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. Rena Stewart

    It surprises me that so many people felt that President Obama narrowly won the debate? Which debate were they watching? Mr. Obama won!

    October 17, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Joe the plumber

    .. outside the debate there was a man selling fire-retardant suit pants.. I think this explains a lot!

    October 17, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  3. Bob

    There is one poll that CNN conducted after the debate that matters. CNN's overall poll showed a slight victory for Obama, but let's look at the issues. This says it all:

    *On who would better handle the economy: 58 percent Romney; 40 percent Obama.
    *On who would better handle health care: 49 percent Romney; 46 percent Obama
    *On taxes: 51 percent Romney; 44 percent Obama
    *On who is a stronger leader: 49 percent Romney; 46 percent Obama
    *On who is more likeable: 47 percent Obama: 41 percent Romney
    *On who cares more about your life: 44 percent Obama; 40 percent Romney
    *On who answered more directly: 45 percent Romney; 43 percent Obama

    October 17, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  4. Jim

    Obama did generally look better at the end of the debate, but that's a bit like saying the Seahawks won the game vs the Packers a few weeks back. Crowley was on par with the NFL's replacement refs. You can judge whether's that's from lack of preparation (what was really said about Libya - a certain topic), lack of experience, or bias - take your pick. I think it was bias - not gross bias, but just enough that when it doubt she supported Obama's point (even though wrong) and gave him more time.

    October 17, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  5. tecumseh75

    Not to burst your alternate reality bubble. but the poll numbers on the particulars are what really matters. The economy will decide this election. Since Romney is up by 18% on the economy, Obama is finished.

    October 17, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. Hudson

    I guess it is unthinkable that a liberal moderator could be unbiased in a political debate. Mitt Romney not only had to debate Obama but Candy Crowley as well. Mitt Romney did extremely well under the circumstances and was much more presidential than Obama.

    October 17, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  7. Jordan

    The best, solid reason I've actually seen to vote *for* Mitt Romney has been that he hasn't been president yet. That's it. You know who else hasn't been president yet? 300 million other people. But every time Romney has a chance to state why he'd be a better choice, all he does is point out Benghazi.
    Yes, Mitt, but what will you do? "What we're doing isn't working."
    Yes...Mitt...what-will-you-actually DO? "Create 12 million jobs."
    But you've said that the government doesn't create jobs. "I'll get tough on China."
    You can't even get tough on someone you keep saying is completely inept. "I've run a business."
    Mitt, if we can praise you for Bain then we can criticize you for Bain. "Look at Obama's pension!"
    You're absolutely kidding. Grow some substance of your own.

    October 17, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. TheBigSarge

    without a doubt, president obama did come out swinging and continued to do so, without destroying himself as VP biden did, further embarassing the democrat party.

    but as i said about the biden/ryan debate, when the incumbent cannot hands-down beat the challenger, even when the world looks at this as a tie, then the incumbent loses, due to the fact that they cannot spout their successes or economic growth. president obama had only a history of failure to run on and this debate will be the nail in the coffin, to stop people (like myself) who voted for president obama.

    i voted for him once, and would have voted for hillary if she had won the nomination, but i will not vote to put president obama in the white house for four more years.


    October 17, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. ldyflyr

    I think Americans won last night, we saw Gov. Rmoney, try the justify going back, to a new version of trickle-down, supply-side economics and those of you in the middle-class that President Obama considers middle-income is $ 250,000 and below ; Gov. Rmoney, believes middle-income starts ? $1-3 million and bottoms out at $250,000 and everyone making less that $250,000 is poor. Where does that leave you in Gov.Rmoney's plan? Yeah I'm a card carrying Dem. why you ask, President Nixon (R). he said if the President does it it not a crime....only if you private Joe break and enter it is a felony. that's when the (R's) figured they could say and do anything and it is okay , right Pres. GWB it is not torture..REALLY?....VPD.Cheenie..debt does not matter...Sorry Taxpayers..

    October 17, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  10. Namejaime rojas

    I don't know what this people see in Obama to call him likeable to me he seems arrogant and elitist Romney on the other hand seems more composed knowledgable and presidential

    October 17, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. Tim/Canada

    As an independant viewer (I'm Canadian) it was clearly apparent that your President won the debate over Romney. Its been interesting to note Mr. Romney's sudden shift to the middle ground, in contrast to the hard-right position he took when looking for the Republican nomination. You Americans have no idea how lucky you are to have a president with a brain...we could use him here in Canada!

