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. mjs

    If Obama is perceived as winning that's because the moderator helped him out! Aren't debates supposed to be unbiased?? I respect Crowley but she was off base and CNN is just covering for her. Why was Romney asked how is he different from Bush? Where was the question to Obama, how are you different from Carter? I love the way "binder of women" is getting such play and Obama lying about Libya and blaming it on Hillary is ignored! Where are her women supporters??

    October 17, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  2. Pit

    There were 8% more republicans in the panel. They are honest and not biased. However, they will still vote for Republicans.

    October 17, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. Kayakbob

    Romney needed to ovecome the built in topic and question bias toward the President. I am not sure he did it. But it never occurred to me that the Presidents teleprompter would show up as the moderator.

    October 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  4. G. Austin A.

    Why are u calling the President of the United States Black African. Ms Fantasys your KKK name I presume, you dont even know how to spell African, I assume you have never been there. I believe you should go and America will be a much better place without you and we can enjoy 4 more years of recovery, while you are being protected from yourself by Tarzan.

    October 17, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  5. Woody

    The facts are all out about barry and we have had four years of him and now some Americans still can't see through barry and want to vote him in for another 4 years. I guess it's alright for barry to do everything he can to eliminate christianity and pronounce this nation is no longer a christian nation, and then turn around a claim he supports gay rights. I guess its alright to write 950 executive orders giving more and more power to his regime, I guess its ok for our kids to be strangled with unreasonable debt and millions to be out of work while michelle takes multi million dollar vacations, I guess its ok to go to Las Vegas the day after our people are slaughtered in Libya. Its not ok with me, My goal in life today is to get to the poll and vote against this socialist/communist trader.jh

    October 17, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  6. Dean

    Crowley won the debate........

    October 17, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. Frank

    What!!!! What!!!! Doesn't Anderson Cooper know which side he is on? I saw him make some unbiased statements last night. Did CNN notice?

    October 17, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. 1000awful

    Candy Crawley succeeded in doing what poor old Jim couldn't – get Romney to break from a life time of privilege where he was raised to think the rules don't apply him. What I really loved was Romney's dog-dumb tactic of throwing a question at Obama in the middle of time that was allocated to him. That gave Obama every right to answer, despite hapless Mitt's attempts to stop him. It wasn't Crawley's job to rescue the poor fellow when he did this, was it? No, Romney is obviously not quite the master of the debate that the President's first dismal debate performance made him look like!

    October 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. DJESQ

    A bag full of Candy made all the difference ...
    'Trick-or-Treat', BO said, and Crowley gave him her Candy ...

    October 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  10. Lord Toronaga

    Exactly who made Candy/CNN a fact checker ? Where are her credentials that make that a FACT. She is like the referee who picks a side and actually tries to make her side win. This morning Sununu took Soledad to the wood shed. Groupie. She was clearly effected by it. Later in her own show she finally had some hard questions for Gibbs.

    October 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. 1000awful

    Dear Ms – your source please for your "unskewed" polls? No, I didn't think you had them either.

    October 17, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  12. G. Austin A.

    How come nobody expects Romney to tell the TRUTH. Let me remind everyone again this is POLITICS and Politicians CANT HANDLE THE TRUTH. We all know the economy, taxes, medicare,oil, gas prices, the War,and even AIR FORCE ONE, has nothing to do with this race for the WHITE HOUSE

    October 17, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  13. Smith

    Nice job @ Steve P

    Spoken like a true liberal. If only Obama could just dumb himself down, then maybe we could all understand him. Oh wait, he's the dummy along with his hope/change bots. No you didn't. November 2010, comin' again.

    October 17, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  14. Lord Yabu

    I love the part where CNN & Obama are complicit on blaming the Libya deaths on the video clip. Didn't CNN actually have some of the actors on their own show ? Didn't Google & YouTube block access to the clip ? Did they just pluck that out of thin air or did Obama help ? He himself mentioned it by name in several press interviews. The FBI actually arrested the film maker. Fact checker.....royt.

    October 17, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  15. a disgrace but you voted for him

    america is just happy to see obama's disgrace of a presidency finally end!

