CNN Poll: Nearly half of debate watchers say Obama won showdown
October 22nd, 2012
11:24 PM ET
8 years ago

CNN Poll: Nearly half of debate watchers say Obama won showdown

(CNN) - Give the slight edge to President Obama.

Thanks to an aggressive performance and a couple of zingers, a plurality of debate watchers questioned in a national survey say that the president won his final faceoff with Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

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But a CNN/ORC International poll conducted right after Monday night's faceoff here at Lynn University in south Florida also indicates that the debate may be a draw when it comes to whether it will affect the choice of voters who watched the showdown, and Romney held his own with the president on the commander-in-chief test.

And according to the survey, unlike previous debates, there was a big gender gap, with women responding much more favorably to Obama's performance and men giving a small advantage to Romney.

Forty-eight percent of registered voters who watched Monday night's third presidential debate say that Obama won the showdown, with 40% saying Romney did the better job in a debate dedicated to foreign policy. The president's eight-point advantage over the former Massachusetts governor came among a debate audience that was slightly more Republican than the country as a whole and is just within the survey's sampling error.

Nearly six in ten watchers say that Obama did a better job in the debate than they had expected, 15 points higher than the 44% who said that the GOP challenger had a better than expected debate performance.

The president was critical of Romney right out of the gate, saying a few minutes into the debate that "a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaeda. You said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the cold war's been over for 20 years."

And a moment later, he slammed Romney, saying "I know you haven't been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong."

Obama's aggressive strategy led the debate audience to give him a narrow 51%-46% edge on leadership, but it may have come at the cost of likeability.

"A majority of debate watchers said that President Obama seemed to be the stronger leader," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But on the question of likeability, the two candidates are essentially tied on a trait that has generally been an advantage for Obama. That's probably due to the fact that two-thirds of debate watchers felt that Obama spent more time than Mitt Romney on the attack."

But according to the poll, both candidates were seen by debate watchers as able to handle the responsibilities of commander in chief - an important threshold for Romney since he is not the incumbent. But men and women see the commander in chief question very differently.

Majorities of both genders saw Obama as capable of handling that role, but women were split roughly 50/50 on whether Romney had proven himself on that measure, while men responded well to Romney's performance. Women also saw Obama as the stronger leader; men saw Romney as having the edge on leadership. As a result, women saw Obama as the winner of the debate by 22 points, while a plurality of men saw Romney as the victor on Monday night.

Bottom line: The debate appears to be a draw when it comes to affecting the vote of those who tuned in to the faceoff.

Half of those questioned say that the debate did not affect how they would vote, with 25% saying they are more likely to vote for Romney and 24% saying they are more likely to cast a ballot for Obama.

The sample of debate-watchers in the poll was 34% Democratic and 30% Republican.

"That indicates that the sample of debate watchers is about five 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 448 registered voters who watched the debate questioned by telephone after the end of the October 22nd debate. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

By a 53%-23% margin, a CBS News poll conducted after the third debate of uncommitted voters also indicated that Obama won the showdown, with nearly one in four saying the debate was a tie.

"The second debate, the president clearly won and yet people came out saying that Romney would do a better job handling the economy. In this final debate the president won again, yet the poll clearly suggests that Romney passed the commander in chief test," says CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, who advised both Democratic and Republican presidents. "What is striking is that neither the second debate, or the third debate seemed to change the overall race, at least in the early hours."

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (1,324 Responses)
  1. JackieKG

    Re: apology tour, this time Romney quoted Obama's statements made publicly to other nations. They were definitely apologetic.

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  2. Glenn Velazquez

    Really? No clear winner? With a 8 point lead?

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  3. eemalah

    I think the CNN scientific poll is neither scientific nor meaningful. how a difference of 8% is not significant if the margin of error is 4.5%. I think that is why we need more math teachers

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  4. drew

    48% vs 40% is not within the sampling error. lol!!!!!!!! 4.5% is the sampling error

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  5. EKIA

    Obama was endorsed today by Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin, and Raul Castro. Why are known enemies of the U.S. supporting the president's policies?

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  6. Karen

    Obama's constant attack of Romney tells it all. Romney looked very presidential and Obama didn't. I'm sure Romney will get another bounce from this debate just like he has from the other two. Obama is scared and it showed tonight.

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  7. SS

    Who says the media is conspiring to get Obama elected? As far as I can see, they are trying to spin this in Romney's favor and he clearly lost tonight.

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  8. partof47%

    Hands down, the President won!!!!

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  9. gold

    How is that too close to call? Obama whooped Romney. Romney all but endorsed Obama and dropped out of the race.

