CNN Poll: Nearly half of debate watchers say Obama won showdown
October 22nd, 2012
11:24 PM ET
10 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. i12bphil

    They're both a couple of schmucks. America has less than 40 years and then the libs will have run us into the ground with no debris remaining. End of story.

    October 22, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  2. Jim g

    CNN shows 75 to 25 in its poll. That seems pretty honest if you watched it. Do not see where it was to close to call but some are deaf and blind.

    October 22, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  3. Troy

    No doubt, Obama was more natural and Romney stuck to talking points. Give the President the win, but, big but....this debate won't have the impact the first 2 had. Romney will not only win the election he will win big. Well over 300 electorates and a 2nd term. We will finally have a President that will allow us to use our own energy, lower taxes and balance a budget and get unemployment below 5%. He will get us below 6% in his first two years.

    October 22, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  4. Jeff

    When you bow to other foreign leaders you show America is weak. When he goes out there he repersents America not him. When you go to the middle east and talk bad about America you show America is weak. When you decline to meet with Israel and go to a fundraiser party and a tv show that tells the world you don't have there back. Words are cheap. Pictures say a thousand words bowing to other leaders says out loud America is weak and I don't have a backbone. When obama says that we need to support the troops when they come back then turn around and give them a pink slip and say that 'I will veto the securtiy bill if you don't put that troops need to pay more towards their medical bills" I think we eared that benifit with blood.

    October 22, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  5. FixIt

    Breaking News" "CNN poll finds clear Obama win." is in the CNN ticker...right below the "No clear winner" Breaking News banner... Come on CNN...don't make me lose faith in you, too.

    October 22, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  6. theprovider

    The cnn polls are the very reason I stopped watching years ago, but I do like Wolf wish he was on another station.

    October 22, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  7. Pat

    Romney has clear understanding of the economy and foreign policy. Obamacare is going to be disastrous. My nephew is serving in Afghanistan and every month they take money out of his check for food! What an outrage! That's what cutting the military budget does! Romney needs to win this election for the future of our country!!!

    October 22, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  8. Zingalala

    Today : for cnn guys Obama 1 Romney 0....... 6th Nov: Romney 1 Obama 0. Good night, have to goto work tomorrow morning.

    October 22, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  9. bct

    Wow....How can anyone vote for Rommey after tonight? He totally ignored questions,rephased questions and avoided questions that he had no answers for.
    This dude is a loose canon with a ego he needs to satisfy.
    He would have us at war by overreacting.
    Go back to being a business man and people won't judge you when you start shipping jobs overseas.

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  10. Hiz

    CNN has become faux news heavy. Even Fox News thinks Obama won this debate. Disgraceful.

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  11. Jeff

    No one really cares about what happens abroad when things are not functioning here. Obama had his chance, I actually voted for him but now it's time to fire him!!!

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  12. robert hume

    CNN you are becoming a joke! You're so scared of being labeled "liberally biast" by conservative viewers, that you are calling a poll on who won the debate 48% Obama, 40% Romney "too close to call"???? Your job is not to be "fair and balanced", your job is to be objective! Find the facts, and report them! Obama won this debate, it's not an opinion, and it's not "too close to call", it's a fact. Call it!

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  13. Robert Benscoter

    Hey CNN, how about putting up the demographic information for this poll?

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  14. Statistician

    CNN polls are run by incompetents. Who's ever heard of a poll where a 8 point difference is not significant?

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  15. Namejoon

    Obama won this debate!

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  16. kevin

    Polls are a play on numbers -4.5 means if you add 4.5 to Romney's 40 he has 44.5 you must then subtract 4.5 from Obama giving him 43.5 in that scenario Romney wins. No wonder democrats are clueless about the economy they don't understand simple statistics.

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  17. Birdie58

    It is amazing how the Republicans put a spin on Romney wobbling on previous statements. What about his views on teachers? Remarkable how people hear only what they are consistently told. Obama did a great job! He proved he is control and the leader we need at this time.

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  18. Miss Kisha

    Great Job PRESIDENT OBAMA....

    October 22, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  19. SIFFY40

    I love how they say Mitt chose not to attack the President. Why cause he was afraid he would be asked difficult questions. He cant even win on his own merit. He has played this flip flop game so much just so the extreme right wingers will vote for him. He will say or do anything to win, or not do anything.

    October 22, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    no consistency whatsoever with Romney. Waht a wishy washy politician. Scary guy without a clue on foreign policy

    October 22, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  21. Robert from Ohio

    Romney was in retreat the entire night. He is weak and stands for nothing. Obama is a true strong, smart leader.

    October 22, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  22. prsteve11

    Governor Romney did very well and won this debate.

    October 22, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  23. Am Barnes

    If you want Obama,it means that you really want United States to be more in debt,more unemployment,more food stamps dependents,go for Obama then complain about the economy,people grow up! Go Romney for Christ's Sake

    October 22, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    As an independent voter and watching all three debates. i voted for McCaine before...Now I will vote Obama...

    October 22, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  25. independent

    The simple minds of the Obama drones are easily confused. Why else would they fall back on the incompetence, arrogance and incompetence of this administration.

    October 22, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
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