    October 17, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  16. Lord Yabu

    Why weren't there any questions about Fast and Furious ? A class A failure linked to the Obama administration with cover ups and Obama blocking certain inner office communications ? Why ?

    October 17, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  17. SwollenGoat

    @charles angel:

    Puh-leeze... anyone who watches the video or reads the transcripts of Obama's speech in the rose garden, knows *d*mn well* he was talking about the attacks in Libya that had occurred the night before. Spinspinspin all you wan't but you're only fooling yourselves.

    Sorry but your boy Romney walked right into a trap that anyone with half a brain should have picked up on. "Please proceed, Governor". How could Romney not see he was being set up? No one without the wit and foresight to even recognize that has no business being President.

    And anyway, it's foolish to politicize this issue anyway, and Obama has put it to bed quite handily. That the republicans are grasping at this so strongly is indicative of their desperation.

    And finally, I'm all for instant fact checks, for both sides.

    October 17, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  18. Lord Toronaga

    There were 8% more republicans in the panel. So that gave it a total of 8%.

    October 17, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. Loki

    I would have brought up an inconvenient truth....All Sesame Street toys and "learning" aids are made in CHINA. Didn't they have a lead problem recall ?

    October 17, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  20. Loki

    I'll take one good economic stimulus package over 5 bad ones. Romney is a better business man and leader. SAT score 1600 out of 1600. What was President Obama's ?

    October 17, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  21. karlstalin

    "Nearly half say Obama won"???? Guess that means that more than half say he lost.

    Most of the media has alienated themselves from their viewers/readers as a credible source of information. It really doesn't matter what they report and their opinions don't really seem to matter much either. Objective journalism is gone and the so called "main stream media" is dead.

    There was once a Twilight Zone episode where the reporter could type any story that he dreamed of and it would come true, thus saving his dying news paper.

    October 17, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  22. Rick Taranik, a neutral Canadian

    Do Americians have blinders on. The world including the USA and Canada is in a recession. Mostly due to the Bushs of the world ,weapons of mass illusions and weak regulations on Wall Street. It is nice that President Obama, actually cares about poor people and health care, something Americans are not known for. Look at your ghettos. The republicans, have always been hawks, when it comes to military spending, the USA spends more than 7 times on military spending than China, why? Americians believe that they have the right to protect the world and force the world to live like they do. Wrong, that is why Americans are hated around the world. Traveling in the USA, I found, that the USA is about 40 years behind in civil rights. In most modern countrys, including Canada, women have the right to chose their own decision on abortion. Romney and the Republicans are against abortions.Romney wishes to rush in and arm Syria, not knowing if the rebels have terrorists with them. stay out of other countries problems. I have watched the debates and wondered, why anyone who has made their fortune by outsourcing, offshore tax breaks and is afraid to let his tax statements by public. His promises are unrealistic, promising tax cuts for everyone, but not saying how it is going to be funded. You can't live on promises and he has made alot. Unfortunately the Romneys and rich will alway control the USA's destiny. Pity

    October 17, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. cnn shamejob.

    interrupted 28 times by Candy. Pres Obama giver 10% more talking time. Lieing about keeping equal time.
    Picking questions that would favor Pres Obama. No questions on how Obama would be different than Presw Carter.
    CNN set up job. Why isn't CNN firing Candy???

    October 17, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. jim

    I'm not an Obama fan, but I don't think anyone should disrespect the president ever. This falll right in line with his distasteful comments made in the past. How can he be the leader of the US with that type of charater. He's got to be one of the most arrogant guys I've ever seen.

    October 17, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  25. Susan Iorio

    The moderator should have remained neutral rather than giving her opinion about the transcript from the Rose garden address the morning after the attack. I drive 3 hours a day to and from my job. I listened to public radio everyday after the attack. NPR reported the u tube video sparked protests as the source of the attack. Never was it said it was a terrorist attack until at least two weeks later. Why weren't we on high alert on September 11? Where the heck were the intelligence reports? Does anyone believe that just because Bin Laden is dead Americans are safe in the middle east?

    October 17, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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