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. BHB

    people will vote according to whats going on in thier lives& the number one thing is the economy. if you don't have a job life is pretty grim at this point. if you are a woman I would think working would be at the top of your list,healthcare, abortion and anything else you can throw in there doesn't seem to matter if you can"t get a JOB. They been saying for years they will over turn roe v wade and it has never happened we need jobs people want to go back to work and take care od thier families they don't want the government to do it for them. we have had a rough 4 years & theres more to come we are 16 trillion in debit we have to control our spending . depend on resources we have here not in the middle east. put people back to work & the country will come back together and solve our problems one or the other of these 2 men will lead this country the choice is up to you I hope you make the right choice we have had 4 yrs of Pres. Obama time for someone else to try to fix things and I think that person is Mr Romney

    October 17, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  2. Lori Bingham

    Well, the final decision is in. WE ALL WATCHED THE SAME DEBATE: IF YOU ARE LIBERAL – OBAMA DEFINITELY WON; IF YOU ARE TO THE RIGHT, ROMNEY WAS THE REAL WINNER! Being to the right, my Candidate Won and I WAS watching the SAME debate. How could you miss that arrogant ignoramus standing on the stage interrupting and AGAIN taking more time than allowed! Of course, he needs every break he can get .

    October 17, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. memkb

    really?? still blaming GWB....pulleaassee.

    October 17, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. R Jacobs

    Romney is clearly a Flim-Flam man, a used car salesman, trying to convince you the lemon he's trying to fob off on you is completely reliable. Think about it. Who would ask the American people to 'buy' a tax relief plan based upon the elimination of deductions to be named later. Asking us to in effect sign a contract without all the blank spaces filled in. Also he still hasn't explained how his tax relief will stimulate an increase in jobs. The problem isn't that corporations don't earn enough money to hire people, US corporations by all accounts are sitting on more cash now than they've ever had. A tax break therefore is not going to encourage them to hire anyone, they'll just add that cash to the cash they already have. What Romney didn't say last night, is that economists are saying that the 12 million jobs Romney is predicting over the next several years are already in the pipeline due to the steps the president has already taken to boost the economy. Last I don't care what he says about blind-trusts, he owns Blain Corp. (51% of the company's stock) therefore if he felt what they were doing in China in terms of off-shoring jobs was wrong he would put an end to it. But he hasn't and he won't, so either he doesn't feel it's wrong or lack the character to do what he feels is right. You make the call.

    October 17, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. lynn

    Mr. Romney complains about everything for the last 4 years. He attacks........... but no substance on what he will do to be better. He twists facts to his favor; keep changes his position on issues.

    October 17, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  6. Norma in Canada

    people people wake up mr Bush was their for eight years what did he do two wars send your sons and daughter to there grave mr OBAMA came in four years do his best to put and end.and now all you people want to put mr Romney in heavens name look a head dont look back.

    October 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. Candace

    Hopefully, Gov. Romney will expose the "Rose Garden" lie at the next debate (if the moderator will allow it). The Benghazi scandal indicates this election and his position of power are more important to our president than the families of the murdered Americans and the well-being of America. President Obama is obviously trying to perpetuate the lie until after the election. I am fairly sure President Romney would have postponed a campaign trip to Vegas to stay in the White House.

    October 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Quentin

    Cindy Crowley's preformace was a total sham, but that's what you get when you send a reporter to do an adults Job. What qualifications does a reporter have to be a moderator? absolutely NONE! Why doesn't a news agency hire a REAL moderator? No wonder CNN's ratings are so bad!

    October 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. BD

    If attack your opponent and be defensive were the criteria for winning this debate, I give it to POTUS. But what I won't give him is my vote!!

    October 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. Howard

    Obama won on a CNN poll ??? What a surprise !!!

    October 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  11. Mordecai

    Try playing a game against your opponent and the referee on his side.....I think Obama won with lots of help from Crowley.....dont get me wrong....Crowley was fair....fair to Obama.....

    October 17, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. Jim Monaghan

    I thought the debate was fairly even, although Mitt Romney came across more presidential. Obama continues to lie about so many topics and Romney missed a couple opportunities to refute those lies. As Ms. Crowley slinked away from the debate, her false statement about Obama's comment about Lybia begs the question . . . why would either side accept a biased moderator like Ms. Crowley. She should NEVER moderate another debate at any level. She was a very poor choice and it would be better to have NO moderator than someone of Ms. Crowley's ilk. Jim Monaghan, 10-17-12

    October 17, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. Comedy Theater

    America is circling the drain, and the media is turning the facet on full blast. If you think commercials and debates give you a TRUE picture of the candidates, then we are lost. Obama has a record he can't HONESTLY defend, and he can be insulted all he wants, but he is NOT bringing this nation back at all. He's throwing us over a cliff.

