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. ROMNEY2012

    ROMNEY 2012!! Funny how Obama tried changing the subject when asked about Libya, when Mitt also stated Obama as well has investments in china lol Obama is the real liar here!

    October 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  2. LocNar

    Sadly, the thing I worry most is if Obama wins we'll be stuck with another 4 years of a President that can't work with the other side. Bill Clinton did a good job working with the other side to get things accomplished. Unfortunately, Obama doesn't feel the need to work with Republicans to solve any issue [that's his track record] and the country needs to be united [somewhat] to get through these tough times. Look at how Reagan and Clinton got things done. They worked with the other side. We need true leadership and that involves dealing with a side you may not like. Romney at least has shown that ability.

    As for the debate; it's anyone's individual account on who you think the winner was. Personally, I thought both got certain aspects across and fell short on others. Call it a tie I guess but it wasn't like the first debate.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  3. Shane

    As an independant I see Romney having a skill set and background that is custom made for the problems we face today, Obama doesn't seem to present anything other than attacks on Romney. Obama is very idealistic and charismatic but Romney has experience and understands the complex workings of the economy. If we elect Obama economic conditions will remain stagnate, if we elect Romney we may actually see improvement.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Obama spent the vast majority of his first term cleaning the mess that the Republicans left with their insatiable appetite for weath. We avoided a Great Depression II thanks to Obama. Romney is like the child who complains that after spilling a glass of milk on the kitchen floor complains to his mother that it taking to long for her to clean the mess so he cannot play with his toys in that area.

    October 17, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Sketchbro

    46% to 39% split decision?

    October 17, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    How is it a split decision when there is a winner? CNN, you have been moving further to the right lately. You are so desperate to be balanced that it seems like you guys are actually rooting for one candidate over another (Romney). This is not your job. It was unprofessional for Wolf to say (even though it was the right call) that Romney won the first debate BEFORE the polls were in, and with the second debate you are simply ignoring your own polls (and what everyone else is saying on other websites). If you are this desperate for ratings, why don't you hire people who can actually write stories to populate your website. This is shoddy, borderline irresponsible reporting. Write the news. That's it. No more, no less.

    October 17, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. Will

    Once again, CNN (Fox Light) over-samples Rethuglicans and still reports results as "news." What a joke!

    October 17, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. frank

    I think they both did very good but what I dont understand is y any pres would debate. they have what the other wants already I would think that its up to the challenger to find a way to get the golden ring

    October 17, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. onemore

    Romney clearly did and is doing better, on the campaign...Romney stil is on the right track to the presidency...

    October 17, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. suedatajo

    The Moderator should be given D plus for her performance.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. jst`

    International nationwide poll ...........If you look into this poll American's were not the only nation used in the polling. check the link to the poll

    October 17, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. rob

    In what world is 46% – 39% a TIE????

    According to that poll, Obama WON the debate by 7% points! This is not a tie....not even a statistical tie. Come on. This is exactly why no one trusts the media anymore.

    They always have their own agenda and it's always about ratings. They want a close race to get their ratings up.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. Miryam

    On health care: As a Canadian Citizen and under OHIP; (Canada's Health Care) we women have right to mammograms, all kinds of xrays, MRI's, and all the visits we need to the doctors, and specialists. I am a retired woman. I pay $100.00 @ year to get my prescripcion cover under OHIP. I have had couple of operations since 1996 regarding bones and had excellent service and attention in the hospital. I am one of the midle class here in Canada.
    I am very concern about the women in USA if Romney becomes president.

    On Immigration:
    I am an Immigrant from South America, and I was given the chance in 1970's to become a Landing Immigrant, after a Canadian Citizen, and after 40 years I am still here, have contributed to Canada with my work (40 years working in the Long Term Health Care), I have paid my taxes. I am very proud of been born in South America. Not every one born in South America or Spanish speaking is a bad person, or a criminal. When Mitt Romney talks about the 47% I feel that he is discriminating. Just because Mitt Romney was born with a silver spoon in his mouth it doesn't mean that every one in the world has the same luck, Mitt does not know what it is to work hard; he never did.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  14. Stacy

    I felt Romney layed out a clear plan on immigration and taxes as well as the economy. Obama getting to the bottom of why those people got killed in Libya is too little too late, It is well known that the embassy had requested more security help many times but were denied and Obama went on a long rambling speech about having diplomats all over the world, how the war on Afghanistan was going, etc before he gave a non answer to why they didn't have protection at the Libyan embassy. I don't see how Obama can claim more oil production- we in Louisiana have seen many oil rigs standing silent because drilling permits have been delayed and delayed on Obama administration orders.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  15. Pony BoiJohnson

    Candy seemed to win last night, she showed how she is a left wing wacko far more than Obama. CNN should be proud of her and that UK import Piers Morgan.

    October 17, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  16. Rightwinger

    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 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  17. ken

    If Obama were to enter into a ring with Romney, who would win with the gloves off?

    October 17, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. Robert

    I beleive that the american public needs to determine individuals such as Candy Crowley and fire them from presenting news on any type on the public media. These individuals have their agenda which should not be allowed on any new media. I expect individuals that presenting the news to not bias the public with their opinion. Thanks

    October 17, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  19. Sacchi

    Mr Obama lied again to the American people!!!!
    1) THEY SEY THAT THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT Happened on day 1 till day 20
    2) They told that until day 20 all they knew was that it was a response to a video (that’s all the intelligence they got) and there were demonstration around the compound in Libya.
    3) Hilary Clinton said that the president and the clown didn’t know what happened that day
    4) The clown (mr joe) said that they didn’t know.
    5) Then, on October 16 Obama Lyed telling that at the rose garden he said it was a terrorist attak

    Can you trust someone who keep on changing version? I didn’t know what to think before this, but now I know that I will never vote for man who manipulate facts for political reasons not giving a dam for the life of our diplomats and our serviceman abroad

    President Romney was bewildered by how mr Obama lied openly without showing any sense of guilt . It make me think that Obama is false all the way through!!!! Any onest man would react as Romney did.

    October 17, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. Barry O'lies

    Why do people keep saying that Romney can't be trusted because he wouldn't show his tax returns, when OBAMA refuses to show his real BIRTH CERTIFICATE and college TRANSCRIPTS!

    October 17, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  21. Sally Bergmoser

    Obama LOST ! This will be revealed in the polls!

    October 17, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  22. Daft

    i watched a few minutes of it and clearly realized that the moderator was in bed with Obama,so didn't bother to watch.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  23. jack

    Candy should be ashamed of her bias performance. Her choice of questions, her interruptions of Romney, and her time allocation, all confirmed her liberal bent. Her defense of Obama's mischaracterization of the Libya attack was particularly offensive, aswellas as it was false. Shame on you. Shame on CNN.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. Wie

    Obama was better but I still think that the USA needs change. Also 44mins and 04secs by Obama is a bad omen according to the Chinese. Obama win means still the same scenario for the next 4 years and Romney wins means change. I would want to go with change

    October 17, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. Ruben

    Viva Obama!

    The binder women will have to come out and vote. I am better off today because of Obama.


    October 17, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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