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. Heidi jackson

    Obama did a great job. He did so much better tonight. That's my mf president. He made me and my family so proud tonight. Forget Romney. He never can explain how he gonna change things just states he can. Answer this: how u gonna do it. Vote Obama!!

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  2. Glenn

    The problem Romney had with the Benghazi question, was that he was waiting for it all night. This was going to be his shining moment. Then he acted very excited, like he caught the President on a lie. Then he goes and whiffs it with his own lie. Romney blew it on something he had been waiting for since the first debate.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  3. JohnDHater

    Obama won the first debate AND this one. Romney lied in the first debate and bs'ed his way through tonite.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  4. billie riggleman

    Obama won ,and he will win and should win the election .

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  5. Mciver3

    Romney has an economic plan, Obama has plans to golf. Obama never answered the questions. Romney did better.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  6. VCMD

    Lot of liberals pretending to be objective when they are clearly focused on finding details about Romney's tax plan and do not want to find about any details about Obama's plans. He creates a new healthcare plan and counts savings from ending the way in that even though the wars were already winding down and the money was not allocated for them in the first place. Then he goes and counts the savings again to reduce the deficit. After that he counts them again in his calculations to pay down the Debt. Even ENRON could not come up with this innovative accounting!!

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  7. jimmyjones

    Obama definitely won this debate.
    No doubt about it.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  8. Kelley

    Obama. Why stupid people should not vote!

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  9. Lisahh

    Why did Mitt Romney look so ANGRY? Very annoying.

    October 17, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  10. EKIA

    Romney won, Obama lost

    Romney-2, Obama-0

    Romney/Ryan 2012 and 2016!!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  11. canada

    Overall obama win in november. Pls allow this man to finish his job

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  12. Billsf

    Obama was the clear winner. Romney looked weak this time.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  13. Adam Wilder

    Romney got his butt kicked so bad, it was painful to watch. Even Candy Crowley called him out as a LIAR! That was pricless. And, better yet, even the audience cheered when she did!

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  14. Timo

    Yes Obama Won the debate great. John King you cannot say that Romney is going to win the election because the American people now know that his lies and the tax plans don't add, and plus more Republicans were more sampled, so you would expect and edge for Romney for the republicans beliefs. So John don't get so exited yet.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  15. ted

    I don't think Obama looked angry – Romney did seem a little flustered at times

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  16. Agee

    A clear win for Obama!

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  17. Rush

    An intellectual leader is trying to guide a country though a disaster cause by the Republicans and the governor will not answer any questions directly about HOW or WHAT he'll do to get the country back on track. How can there be such a push for Romney when Obama is standing right there spelling out his plan in bullet points! Is this another fixed election because the Obama phenomenon got out of hand in 2008?

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  18. chad

    i agree with john king. obama won the debate but on the economy , health care, and taxes the people polled said Romney would do a better job.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  19. Fred

    I thought both did well, but the debate on economy, taxes and deficit go to Romney. He just has more relevant experience and Obama hasn't proved that the next four years will be any different with him as prez

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  20. Cindra

    I think Romney won the debate although Obama did better than last time. Obama did not answer questions, evaded and talked in circles. Romney told his plan and it made sense and he has experience, has been already successful at what we need done. If you want the country to continue to go down the tubes vote for Obama. If you do you are clueless.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  21. Debbie Chong

    Im a little disappointed with Candy Crowley, I expected better control by her. I respect her as a journalist but tonight she allow both canidates to run on without check them on the specifics. Obama clearly won, Romey was a little bullish by the way he behaved to moderator and canidate.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  22. Not Scientific

    Your poll, which your quite obviously biased Wolf Blitzer keeps touting can NOT be considered scientific until you tell me the margin of error and the number of people polled and how that number compares to the whole population of those who watched the debate, and if you tell me if you polled likely voters, non-likely voters or were all of your people you polled that watched the debate from another country . . .in which case it may be a "scientific poll" but it has no validity in the United States.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  23. OweBahMahFone

    Obama won?

    Sorry – he lost even though Crowley tried to save him with her inaccurate instant fact checking.

    October 17, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  24. Ellie

    Not happy with Obama plain and simple.He is trying toget the US to be in the same hell hole that Europe is in and we are buying it. Nice to see that he's doing what he can to help illegals in this country. Apparently, Webster dictionary needs to change the definition fo rthe word becasue Obama has changed it. And, I am a "legal" immigrant. Also, tooamny conflicting info on Libya and I am not happy with the way he has been handling that. 4 Amercians were murdered and yes, it did fisrt say it was becasue of the video. Just watch video of him on "The View" Question, are yu truly better off now with Obama? Let's ask the millions who are now working part tiem or those who aren't even collecting anymore. He atlks abt medicare! How much did he take frm Medicare to put into "Obamacare"????????

    October 17, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  25. Middle Class American

    I usually vote democrat, however I am voting Republican this time around. Can not put up with another 4 years of nothing!

    October 17, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
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