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. Kris

    LOL how could anyone who watched that debat think that Romney won on any level? It is as if we choose to be dishonest with even ourselves. President Obama won the debate and will be our next elected President (again).

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  2. David

    Obama did what he was expected to do. Behind the scene you don't know what ROMNEY thinks about poor people.

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  3. Scott

    One thing Obama and Biden was that they were not Pro-Active on the millitary, regardless if the millitary asked for more money support or not and reqardless if the Ambassadors asked for more security or not both Obama and Biden should of been on top of it, not wait for requests. I don't feel secured in this Country with Obama, Romney is my guy for that plus the Economy, I feel Abortion should be limited and only used in case of rape, incest or danger to the health of the Mother, the Same sex marriage does not however bother me, anybody as an adult can marry whomever except Children and Teenagers! I Like Barack Obama, he is a good man with good intentions but I feel we need a better path and Mitt Romney has that path, it think it was long overdue and it is Historic that we finally have a Black President but at this time we really need changes to our Economy and I trust Mitt Romney to make those changes.....

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  4. rtrMicky

    I'm not sure what debate you attended last night CNN but it sure looked to me that Mr Romney got the beatdown. Hard!

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  5. Lindsey

    I saw Mrs. Crowley did not fair on the debate yesterday. If you reviewed, you would see it.

    October 17, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. Larry

    I watched the debate – most of the commenters here did not. How do I know? If they watched the debate they know Mitt lost so if they say he won they are either blind and deaf to his errors or so Republican brain washed they can't tell when their candidate is beat.

    October 17, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  7. Name

    better job obama

    October 17, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. Amy Leigh Strickland

    It's easy to call it slant when the guy you hate wins, but let's look at some facts–

    Romney interrupted a lot more and was told to sit down.
    Romney got called-out on a flat-out lie (the transcript).
    Romney went COMPLETELY off-topic and started talking about his Caiman Island bank account, something he should NEVER bring attention to, especially if not asked.
    Romney mumbled and mispoke through a lot of his segments, letting out the now infamous "binders full of women" slip, which in the context of his prepared speech, turned out to be a lie, AND didn't answer the question (because his answer was ultimately– if we have enough jobs to hire all of the men, we'll HAVE to hire women– which doesn't solve the wage disparity at all).
    Romney dodged a lot of questions, including– once again– the specifics of his tax plan. Obama gave specifics, and though you may not agree with them, they were answers.
    Obama seemed more relaxed and more comfortable on stage. Romney was uptight, argued with the moderator about format, and came off pushy.

    October 17, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. Tom

    How can Obama, with a straight face, say that he did everything he said he would do? Gitmo? Balanced budget? He hasn't ever even passed a budget in 4 years! (scratching my head) How does he think raising taxes businesses earning over $200k will make it better for anyone. Listen carefully...BUSINESSES DO NOT PAY TAXES! THEY PASS IT ON TO THEIR CUSTOMERS! The increase in taxes will be paid it comes...YOU AND ME! Sorry for raising my voice but this is rudimentary. No matter how you spin it this is how it is! It's almost comical!

    October 17, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. Mary

    Romney continues to impress and shows Obama policies and administration as 'politics' and not solutions. Obama's foward movement is going to stop as we need an experience business person and leadership both of which Obama has failed his supporters. I'm departing the Obama ship and voting for expertise via Romney and Ryan.

    October 17, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  11. Anonymous

    Funny that you post the CNN poll which is the extreme showing Obama with a big lead. All the other polls show a very tiny lead going to Obama making the debate basically a tie.

    I think CNN has lost all credibility...

    October 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  12. ourjungle

    The presidential debate was clearly a meeting of the Snake Oil Salesman Obama vs the Buisnessperson Romney.
    Obama's Snake Oil Salesman techniques are better suited for cleaning up the streets of Chicago.
    Romney's Buisnessperson's techniques are better suited for fixing our Nation's broken Economy.

    October 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Kim

    If CNN does not stop twisting the facts I am about to stop watching it completely. A debate that favors Obama by 7% with a polling base rate that is actually skewed 8% in favor of Republicans relative to the usual polling base rate is clearly not a "split decision." This is an irresponsible headline that fails to characterize people's evaluation of the debate performance. What is going on? I have never seen CNN so biased as I have in the coverage of this pre-election.