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  10. Mark Hipps

    the comments here are indicative of what is wrong with this country. The Republicans are saying Romney won and the Democrats are saying Obama won. If you listened to any of the commentary after the debate you would have heard that the Republicans made a strategic decision not to attack the President. Basically they said that this is the least important issue and that they feel Romney has already won the economic debate. Interesting gamble if you ask me. We will know come November 6th if it paid off. but to say that Romney won this debate is preposterous when his own advisers more or less decided all he had to do was to stay calm hold his own and not make any major mistakes. Anyone who follows sports knows what happens when you play not to lose but again we shall see . The key to it all is who gets out the vote in the final days

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  11. RT

    I have no confidence in Romney! Tonight it was clear Romney is not comfortable and knowledgable when it comes to Foreign Policy! I have a daughter currently deployed who wants to come home! Romney is not the answer!

    October 22, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    It is interesting to me that anyone can think that you will be better off with 4 more years of Obama. Between my husband and myself, we have two Master's degrees, are working four jobs and still can't make ends meet. My wage has not gone up in four years and now I have had to find extra money to fill my tank. My tax return has now been cut in half, and I am definitely NOT better off than I was 4 years ago and I can't afford 4 more years of the same. Obama talks about how he cares about the average American, he couldn't care less. He says one thing during the debate, but will turn around and spend whatever he wants on any of his pet projects. School lunch and nutrition has been one of his wife's pet projects, food which gets thrown out by the ton. My tax dollars at work. I could collect more on food stamps if I quit my job, than my current salary pays. I'm sure 47% of Americans have figured that out too.And again....I have a Master's degree! The system is broken, abused and sucking us dry. I can't afford Obama any longer. Just food for thought, from someone in the "middle class".

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  13. imvotingforobama2

    I imagine a president as someone who has consistency, is calm, professional, honest and rational. I cannot imagine someone who can’t even get through these moderated debates without interrupting every time someone else is speaking and demanding the last word out of turn… how might an un-moderated, untelevised, unstructured dispute with another country transpire?? Fact check! Romney denied the policies that are even posted on his website in every debate.. he is unreliable and not to be trusted. Romney is no representative of mine!

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  14. Toby Vizsla

    Ah, Gov. Romney, the 80's called wanting their foreign policy back......I thought that was hilarious!!!! I was leaning towards Romney after the first two debates but in this one, he looked like deer in headlights. One debate strategy he kept using was to repeat his opponent's arguments to buy more time to think. Although, both of them used the "Ad Hominem Tu Quoque" fallacy to each one's advantage. In the end, any HS student on a debate team would know who won this debate.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  15. krakyahead

    No question to me who won all Romney did was parrot or piggie back on everything the president said Obamas the clear winner now and on election day.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  16. fact checker

    those checking facts found the President did tell the truth!!

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  17. bee

    Romney came across as a liar. He changed his position on every stance he's had and flat out said he never said such a thing when called on it. Auto issue is the biggest point. Bain (the company he owns) is currently off shoring jobs in a company they bought in Ill. If he were to become president he would incorporate the same philosophy...... we're all just a bunch of lazy and stupid Americans to him.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  18. EKIA

    Romney won. Romney was calm and presidential. Obama acted like a petulant child. Obama's desperation is showing.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  19. Rick

    To the mathmatically and integrity challenged jerk known as Mitt's Lies: 48-40 is a basic wash. Now 77-23 (as in Romney win in Debate#1) THAT'S a tail kicking folks!!.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  20. jimmyjones

    It's not a game of Battleship Mitt!
    Obama won big tonight.
    CNN's Polling methods are WEAK

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  21. IWillHavetoVoteDemocratic

    I will have to vote Democratic. Obama is the person for the job. I TRUST him. I believe his leadership is on point. I've been watching MSNBC, CNN, FOX and the local channels, and every other time I've watched, MRs views changed time to time I'm looking for the trust factor, the leadership factor, the PRESIDENTIAL factor.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  22. Namewilliam

    Mr.president; Marines still use bayonets! Way to go big bird Romney! This navy man salutes our new commander in chief!

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  23. Chad

    Obama did not act presidential. He told A LOT of lies. I hope CNN will not be so bias and point them out.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  24. Nicecatch

    I don't undertand how anybody can take Romney seriously. This guy just changes positions like most people change clothes and then he denies he ever held his initial position. He does this over and over again. He's counting on people not paying attention and is hoping to ride into the Whitehouse on bad economic news. The man is a serial liar and there is tape to prove it!

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  25. stan

    romney tanked. he is ill equipped on foriegn policy.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
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