CNN Poll: Split decision on debate
October 16th, 2012
11:46 PM ET
9 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. cgs

    Obama didn't win anything. If it looked that way it's because C Crowley was prompting him.

    October 17, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. Bob

    So has Obama told us anything other than, more of the same, for the next 4 years? I find myself wondering if Obama has any understanding at all about how an economy works. Obama says we are not going back we are moving forward, but openly admits that he will extend the "BUSH-era" tax obviously must have done some good or you wouldn't be extending the BUSH-era tax cuts? Where are the Obama-era tax cuts? Yeah they don't exist. I'll tell you what does exist, 6 trillion in debt, that you and I will be paying for for the rest of our will our children.

    October 17, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. Ruth

    Did everyone forget about Bain Capital? Did anyone forget about the devastation this man did to the economy of Massachusetts, MA and RI has a slew of empty factories. Bain Capital bought many companies in the state, sold the companies and sent the jobs overseas. When Romney says he will bring jobs back, we should ask him which jobs? Can he stop corporate greed which he is part of and bring all the millions of jobs back to the US? That's the only way the millions of Americans who are out of work will be able to get jobs. Unless he can create jobs out of thin air, the unemployment rate will not change under any president, be that Obama or Romney. Since the economic situation won't improve, the only people who will be hurting the 47% that he said that he doesn't have to worry about.

    October 17, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  4. philliyboy

    Good show by both, the third and final debate should be interesting

    October 17, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. changed55

    Can someone explain Obama's reason for increased gas prices since his election into office (I'm sorry his inheritance). I found his answer to be one of the most ridiculous statements of the debate.

    October 17, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  6. Namelisa

    Mitt came across to me as rude condescending i dont want that in a potus. Cant wait to cast my vote for pres. OBAMA

    October 17, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Howard

    The debate I watched had Romney as the clear winner. Obama was agressive, but when it came to content and policies, it was the same old Obama B.S. which has brought this country down for the past 4 years. It appears that the biased, pro-obama mainstream media ... and, especially Candy Crowley ... using misinformation, has managed to keep Obama afloat for this long ... but, on November 6th, America will have a new President ... one who actually has the experience and know how to turn our economy around.

    October 17, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  8. Tom

    I'm somewhat surprised bc frankly im disappointed in Obamas performance. He had some open shots he didn't take and got so off track with his responses it looked like he didn't know his facts. Plus went back and read transcripts and his reference to acts of terror didn't pertain to Libya, so the conserv media will have a field day with that one

    October 17, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. RB

    Binders of women/ girls are on the book shelf @ the Mormons compound used by men to choose another wife.

    October 17, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  10. Brad

    Wow, almost half thought Obama won! That's almost impressive!

    October 17, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. Jill Jones

    Wow.The President MUST have done well if CNN admitted he won!
    I do believe less than a week ago, between 60%-70% of your respondents voted that Joe Biden won the vice-presidential debate, while between 30%-40% voted that Paul Ryan won.CNN's response was to headline that Ryan won.
    I agree with betgar that CNN used to be the news source I trusted to be unbiased and professional,but I no longer see that happening at CNN.I stopped by your site today to re-watch parts of last night's debate,but I know longer look to CNN as a credible news source since I personally witnessed CNN printing false information and leaving it in place despite scads of readers pointing out the problem,last week.
    Truly a shame.CNN has a lot of talented people.

    October 17, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. Jason

    Candy Crowley hurt Obama bad with what she did last night. Stop and think about it. If I were a Obama supported I would be mad.

    October 17, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. Brad

    And former it only took Obama 3 1/2 years to run up more debt that Bush did in 8.....that's a good record! I wonder how much more he can spend if given another four years....and how many other bankrupt companies he can invest in!

    October 17, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  14. John

    Don't like either of the two candidates particulary. Typicall politicians who lie just to get elected. However Obama had 4 years to fix the economony and hasn't done so. In fact it has gotten worse. Yes it was a horrible time but that's no excuse. He still had four years to fix it. Plain and simple. Do you think in any other business they would hire you for any four years if you didn't succeed in the first four?