    October 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. Justice786

    Mr. Romney was definitely more bellicose but also more plaintive than during the first debate. At times, he begged the moderator for more time saying her name three times. At other times, he showed a lack of manners, cutting off the President's answer by clamoring: “You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.

    October 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. Jack

    obama is perfect, just ask him. He may have trouble convincing others of that, if things didn't go as expected he will find some republican to blame or maybe Hillary.

    October 17, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  16. Rightwinger

    Tell you why obama may lose:
    For an incumbent to win:He must talk 50% of his debate time on his record,30% for his future plan and 20% on assault on opponent.Obama is more like 10% on his record,20% on future(which basically a repeat 2008 dreams),and 70% on assault.
    For a challenger to win: Talk 70% on future,30% on assault.Romney is like 50% on future plan,and 50% on assault.
    And take their ads,take their supporters comments,like that soldier we dont like personal insults.The president says romney is liar,and doesn't back his claim significantly. That turns off independents.Look at the handshake picture.President looks black-blushed,angry where as romney is trying to smile.Obama ads and supporters on the net consistently attacks and insults romney supporters and Christians.Romney ads, attacks obama records,not obama or his supporters.Thus i WANT romney to win.

    October 17, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  17. Paul from MN

    Obama faired well. This time he was able to attack Romney better.

    However, he still lost. I hate to admit it, but he did.

    October 17, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. onemore

    Romney is ahead of Obama natioally...he is the most credible candidate...and what is best for america...Romney 2012

    October 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Natesan

    President Reagan said "Tear down that Wall Mr. Gorbachev".
    Pre. Obama canonly say "Tear down the Patent Law" for no body deserves anything per his speech
    He wants to appease the muslim world whenever there is a terrorist act. He is not a commander in chief, he is ready to throw the country under the bus.

    October 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |

    This debate was FAR from a tie. Obama smacked Romney down HARD, and then he knocked him out with the 47% issue at the end. I was on my chair cheering. This was NO tie!

    October 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  21. vips

    Are you kidding? 39 to 46 is not narrow. Please stop manipulating the facts.

    October 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  22. dscon

    CNN/MSM coddling the Prez obviously.
    Crowely Backed up O's Libya lie and later 'fessed up.
    The 'fessing up is the shocker not the bias.
    A random act of journalism?

    October 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  23. Anonymous

    Pollysi said:

    "After the first debate debacle for the president, I expected him to come out swinging, and he did. He still failed however to offer any credible defense of his dismal record. In addition, this Libya story is unraveling, and not in his favor. My Romney vote is secured"

    Wow, were you not paying attention to what both said? I was and Obama got my vote. He is going to do better than Romney can overall. We dont just need a 14% tax paying investing flip flopper in the Oval office, we need someone who understands the bigger picture and go to other countries without offiending our closest allies such as Great Britain. Were you asleep for the last year and miss the numerous Romney gaffes? Obamacare was modeled after Romneys own state but Romney denies this legacy to cater to his base. Romneys state was 47th in job creation as governor. This has been a rough 4 years and no one could have done a better job no matter the person. Changing Presidents at this point makes America look like fools to the word for adopting another undiplomatic president. I will go with the Presidential choice that can do the WHOLE job and NOT stoop so low and use the Libya attack to score political points. American lives were lost and thats not a political point gain I can look in the mirror and say Romney is more Presidential for it. He cant explain his budget math and cant show us his own tax history. NO WAY NO HOW!

    October 17, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  24. suedatajo

    It is beyond my concept how in the World the media that suppose to weigh things basing on reality, evidence and facts to see weather who told the truth . It looks to me the media has no fair comments on weather this debate had produced any likability to decide or change the reasonable decisions that were already made on who to vote. This debate has not given any possible or reliable answers or could convince that this was going to go forward in the right direction if it failed in the last four years. How come anyone can rate this as a success . Foolish defense and arguments that one tried hard to bury the truth by rhetoric

    October 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  25. Jon Michael

    @Ryan. A sampling error represents a spread of +/- 4.5%. This means one would need to lead his opponent by more than 9% in order to be outside of the margin of error. Your welcome.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
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