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. Name

    Romney is not a leader, he only wants to defeat Obama and that sucks....... what is his plan? not clear, is he honest with American people? big doubt about he really with middle class families?hmmmm....I don't think so!
    And Obama, he was not successful in all claims he made especially economy ones.

    October 17, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. Al Somers

    Obama definitely came out swinging ,
    but was it too little, too late? Let's hope not for the sake of this country!

    October 17, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. Lean6

    Do yourself a favor. Listen to how many of President Obama's energy statements are incorporated into Mitt's energy plan speech over the next 3 weeks...ummm excuse me...5-POINT energy plan. Activate Etch-a-sketch...NOW!

    October 17, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. Rob

    Romney speaks with no facts and nags the moderator like a little kid wanting to go out side to play.

    October 17, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. Cabs

    Mittens getting his facts wrong on live TV. Loved it.

    People....the problem with this country is we have been trying to run it like a business.
    So why should we have another silver spoon fed business man at the helm? A man who can not relate to the problems of the common person? Ask yourself that question. I do not trust Romney one bit.

    October 17, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  6. kalo

    Republicans are mad that Obama and Biden can fact check in real time instead of pulling new 'fox facts' out of their rear end.

    October 17, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. nunya


    gasp! a dis-honest politician? no! say it ain't so! ( duh dude, wake up – they're all crooked) The task put to the American people is to vote for the one who will do the least damage. Back in 2008, people were so taken w/ Obama's presidential victory they were CRYING! ... for a Chicago politician..... carte blanche. There are a lot of people who are "after" Romney – so he's clearly the correct person to vote for, if for no other reason than it'll be harder for him to get away w/ stuff.

    October 17, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  8. jackie

    I though Romney looks disoriented at times, make me wonder if he had taken his medicine

    October 17, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. AT

    Not sure what debate CNN, and for that matter NBC and CBS, saw.

    October 17, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  10. Patrick

    Oh golly gee ... Gallup polling doesn't agree.

    October 17, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. Chris

    You have to be kidding. You don't win a debate by not telling the truth. You don't win a presidency by a debate. You win on issues and records. Obama has no new ideas and a worrible record. He got absolutely nothing done when the dems had control of Congress. O is still not ready for primetime.No experience = No job.... Bye Bye O.....

    October 17, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Robert Parrish

    If one considers rudely butting in to try to override the moderator and his opponent, telling the moderator what he will discuss rather than following debate rules, and flat-out lying about what Obama said in the rose garden regarding the libyan embassy attack, then he or she might have a biased view that r4money "won" the debate. Those actions do not strike me as characteristics of a leader, however. A monarch, perhaps, but not a leader.

    October 17, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. barbarianofgor

    Narrowly won?

    He crushed Romney on the facts, this time being more aggressive and Romney looked like a pushy bully fool. Obama won hands down.

    October 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. lymc

    I have been switching back and forth from cnn and fox for the last year. I recognize their different partisan views. Last night cnn allowed candy to become a political partisan in the debate and flat out lie for the president on Libya. If she is not fired or cnn does not make her admit to the whole country that she lied, before the next debate, I will never watch cnn again. This type of behavior puts cnn on the same level as msnbc..

    October 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  15. kathleen

    Obama won as far as taking up the most time to discuss how great he is. The country is losing and losing due to his bad choices for our economy. Billions of your dollars wasted on failed green programs. I live in Colorado we had Obama sign the second stimulus here. He did ribbons cuttings at Abound Solar now in bankruptcy, he have Fisk money for his goofy car. Now a second electric battrey maker has filed for bankruptcy that recd stimulus grants. Yes grants that do not have to be paid back. If you all thing Obama is so great then go out and buy a Chevy Volt. Hey he says he saved GM and is fighting for green energy. Only to those companies that contributed to his 2008 campaign. Get real folks this guy is a wolf in sheeps clothng and "We the People have been Fleeced". Romney broke down the Debate and how he has a record of balancing budgets. Obama would not even answer the questions I guess us down home folks who ask questions about the high price of gasoline are beneath him.

