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. Obama what?

    Indeed Obama won the debate. That being said, the election is not only about foreign policy, for most voters it's about the economy. Obama had his shot and he has continued to do what the last several administrations have done....spend more money. While I'm not a Romney fan, at least he comes from the private sector.

    October 22, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  2. austy

    hey idi ot who wrote this "article" 48 percent say Obama won the debate compared to 40 percent that went for romney.. thus OBAMA won you mo rons.. headline should say "Poll finds Obama won debate"

    October 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  3. LaToshia Malone

    Romney is not ready for the magnitude of responsibility! He can't do math, only think of people in his standings are America. When that's false advertisement. Everyone from the middle class do not exist. When we make America! He states we were in debt double the amount since Obama been in office . When I know 6 trillion is not greater then 10 trillion. He can't count. Second I am I struggling business owner walking on faith every day. I want a president that has been in my shoes and is going to help me better my self. That's my leader. Hands down Obama should be in office.

    October 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  4. billNY

    It's not significant because they know Romney won and is the better choice.

    October 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  5. California decided

    What makes America so great, what makes the power of television and social media is that everyone has the right to voice their opinion express their views and what's important! My hope is that everyone who has taken the time to express their opinions on the winner, my hope is that on Election Day, we go and vote for the person who will take our great country to the next level of greatness, and make us safe-and proud to be anericans

    October 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  6. aldo

    Obama spent more time attacking Romney than defending his record over the last 4 years or telling the American people what he plans to do different in the next four years if he is re-elected. Obama did not say anything new, just the same old talking points we heard in the other debates, a great president does not go on the definse, his record should speak for itself, for me that says it all, Romeny won hands down (again).

    October 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  7. cherry

    If you want four more years of the same gov expenditures and handouts vote for Obama, If you want more jobs and less debt in our children's futures vote for Romney, We can not afford four more years of Obama but I think we are going to have it because most people want instant gratification and.what seems good for the moment....
    and that is what Obama promises.

    October 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  8. kreshia1

    Romeny endorses Obama something wrong with this picture

    October 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  9. Doreen

    There was a statement that Romney said about government can't create jobs, yet he keeps saying he can solve the unemployment issues. How will he do this with out involving the government. And if he can do so, he can it with out being the president . As he said it can be done with out the government but the private sector instead. So let's let him stay in the private sector.

    October 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  10. Stunned

    You guys (CNN) are really out to lunch in suggesting that the debate was "too close to call." You have been trying hard to push Romney as a credible alternative to Obama, and truth be told, the challenger won the first debate. But Obama and Biden dominated the last three debates, and you're the only independent news outlet that fails to recognize this basic fact. An 8 point lead within the MOE of 4.5 percent–LOL. Perhaps, but that means that Obama could have also won it by 12.5 points.

    October 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  11. Ludmila Gardeazabal

    Wake up America... Are you all bllid? Can´t you see that Obama is destroying America....are you guys insane or what? Can´t you feel it in your pocket´s? Blind people....this man welcomes the Muslim brotherhood...if he is not one himself.... he is a liear, a wolf and a deceiver.

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  12. Mike

    The rats loves to twist Romney words around. I'm still voting for Romney. It's time to get America working again, if people go on the free ride, it will raise our taxes and we all know that. Obama has the rats so brain washed, right now if a squirrel was in the office those rats will believe that squirrel. That is the way it is

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  13. Rousseau Bhatra

    Iran dreamt of making a bomb – Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney exploded it in the debate. It’s a shame how Mr. Romney dragged Mr. President down to his level of shallowness...

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  14. Rupert Murdoch = Josef Goebbels

    Romney: our navy is the smallest its been since 1917.

    Obama: that's because we have these new things called aircraft carriers, and ships that go under water called submarines.

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  15. Jake

    Dear America,

    Seriously, vote Obama back again. We like him. He has helped your international reputation more than you will ever know.
    That, and Romney scares the living daylights out of us.
    We don't understand how this is even a question. The answer is obvious to the rest of us.
    Please. We beg you. Don't be stupid.


    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  16. Donald Trump


    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  17. Tiffany Sayers

    Romney has me convinced and will get my vote. As a woman I am tired of Obama not being accountable. He hides behind women like Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Rice and let's them fall on the sword for his failures. Enough lies!

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  18. tommy1987

    Romney won the first debate by 72% to Obama's 22%. Democrats admitted defeat, just like Obama will on election day. The other two debates it wasnt that close so it only succeded in exciting each base. No matter what people say above......23 million are crying out for help who have no job because of the failed policies of the Obama administration. Obama is the worst president in the history of the United States. He has to gone now. VOTE FOR ROMNEY!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  19. utoh

    Romney will be President. Obama sounded like a cry baby.

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  20. Danna Coy

    HEY FACT CHECKER: You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Who won? First you stack the deck by 8% more Republicans polled than the electorate, and you still come out with an 8% win for Obama, but you won't say it. You are Faux News-Lite and a disgrace. I feel sorry for Carville having to live in your fantasy world.

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  21. Michael

    Obama has no plan...they been blaming romney for not having a plan...I heard a plan...what is obama's plan?Obama was the aggressor...i saw obama's work for the last 4 years....i haven't seen romney's .....i am voting for romney

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  22. John Q Public

    This one was a draw. As for the constant interruptions and rude arrogance, I'm getting tired of it. I don't like it when visitors do that on the news networks and I don't like it when our leaders, who are supposed to be the ones setting the example and leading by it, do it. Three times now I've suffered with Obama and Biden constantly interrupting and taking away time from their opponents, acting like school children.

    And anyone who thinks we'll be better off with another 4 years of this failed domestic policy? Time to send them back to Chicago. And Dems, please lose Axelrod somewhere along the way.

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  23. packerfans

    three debates Mitt 144.% total won, Obama 126 % won. Mitt winner peroid!!

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  24. Mort

    Its pretty tell-tell when Fox has their biggest breaking new as" World Series" just after Mr Romney gets a lesson on what it is like to actually be the President and not have an argument just for the sake of saying something. I'm an independent that has been waiting for Romney to say something. But, I cant give a pass to the candidate for the most respected office in the free world. Enjoy your retirement from public office and enjoy that big 'ol family. In about 3 years it could be pretty nice. Singed sealed delivered Mr President. Thank you for what you are trying to accomplish.

    October 23, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  25. See 4 Yourself

    Did any of you notice that Romney's family came out to support him at the end but Obama's girls were no where? Some family man Obama is.

    October 23, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
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