonymous

    So,the only issue that was going to have an impact on undecided was the economy....this article carefully obscures that info and it seems like it was the most lopsided issue that was tracked.....curious.......energizing the base O moved his R not.....R was significantly ahead on that issue entering

    October 17, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. lindaluttrell

    Slight edge...come on! The Prez had a TKO!

    October 17, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. orion7x

    Here is how the polls work... The numbers for the GOP side ,since the media seem biased comes from them. Then the poll number for Obama are a mix of real numbers and the bias again. Sorry There is no way it was anywhere close last night. I watched it...

    October 17, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  13. anonymous

    7 points is not a slight is statistically a decisive win.

    October 17, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Linda

    The President clearly came out on top in this debate. Why? Because he had facts, he clearly expanded on his "positive" record and he clearly expressed that he is serious about the middleclass. Anything that was not accomplished during his first term is due to the Republican parties partisanship. The Republicans keep talking about 23 millions out of work and more on food stamps. Ask yourself why. Because this is the result of the recession which is the result of George Bush and the Republican Party, not President Obama's policies. Furthermore, Romney still doesn't have any specifics. The only specific he can give is, "I know how to do it". Well, explain how Mr. Romney. That we haven't heard.

    October 17, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. Steve McKee

    Candy Crowley demonstrated her bias and overstepped
    her bounds by interjecting a defense of President Obama
    on the Rose Garden comment. When will you media people
    do your jobs and stop throwing your opinions around?

    October 17, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. yep

    I still find it mind boggling that people say he has devastated our economy. Really? From 800,000 jobs being lost per month to 30 straight months of job growth. The stock market is twice what it was when he took office. (bet you like the looks of your portfolio a lot more now than you did 4 years ago). You people are crazy. BTW, we didn't go into a depression which was where we were heading. Pull you heads out of the sand and try to retain more memory time than that of a gold fish.

    October 17, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  17. Terry Boe

    Leadership is a quality that our country needs a this point in time. Our leader must be positive in times of negativity and realistic when the truth needs to be shared with us. We need our elected leaders of all levels of politics to remember the citizens of our country rely on them to keep us safe, provide a positive outlook and acknowledge who they work for. Be responsible and when the day is done, walk away with their heads held high and be proud to be part of America.

    October 17, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  18. rousch15

    While the president came out firing with both guns blazing, Romney continued to dodge the issues-like the amount of taxes he pays and his waffling on the issue of women's rights.

    October 17, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  19. AgentProvoca

    You can HOPE otherwise, but President Obama's prospects for reelection are a sinking ship. The reasons for that are obvious:

    1. Obama did not accomplish the job that this country needed most during his presidency. Most people in America are worse off today than we were 4 years ago. The proof is all around us. Unemployment was at 7.6% when President Obama took office. The current unemployment rate is 7.8%. The number of food stamps recipients increased by 24 million people during Obama's presidency. The national debt has doubled.

    2. Voters are increasingly convinced that Romney has what it takes to get the job done.

    No one should be surprised when Romney is elected on November 6.

    October 17, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  20. DETfaninATL

    Quite frankly, it's debatable who won that debate 😉

    October 17, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  21. George

    Split decision!?? CNN loses more and more credibility as each day goes by. O clearly won. Pathetic CNN!!

    October 17, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  22. FarLeft

    Who's writing this crap? Your Republican beat-writer? According to the poll, CNN-poll that-is, ON THE U.S. CNN welcome-page, over 65% say that Obama won this debate, 35% saying Romney did. Sooooo, exactly where did this info come-from, and why doesn't it jive with the real-time results CNN posts on their site?!

    October 17, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  23. Ben

    You republicans that have buried your head in the sand as it relate to Obama's archievements:
    1. War in Iraq-Check
    2. Healthcare for 30 million more Americans- check
    3. Equal pay for eual work legislation for women- Check
    4. Bin Laden- Check
    5. Economic turn around-check
    6. Detroit going backrupt- No way-Check.

    Now what do you repugnants have to say?

    October 17, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  24. lynn i

    If you think Obama making more empty promises is winning than go vote for him.. and good luck!
    Romney has balanced budgets, created jobs efficiently, offered a healthcare plan, and will tackle the untouchable social security. Did Obama tackle anything other than our pocketbooks?
    PS thats 14% tax rate.. on investment. After paying tax when he earned the money originally. Get wise America.

    October 17, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  25. yep

    @ Padraig. Than it's safe to say that President Bush and his inablitly to make decisions cost us 3000+ live on 9/11 right? Or is that just a whole different situation? Please explain!

    October 17, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
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