    October 17, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. billyjo

    The only way Obama could have done worse is to not even show and left the chair empty. I felt that Romney could have done better, but that is my opinion. I do not thing Obama won the debate because Romney seemed to answer the question rather than rattle around it. Romney has a plan. Obama doesn't have a 'new' plan, just the old one that has not worked. This election will be different than the last. Americans are waking up to the fact that this is a PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION not AMERICAN IDOL. I am predicting a very close race, right now slightly in favor or Romney (276 to 262) but that can easily change in the coming weeks and will probably be similar to voting stats as the Bush / Gore election (even though I think both these candidates are better politicians). I am personally voting Romney. Those who do not vote... DON'T COMPLAIN AFTER THE ELECTION! I have more respect for a voting liberal than a non-voting conservative. Make your voice heard on Nov. 6

    October 17, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    @ToWit Right ON! Your comments hit it out of the ballpark!

    October 17, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  16. DaisyinNY

    48-44 for Biden/Ryan was a decisive victory for Ryan but 46-39 is a split decision?

    October 17, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  17. DaisyinNY

    Obama did awesome!

    October 17, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  18. Shills

    A 'toss up' who 'won' but the real story is how biased media is ... just click through cable news and WOW are they all biased. It's all downhill from the last 15 years really. The LOSER in these debates? The American People. I'm sorry to have to say that.

    October 17, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  19. Mordecai

    If Romney wins the election.....He should thank CNN and MSNBC for being obviously in the tank with OBAMA and thinking that the American people are so stupid, they cannot see it...

    October 17, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  20. Doug

    If you think like Obama and to you every American who is not a 100% supporter of the Democrat party is the enemy and must be punished, as Obama said on Unvision in 2010, then through the lense of hate yes Obama won. For the rest of us who respect the views, beliefs, and freedoms of all Americans, not just those who agree with us, Romney once again trounced the Statist puppet.

    October 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  21. JCal

    Regardless of which candidate you support, this is about the most unscientific poll that I have ever seen. 15% of the responders were sitting on their thumbs. To take that really bad data and try to draw other conclusions from it is not right or accurate. CNN is just looking to write stories that mean next to nothing.

    October 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  22. Antonio

    Seriously America, how blind are you all. These candidates are manipulating the public into making them feel they have to choose one of them, when they're both terrible choices. We have a life long politician who has no concept what the struggling working man or woman goes through, and a life long millionaire who lacks the same basic understanding. We have all been so manipulated into thinking we have to vote for one of these two, but we don't. We are still a democracy last time I checked, and that means if we aren't happy then as citizens we should rise up and demand better. If that means voting for a candidate who isn't in one of the precious two parties then so be it. Let's stop this manipulation. These two men are both terrible choices, and either way, we are in trouble with them running the show.

    October 17, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. founders1791

    WOW! 7% sampling error? You know what that means folks? BIASED POOL sampled WAY MORE DEMOCRATS!

    The Lame Stream Media is in full blown AFFIRMATIVE ACTION for the Minority President!

    October 17, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  24. Doug

    Can't wait for America to be called a nation of stupid people again by every Democrat when Statism, the new National Socialism, and its puppet Barack Obama are defeated next month.

    Most Democrats would support those who think differently than they do being punished or harmed, that's why Obama said he supports it and will look to punish every American who didn't vote for him. Democrats of today are even more hateful than they were when they started the klan.

    October 17, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  25. Maggie

    Romney's big chance was crudely and unprofessionally interrupted by Candy Crowley. Her job is NOT to insert her opinion. Of course, Romney still won and stated his case nicely and agressively. The thing I kept noticing in both debates is the scared 'calf at a new gate' look on the face of Obama which certain issues are raised. Like the immigration thing I thought he was going to fall through the floor. Also, he has NOT handled the Libya thing. He has not done a thing. Just like the rest of his administration. And , BTW, hospitals, unbeknown to the public, are gearing up for Obamacare by laying off nurses and other personnel and increasing the nurse patient ratio. I work for one of the biggest and best in the South and they have quietly let it be known. So get ready, all you who favor the bill, you just
    increased your ER wait time by 2 hrs. and your emergency surgery might just get put on hold. Signed Veteran RN of 24 years. GOOD LUCK!!!

    October 17, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
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