    October 17, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  15. snoozie

    Slight?? 7points is a tad more than slight.

    October 17, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. Tim from Rhode Island

    Since the moderators seem impotent to stop the interruptions and escalating incivility between the candidates, as soon as the time to answer a question has expired, the microphone of the candidate who is answering the question should automatically be turned off.

    October 17, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. Lean6

    I'd really like to see the manual that says that we MUST pretend that the GOP didn't do all within its power to obstruct everything that President Obama has tried to push to solve all of the problems that Mitt Romney now pretends to care about. Watchiing Romney and the GOP even being taken seriously is incredibly troubling. Gotta hand it to them though, they set a plan four years ago and stuck with it...but so did President Obama. GM lives and OBL is dead. Iraq war is over, on the way out of Afghanistan. Stock market continues to break records. Unemployment is down.

    October 17, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  18. Patrick in Wisconsin

    Lad, if you actually watched those news channels, you might actually have some knowledge about those issues you mentioned aside from simply being robots for the Romney camp.

    October 17, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  19. Samigirl

    Candy Crowley did a lousy job selecting questions. Not 1 question about healthcare??? Something that affects everyone forever, good or bad. You mean to tell me not one of the "uncommitted" voters had a question about it? BUT they did have questions about equal pay for women, or how the candidates differ from Bush, REALLY? Girlfriend should have done a better job of being "neutral."

    October 17, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  20. Charly (Florida)

    I am so disgusted with Republicans. They always deny their defeat and try to blame it one someone else. Democrats admitted that Obama blew the first debate and then they moved on. What's wrong with republicans? Just accept your defeat and move on also. Be more gracious losers.

    October 17, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  21. John

    It doesn't really matter. The president's advisors are the brains. You think the President is knowledgeable on half of these issues. His advisors do the dirty work along with writting his speeches. Then he in turn gets the glory

    October 17, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. kevin

    If you really want to know which candidate can be trusted most, just look back at what stance Mitt Romney took on taxes, abortion, gun rights throughout his career including the (R) primaries. They have changed dramatically since the primaries moving more to the left in hopes of getting the lazy voter who doesn't pay attention until the last minute. If you believe Mitt Romney when he says he won't raise middle class tax cuts, than the country is going to get what it desreves. He is responsible for alot of those manufacturing jobs being overseas now. Go to you tube and see how he has flip flopped on every issue that is important since the (R) primaries to now, & there is no way you can't recognize he is a liar. 12 million jobs promised.....He must be going to pull those out of his butt, because he hasn't stated a plan. Obama is not great, but Romney & his lies will be catostrophic. He did not become wealthy by building up buisinesses & creating jobs, like he claims. He tore apart companies and fired employees and sold the companies to oversees companies. Bain capital, look it up. He also claimed his state was #1 in schools, that is incorrect, Wisconsin was #1, Then Iowa for the years he was in office. another lie. investigate people. The truth will make your decision way easier.

    October 17, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. Dana

    Until this point, I have never commented on a news story in my life. I rarely read comments sections and have a general distaste for arguments that take place in these types of forums. But when I awoke to a CNN text message this morning that announced Barack Obama as the winner of the debate, I was somewhat mystified. I checked to see if I received a text message after the first debate declaring Romney the winner, and I did not. This may be naive, but I expect CNN alerts to convey FACTS. I rely on these alerts to inform me of the death of a prominent figure, such as Arlen Spector, the shooting in Colorado, or Felix Baumgartner's record breaking free fall. I feel that throughout the campaigns, CNN has been using their site, alerts and articles as a forum toconvey only certain parts of the campaign. It is one thing to skew the overall tone of an article, it is another to only publish parts of the full picture. This approach deprives the audience of their rights to determine for themselves which facts are important to them. As unregistered, first time voter, I have been disappointed in CNN's coverage this far, and genuinely long for the days when CNN was a reliable news source.

    October 17, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  24. nunya


    ABSOLUTELY! (a random rock you find in an un-named creek could do a better job!)

    October 17, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  25. a disgrace but you voted for him

    america has seen enough debates and more than enough of obama!

    October 17, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
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