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. Ben

    Sure you do Middle Class American, sure you do. The Internet is filled with people on both sides claiming they have always voted one way and are now voting another.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  2. Wilberforce

    The partisans all claim victory for their guy. Bottom line is this was a draw. Probably won't make much difference. You won't see any dramatic swings in the polls.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  3. demopublican

    Obama won by a landslide. no question about it!

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  4. Celisti

    Obama really had no substances to say about next 4 years and cannot defend his 1st 4 years. i don't know what people are thinking about Obama to trust him enough for another miserable 4 years.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  5. Colette

    Romney...he lost and he knew it he ran out of Hofstra like his shorts were on fire! What no meet and greet Sir Romneystein .... He checks which direction the wind is blowing every time he speaks so he can adjust and the Repubs are just as bad...

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  6. Mark

    Candy Crowley has just admitted that she was wrong on Libya!!! She had no right to correct Romney in the middle of the debate. Some people will, now, never know she was wrong!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  7. Abdull Swaray

    Well done Mr President.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  8. Charles

    Obama was clueless about Economics. I'm voting Republican.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  9. Paul

    CNN – extremely disappointed in your representative Candy ! The moderator was supposed to be un-opinionated . Did Obama really need her help to try to win this debate ?

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  10. Name Patrick

    This debate reassured Americans that their president can and will stand on his ground to continue working for the better of America . Obama won tonight !!!

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  11. Micha

    Romney looked shook up and stammered for words. He couldn't even answer the questions the audience asked. The lady asked him what he would cut, the education credit and such, he wouldn't answer.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  12. Abdullah Abdullah

    Mr. Obama did excellent tonight unlike Mr. Romney; Go Kenya!

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  13. John

    Depends on what poll you look at.... Some say Romney took it others say Obama. I say Obama was better this time then the last time except he kept lying. I looked up some of what he stated and fould some definate lies. Look at his record is what I say can we live with 4 more of the same? I'm sorry I can't imagine what the country would look like with another term.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  14. Anonymous

    Facts: Obama is a community organizer, fact: waste billions of tax payer dollars. Fact: triplicate the deficit, fact: make more executive order than any president before him (is my way or not at all). Fact: pass Obama care without any bipartisan approval. So that is Obama. and we give him 4 years to prove himself.
    Romney: , made his own fortune, good ideas for the middle class, and business, cut your taxes, so that means more money for you in your paycheck, more money to save and expend, The choice is Romney for President

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  15. John

    Thank you, President Obama, for not letting Mittney get away with his 47% remark - and his belief in the "47%." This evil fool, with his 47 IQ wants power so badly, he decided to stand by the remark at first, only to flip-flop and later say it was completely wrong. That's the Mittney we know and love, all 47 of us - all 47 of them.

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  16. TigerT

    See complete CNN poll resulte: Romney won the rest questions

    October 17, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  17. DJRalbanyny

    Why did Obama look so angry? Are you kidding? Have you been asleep till now? Romney has lied through his teeth for so long about the president and his policies. Romney is a snake oil salesman who sold American workers out with Bain and he will sell them out again as president, if he ever got the chance. His performance tonight exposed him for what he is – a fraud who will say anything to get elected. He is the worst example of corporate slime. It's over after tonight. It's his beginning of the end.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  18. Matt c

    He looks mad because he is tired of mittens continually lying, flip flopping, and straight up forgetting the facts about his own record.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  19. Marcia Schmit

    Candy's correction of Romney was dead-on right. They played the tape after the debate. A mark of an excellent journalistic memory. GREAT job Candy!

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  20. Name

    Romnye the worest

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  21. John the sane

    Romney clear winner. CNN staffers posting pro-Obama propaganda here.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  22. Majestic

    Now here's the difference between a Democrat and Republican. When a Democrat loses a debate (two weeks ago), the Democrats ADMIT it. When a Republican loses a debate (tonight) they BLAME everyone except their candidate.,

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  23. Freedomseeker

    Obama proved again tonight that he runs from the heat and can't handle the pressure of being Commander-in-Chief. He is the worst president we have had in 100 years. Please people think before you vote!!! Do you want to see a gallon of gas at $6.00? How about a $7.00 loaf of bread? Obama had nothing to say when he was questioned on his past four years and how he has done nothing that he promised to do. He is a hypocrite and a poor leader at best. Why would you with any common sense for for Obama again when you know based off his track record that he cannot get anything accomplished? Put away your pride America and vote for the person most qualified to return America to the country we used to be, should be and want to be. Stop voting for your party out of elegance!!! Do what is right and vote because you know it is the right thing to do? America needs a change and we need it now!

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  24. Buckhippo

    Undecided voter = uneducated voter = prey for republican propaganda machine. If anyone is truly undecided at this point, then they have no hope of being an educated voter. Simple.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  25. Andrew

    Love to see all the conservatives blaming the moderator. When you start blaming the moderator – it means you lost.

    Obama won on women's issues, immigration, china, 47% issue... Where Romney could've done damage, Libya, he shot himself in the foot with the gotcha moment. I'm still waiting for Romney to answer if he supports the lily Ledbetter pay act. And why would Romney remind everyone of his 100% support for all Americans? Doesn't that come with the job? The debate ended with Obama pouncing him on the issue.

    For all those who don't think this is gonna change the race. Wait. A. Few. Days.

    October 17, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
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