CNN Poll: Split decision on debate
October 16th, 2012
11:46 PM ET
9 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. Voter

    Obama won my vote tonight.

    October 17, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  2. Brenda

    The debate tonight was a very close one. I would have to say that Obama had a slight edge but overall the expectation was that he had to be fantastic and win convincingly. He did not do that. Romney held his own and did what he had to do which is continue the momentum that was started in the first debate. Obama did not do enough to stem the tide that is going against him. As the current President, he had to do more than hold his own. He needed to be commanding and completely in charge and instead he looked defensive and worried. I would have to say that Romney did what he needed to do tonight and Obama failed to gain back the ground that was lost.

    October 17, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  3. Eve

    Debate was somewhat out of control. Romney was disrespectful of both the President and moderator, even as the timer had stopped and was told by Candy that she had to move on to the next question.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  4. Jacqueline

    This debate was horrible, the moderator Candy Crowley did a terrible job. Every time the tough questions were asked she softened it and spun it for Obama. It is good to know Obama had the moderator in his camp the entire debate. There should have been someone neutral. This was just one big attack add against Romney. I want issues discussed not an attack ad. Answer the tough questions Obama don't give me some stupid rewritten commercial speech.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  5. Christina

    Excellent job, Ms Crowley, keeping the two men on their toes! Romney especially tried to be a bully at times, and I'm glad you held your own. CNN has been trending the way of Faux News, and I'm glad there's at least one truly objective anchorperson on the network!

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  6. Name Patrick

    Obama rocks !! He clearely won the debate tonight !!

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  7. NameSick of losers

    3.5 minute advantage for mr talk

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  8. Satch Tola

    Obama used a double shuffle in round two. Round three will be a left uppercut and a right cross and DOWN will go Romney. Round 1 was only Obama using Rope a Dope.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  9. FRED

    Come on this is CNN Crowley is a cheerleader for Obama. This is the 47% that Romney was talking about, they want handouts and no one and I mean no one is going to stand in their way. Now before you say military is in this well I am military and I rate to be on food stamps. Guess what I refuse to take them because I will not take a handout.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  10. Bill Smells

    Wait, this is a liberal media poll predicting that the liberal president won the debate. Might want to send this off to the Fact Checkers out there...

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  11. Paul

    Since when did being rude mean winning a debate. CNN is extremely bias as they just proved...and Candy Crowley is a left wing dunderhead. She was a horrible excuse for a moderator. I saw that wink Obama gave her. Romney has a plan and Obama does not. No way will I give him my vote for 4 more years.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  12. Boohincus

    Listen to the little Republican girly boys screaming now! I'm sensing that a lot of poorly educated pot bellied white American males are pretty angry right now! lol

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  13. Dean Newton

    Candy Crowley got the Libya comment wrong – and stepped in the middle of a close presidential race. CNN stop sending your commentators you banish to early Sunday television to host presidential debates.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  14. jOHN

    For those who believe Obama won the debate. In actuality the American people won the debate. How? The American people once again got to see the Real Romney. A genuine leader, proven leader, and great Family man.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  15. marko

    I am so tired of these two guys and their half truths. How can all of you be drinking the kool aid? They both spent the night not answering the questions and painting the other guy as the absolute devil. Come on America can we at least agree that these two parties have very little to offer in terms of candidates?

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  16. Sherley

    Obama won big the second debate even the first one he won Romney was just lying on the first he's fake but can't escape the 47% comment

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  17. bob in NJ

    Also..Check the Yahoo poll of 50,000+..Shows Romney with a 53-47 edge...Which one do you think is more accurate...

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  18. Chris

    If you work for a living vote Romney. If you prefer free loading Govt assistance vote Obama.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  19. carrie

    Obama cleaned the Mitts clock!!! He was firn and Presiidental , Romney looked like he was sucking lemons most of the time !!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  20. salam

    I agree with Larry Smith. The moderator was totally wrong on the Libyan question. She should have never offered a "fact check", that misleads uninformed viewers. Shame on you moderator…!!!!!Your organization should be ashamed of her performance tonight.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  21. emma

    Romney did lose tonight, but there is still one last debate...

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  22. Hiruu, when CNN declares Romney the winner...they are reporting the facts, but when hey say Obama whips Romney, they are liberal spin doctors...okay...

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  23. Ben


    Romney did not win with 67%. Not even close. I'll grant you Mitt won the first debate, but not this time. In fact, this loss is critical. If he loses again, you won't need to worry about Mitt being in the White House.

    October 17, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  24. joe

    Obama our quipped Romney, but I think you will still see Romney's numbers creep up over the next week. Obama was entertaining, but I didn't feel like he earned any votes.

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  25. LB

    I watched the whole debate, and my opinion is that Obama won. He seemed more aggressive than in the first debate

    October 17, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
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