    October 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  16. Charly (Florida)

    Romney's plan is the same Bush plan that took us to the path of regression. It took President Obama 4 years to get us out of the regression and will take him 4 more years to take the country back to what it was before Bush got into office when we had a surplus.

    October 17, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  17. KdMan

    I'm an independent voter. I have been waiting for these debates (not the negative TV ads) to help make my decision. After 3 debates included 1 with the VPs, I must say Romney/Ryan are getting my vote. Obama/Biden seem to be on the defensive ALL the time b/c they have no proven record, and aren't offering anything new moving "Forward".

    Obama is a lawyer, Romney is a proven business man. What is this election about? The economy & jobs....therefore Romney gets my vote. All Obama does is make excuse after excuse. Enough. You had your chance, you didn't succeed time to move out.

    October 17, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. Nick

    How does Obama 46%. Romney 39% translate into "Split decision on debate". Your headline should more correctly read "obama wins second debate". When did Fox take over CNN – did I miss something?

    October 17, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. dyeika

    Obama lied and then he LIED and then he LIED some more. Attacking the Romney because he us a successful business man what is so great about that, isn't that what we need someone who knows how to create jobs not someone who was given the chance and failed miserable why do we have to settle for this like Romney say. Bowing money to make money and jobs any mother in the household knows that to save money you work on a budget and you cut some expending. PEOPLE WAKE UP THIS LAST 4 YEARS HAVE BEEN SOOO BAD, ECONOMY BAD, SECURITY BAD, A PRESIDENT THAT WANTS TO DISTRIBUTE WEALTH IS NOT SMART ONE, EVERY COUNTRY THAT HAS TRIED WHAT OBAMA IS TRYING HAS FAIL LOOK IT UP. Let's give Romney a change we gave Obama a change he failed he's never going to get it right. We need to encourage people to became strong not depend of the GOV for everything. George Washington would cry tears of blood to see what we have become and where we are heading. We own it to our children. think wise VOTE FOR THE CHOICE THAT MAKES SENSE. R/R 2012

    October 17, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. memkb

    I can't understand why any intelligent person would vote for Obama. A Obama voter is voting with their emotions – not their intellect.

    There is a clear choice – do you want to work together to advance our country or do you want another 4 years of class warfare.

    When did success get to be a bad thing in America? Obama wants us to despise the successful and think their success belongs to everyone.

    I will never be close to a 1%-er and probably will never even know a 1%-er. I do believe in hard work – not handouts. For Obama to say the GI is a handout is insulting. The GI bill is a reward for service to our country. The 47% include the people who are chronically receiving and giving nothing back. They will always vote for the D to ensure their continued subsidies...there I said it.

    October 17, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  21. dbrock

    Obama seemed to stutter and his ideas hardly came across as clear and fluid. I felt nervous for him. Fortunately, he had Candy there to bail him out.

    October 17, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  22. Jay

    It's about time CNN should be honest and change it's name RON (Re elect-Obama Network)
    No wonder they loosing viewers everyday to Fox and MSNBC.
    Ms Crowley should be ashamed of herself- When Mr Romney picked Paul Ryan she said it's Death Wish and
    yesterday about Libiya not only she was out of Line but wrong-It was a shameful display

    October 17, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  23. jackie

    what is Romney's plan, the inquire mind would like to know, because it keeps changing

    October 17, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. tom

    i'll be glad when Nov. 6th is here and all the polls are shown as being wrong. Romney is winning by a landslide.

    October 17, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  25. Seviander

    A very real question....when is there gonna be a president with the balls to raise tax?... where else is the money gonna come from?, the oil company's?, corperate fat cats?, likely no.......

    10 Trillion people, 10T. Fooling around with a 13% tax isn't gonna cut thing's down one dime. Take a good hard look at some country's with higher tax and see their debt figures....

    October 17, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
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