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. bb

    Someone should create a yard sign stating "Romney for Obama", because Romney constantly agreed and endorsed President Obama's policies during the whole ninety-minute debate.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  2. Boohincus

    The Pubs got smart and made sure to get the FOXers out to to sign on CNN and vote for their cipher, Mitt Romney. Romney sounded the foreign policy neophyte that he is. Period.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  3. Isaias

    Respect for the people

    October 22, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  4. NameJoan smith

    Romney came across as very capable of being commander n chief.

    October 22, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  5. Gerald M. Stancil

    Your polling is off. CBS and other polls have Obama winning by a wide margin. I have lost a lot of belief in CNN coverage.

    October 22, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  6. sabrina

    Obama won the dabate...

    October 22, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  7. sailbug

    Pres. Obama won the debate and he looked presidential!! One thing I wished Pres. Obama would have talked more about is Mitt's job record in Mass. which isn't that great. I would have reminded the people that I had to stop the bleeding before we could go on. There are lot of things he should

    October 22, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  8. KJB

    So Obama wins your very own poll by eight points and that means it's "too close to call"? Are you guys even trying to be serious news organization anymore?

    October 22, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  9. IpecacNeat

    Hey, "truth", please explain your position. Here is mine from PolitiFact on your assertion that Obama's "apology tour":

    They say it's a lie. I'd like to know your opinion. Please provide examples and concrete sources for claims of an "apology tour".

    October 22, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  10. muffet

    Bull! Obama won hands down! If your sample group is more republican why bother?

    October 22, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  11. Eric

    I think cnn got ahead of themselves with their first story after the debate saying obama `bests' romney. I was very surprised how well romney did in this debate considering the advantage was with the president. I thought obama struggled to find his words and at times looked shaken because of his failed foreign policy in the middle east.

    October 22, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  12. JackieKG

    who was obama mouthing words to in the audience while Romney was speaking?

    October 22, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  13. John G. Painter

    How does a 8% point difference (Obama- 48%,Romney-40%)n favor of Obama fall within a 4.5% margin for error?

    October 22, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  14. truth hurts

    Obama implies our navy and its ships are obsolete and unnecessary (say good bye to Virginia lefties!) and then claims we are shifting focus to the Pacific Rim. So did anybody happen to mention to the clueless wonder Obama that the Pacific IS AN OCEAN?!! Does he plan to stimulate the economy by building bridges all across the Pacific after desimating the navy?! BWAHAHAHA!!! Honestly, the guy is a total BUFFOON.

    BTW, does Obama not know most of our troops and supplies MOVE BY SHIP??? Obama is totally incompetent and proved it tonight.

    October 22, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  15. Leo Pezzementi

    Governor Romney had no idea what he was talking about.

    October 22, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  16. Sara

    I would be so scared if Romney became president. Honestly, he doesn't have a clue. How can intelligent people actually vote for this man?????

    October 22, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  17. mc

    Romney won election!Thanks god!

    October 22, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  18. Jeff Gundy

    Any fool can tell that 48-40 is NOT within a 4.5 margin of error. What in the world are you trying to pull? Obama clearly won the debate!

    October 22, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  19. The fact is

    Obama won the debate. Romney was just sweating and offered no new ideas on foriegn policy.

    October 22, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  20. GuyinVA

    This debate format is boring. Just like the VP debate.

    October 22, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  21. Sheldon

    i believe the reason why CNN says it's too close to call is because the margin of error (4.5%) means Obama is at 48 +/- 4.5%, and Romney is at 40 +/- 4.5%. Those two ranges overlap (a little)... so it's too close to call.

    It should be noted that CBS has a poll out that has Obama winning by a 53% to 23% margin.

    October 22, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  22. Amresh Sinha

    Obama a clear winner once again. But if you are CNN, I.e., Fox on Steroid, Wolf will find a way to think Tomney was as good as Obama.

    October 22, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  23. SIFFY40

    Since when is 48 to 40 a split. I struggled in statistice but I know there is a big gap in those numbers. Not sure why CNN is trying to downplay the POTUS win.

    October 22, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  24. mee

    repubs have no business claiming they can run this country. Cant kill our way out? Thats wierd because you sure could when the last republican was in office. Romney is a joke, the entire republican party is a joke, I wish they would sit down and shut up and let the adults do the important jobs–like governing this country in the real world instead of some fantasy land video game. No clear winner? Sorry cnn but obama destroyed romney this time out. Obama is the obvious choice now.

    October 22, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  25. Rio

    Yeeeah wooooo Obama12 let's build on the momentum.

    October 22, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
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