    October 17, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. DaisyinNY

    46 to 39 is a split decision, but 48-44 for the Biden/Ryan debate was decisive? Hmmm, Cnn your bias is showing. (and to think last election they were accused of being bias towards Obama, what a difference 4 yrs and a buyout by. R u p e r t M u r d o c k makes.)

    October 17, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  13. Justeeny

    What matters to Americans?

    Do jobs matter? Are they a priority?

    Obama lost huge on the economy. When asked who would handle the economy better:

    Romney- 58%
    Obama- 40%

    On Leadership, Romney was also the clear choice:

    Obama- 40%

    Romney inspires confidence. Obama inspires doubt.

    I can't even begin to imagine the how buried in debt we will be with 4 more years of Obama. He has added over $5.5 TRILLION IN DEBT. And he gave us a lame plan that he said woudl reduce the deficit by $4 Trillion. Talk about a whopper lie. Not even close. Every single expert says it will only reduce it by $2 Trillion.

    And can I say that I have heard Obama's stories for 4 years now; example the grandmother story. He needs to get some new material. He sounds stale and he apparently believed if he said all the same old stuff, only with emphasis, that it would make it more meaningful. No, just the same old stuff.

    And here in Oregon, they have just revised all of the jobs our government told us we got in August and September, downward. Apparently we didn't get all those jobs. Yeah, we know.

    October 17, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  14. DaisyinNY

    46 to 39 is a split decision, but 48-44 for the Biden/Ryan debate was decisive? Hmmm, Cnn your bias is showing. (and to think last election they were accused of being bias towards Obama, what a difference 4 yrs and a buyout by Fox News owner makes)

    October 17, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  15. really??

    7% in never the amount of the sampling error in a poll. This bogus 7% is stated so the weak-kneeed Repubs can stop crying.

    October 17, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  16. JUNEYT

    If Someone came to Mr. Romney- the investment banker, and said:"Give me your money and I will make you rich but I cannot and will not tell you how"
    His natural response would be "Get the Heck Out of Here"
    Why does Romney think that American people are stupid?? He acts like a used car salesman changing his position depending on the audience.

    October 17, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  17. Scott

    But the CNN poll on the front page say 65-35 split in favor of the president. What are you trying to spin here?

    October 17, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  18. DaisyinNY

    46 to 39 is a split decision, but 48-44 for the Biden/Ryan debate was decisive?

    October 17, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. Gerald Soelz

    How in the world can anyone allow the moderator to try and rescue Obama. He had no plans on the economy when asked. He had and has no plans to lower gasoline prices, food prices, and the rising unemployment our country now has. In 2008 Obama had promised to get the unemployment down to 5.4%. He is not even close. He also in 2008 made miles and miles of promises and promised hope and change. The important question is and should be are we better off now than when he took office. Gas prices were $1.86 per gallon in 2008 and now in places like California they are through the roof way over $4.00 per gallon. People all across our country are suffering and trying to make a go of it. What does Obama do put us another 5 trillion dollars in debt. That is unacceptable and wrong. He should not get a free pass on that or all his other failures while serving as President. The news media should stop being bias and just report the news objective include all the facts. However, this is the worse performance I have seen the media do in my whole entire life. In conclusion, Romney won the first debate. He also won the second debate. It was clear plain and simple that Romney knows how to run a business. He knows how to stay within the budget. He also knows how to lead and to stand up. However, Obama cannot even stand up and be responsible about the Libya incident. Obama has failed. It is time for a change. He had a good chance and just did not perform. Thank you.

    October 17, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  20. Alan Gaudette

    Was your pole before or after the polees knew that Candie"s interruption information was false.

    October 17, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. helen1233

    46-39 is not a "split decision"... it is a clear Obama win!

    October 17, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  22. DaisyinNY

    48-44 for the Biden/Ryan debate was decisive but 46-39 is a split decision. Someone needs to get some math tutoring by Bill Clinton.

    October 17, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  23. Mohammad Khan

    How is it possible to bring the manufacturing jobs back ?

    October 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. wyl5326

    Barack was clearly aided by false facts from moderator and having more speaking time of around 4 minutes than Mitt ! That makes the debate was set on an uneven ground and result should not be given too much weight.

    October 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. really??

    The deficit has gone up because the wars that Bush started are still driving up the defict. If you factor out the war costs and the Medicare prescription change that were instituted right before Obama took office then and only then can we blame any of the deficit on the Obama administration.

    October 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
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