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. farmwife1972

    Whoever thinks that Romney won the debate is fooling themselves! This debate pretty well sealed another 4 years for our President. President Obama did an awesome job tonight and I am very proud to be one of his supporters.

    October 23, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  2. Sky

    Obama lied thru his teeth time and time again. It is no wonder that nobody knows what is going on in the country since Obama changes his answer with each ticking minute of the day.

    October 23, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  3. Mark

    Obama wins the patronizing, overbearing, rudeness award hands-down. He is a graduate of the Biden Obnoxious Debate Society. VERY unpresidential.

    October 23, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  4. Seriously?

    An 8-point lead for Obama falls within the 4.5% margin of error.

    CNN = Creative Numbers Network

    October 23, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  5. Tee

    President Obama Was magnificent Tonight!

    October 23, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  6. Patrick

    This was the first time in my life i am afraid of are president. That should never be.

    October 23, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  7. Imwebspy

    The Truth is they both cater to the same money. The difference is narrow, Obama Hired some Bush men as money managers! Romney Hired some Bush men as Foreign Advisers 17 out of 24. So in-case me and you not as informed or smart as we think, I'll error on the side of dead Solders accept Bush money men! Reject Romney advisers as they already sold us the Halliburton Wars, 3 weeks no loss of life remember? Funny some Solders made it out of Iraq, but Halliburton still there!

    October 23, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  8. America#1

    Four years ago I voted for Obama, but he has proved he has no idea what he is doing and I am concerned what four more years would produce. Is anyone else PO'd that whenever something happens in the world, Obama throws Americans under the bus? We seem to be a constant disapointment to him. I do not apologize for having freedom of speech and I want a President who has our back. Romney has shown me what a real president looks like!

    October 23, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  9. AK

    Reagan inherited a worse economy but in two years, he turned it around. The bone of contention here is not whether Obama inherited a big mess. It is his inability to stop it from getting worse. In real life, if you have a worker who cannot perform per his/her job description, he/she would have been let go within the first year. I know. I have fired under performing workers. That's how you change the situation. If I hired someone to clean up the mess of a previous employee – and was promised by the new hire that he can do it within a year or two, you better believe I will hold him to it. It would be extremely irresponsible of me to keep this top executive if he can't deliver.

    October 23, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |

    I'm so amazed that middle class Americans vote Republican. The Right is ONLY looking out for the wealthy. Somewhere along the line, they convinced a large segment of society that they are looking out for them. REALLY? First thing Republicans talk about cutting – education. Damn those "high paid" teachers! This hurts the next generation! Maybe not your children, but your grandchildren! The same applies to health care. They align themselves as the christian party, yet the Dems are living more like Christ said know,"thy brothers keeper."

    October 23, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  11. Woodly

    I think Obama won the debate but that doesn't mean he can do a better job than Romney.He hasn't been doing a good job.

    October 23, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  12. chuck

    Hey Latoshia, 6 trillion is Obamas debt in 4 years alone, 10 Trilion is every president before him. Now go look at what a trillion dollars looks like. Remind me of Obamas credentials 4years ago... They were and still are 10 times weaker then Romneys.

    October 23, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  13. ali

    Americans, whoever you vote for I do not know much about your politics, please vote for one that will not start a war with Iran. we do not want to fight you. we like America.

    October 23, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  14. Ron

    Let's move forward not backward. and I don't trust polls. the real poll is november 6. if you have not make up your mind after this debate go vote on november 7

    October 23, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  15. Larry L


    who was obama mouthing words to in the audience while Romney was speaking?
    -------------------------------------------------He was telling the moderator to allow Romney to continue speaking... The best thing the President could do considering the ridiculous lack of knowledge Romney displayed about the role of Commander-In-Chief.

    October 23, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  16. Sara

    I was undecided, but Obama is definitely a better presidential candidate. I will be voting for the right choice!

    October 23, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  17. brainout

    I'm anti-Obama, but less so as a result of the last two debates. What keeps me anti-Obama:

    a) I remember how he made his Middle East tour, which catered to the Arabs and snubbed Israel. I saw the tour myself, not relying on what people said about it. It was nice to see him do an about-face tonight, not nice to see him deny the definite America-bashing I saw him do.

    b) He still doesn't understand Economics and Foreign Policy 101, but his ignorance could be worse, and he's obviously learned a lot since 2008. So again, an improvement, but not enough.

    Which is sad, because I like him. Oh well.

    October 23, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  18. read5

    From what I heard, Romney won the votes that are still out there. The undecided voters saw a president having no positive records attacks a straw man who should have no foreign policy record as if it were a president. Obama was belligerent, disrespectful and dishonest, willing to attack one loves America as he does but apologetic to the antagonists against America.

    October 23, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  19. taraneh

    obama looked tired, angry, super petty, un-presidential. Romney looked composed, happy warrior, presidential, winning.

    October 23, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  20. Melinda Turner

    "Too close to call"..are you kidding? Obama was hands down the winner, in all categories. This is how media slants things to make the "stupids" think they are voting for the right candidate. Shameful.

    October 23, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  21. Nick

    It is NOT TO CLOSE TO CALL! The President clearly won, and won even outside your poll's margin of error! Stop spinning this, stop being afraid to report the news as it is. Don't be intimidated by Fox!

    October 23, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  22. DJESQ

    Which one do you trust?

    Which one scares you?

    Which one will keep America safe and strong?

    As an Independent, I find the choice rather simple ...

    October 23, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  23. manunyc

    Being calm and civil represents us as a better human being. Any day i would trust a person who carries himself well. Obama was doing that till he saw people can see through his lies as in 1st debate. Then comes Biden who doesn't even know how to talk and leave alone understand an issue. Then comes obama who for every question in debate was just attacking Romney. Mr Obama doesn't have a solution but attacking Romney was more important. If by laughing and doing the stuff called for action 4 years back , in the last year of presidency and wasting whole of presidency for healthcare when jobs and economy was more important is what Americans want, then of course this is no surprise that we rank at 20th in worldwide maths ranking.

    October 23, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  24. mrs.fain

    i see nothing wrong with the rich getting cut...whats wrong with giving back to the people who made you rich...such you started your company...what about the people who kept it running for you ....would you have a company if you didn't have a middle class...just saying...the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer...this is the message you want to send around the can you take care of someone else problems when you got problems here at home...OBAMA....YOU GOT MY VOTE......FORWARD

    October 23, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  25. American

    Well Obama is a clear winner in your online poll and he was also the clear winner in the last debate. Biden won the online poll too and you didn't report it. Why cnn?

    Obama 73%

    Romney 27%

    October 23, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
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