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. Wanderer

    Again, many of my friends, including me, who are also independent voters couldn’t deny that Obama did as a good job in the final debate as Romney did in the first debate. The overall score is Obama 2 and Romney 1. The result is undeniable. However, talking about the quality of leadership, we all agreed that the overall score from all three debates is Obama 3 and Romney 0. The result is undeniable.

    October 23, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  2. Chris

    CNN, why switch from saying that President Obama won the debate to it's "too close to call"?

    October 23, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  3. Edward Vincent

    We clearly saw a vision for the country in terms of foreign policy and other critical issues. As a voter, the president showed leadership and a clear direction as to where he wants to take this country. The governor agreed on every foreign policy stance the president has taken. His strategy to agree with very point the president did not show a clear strategy of a clear vision for America.

    October 23, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  4. Dana

    CNN, since when is an 8 point difference with a 4.5 margin of error "no clear winner"? What's wrong, is the race not close enough for you?

    October 23, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  5. Rik

    Umm how is 48-40 too close to call when the margin of error is 4-5%?

    October 23, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  6. Big O

    What was the party identification composition? I exoected that more respondents would have indicated that President Obama won

    October 23, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  7. Comen

    If the poll is measuring who acted like the biggest jerk as the winner of the debate, Obama won hands down. On the issues, he failed.

    Did you catch when he was taking person credit, rather than giving the true people credit.... "I.... um... my administration did...." Vote for Obama, the great divider if you wnt 4 more years of failure.

    Obama is still clueless about the military, hense his attack concerning bayonettes and horses. He fails to acknowledge how he unstabilized the most volatile region. he has no goal, plan, or evidence of ability to achieve success.

    October 23, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  8. Woodly

    He failed once.Go with him for another 4 years is heading to another failure.He is a great speaker but a bad leader.

    October 23, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  9. Monica

    Obama is not creating wars! Obama is ending wars! With respect to Iran Obama is trying hard not to start another war we can not fund!

    October 23, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  10. Pamela Francis

    Romney won, Obama whined

    October 23, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  11. Just calm down people

    Let's not sit here and pretend one is better than the other. Both would put you out of a job to get elected!! Open up your eyes people. They are politicians saying what you want to hear. I still notice we have earmarks. One thing promised to be eliminated.

    October 23, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  12. Me.B

    Romney has my vote!

    October 23, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  13. Roger

    Romney stood head to toe with the Commander in Chief and appeared more Presidential than Obama who threw small cheap shots as if he were running for city councilman.

    WIN to Romney. Romney also wins the election.

    By the way, the Marines still use bayonets. And supplies and troops are transported by ships. So it is Obama who is clueless.

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

    A person should be soundly embarrassed to support Mitt Romney. Don't give me any reasons, because at this point they're all fabricated...rationalizations.

    October 23, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  15. Derf

    Obama was very arragant and thought he knew more than the American public. With his snippy answers he will lose an additional 2-3% to Romney in the coming days. If so Romney will win handily.

    October 23, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  16. smilewbrian

    Romney won by not losing.

    All he had to do, and this is apparent in the poll internals, is to look presidential on foreign policy. Mission accomplished. The election will be decided on the economy, which is not Obama's strong suit.

    Romney will win the election.

    October 23, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  17. Send Obama packing

    I love seeing the posts of Obama's supposed brilliance. The man who campaigned in 57 states, thinks an energy policy is inflating your tires, he is getting good at golf though. It will be nice to see him packing his stuff and heading back to the corrupt city of Chicago where he belongs in his Tony Rezco, felon isn't he, purchased house. It will be sad though because we wont have the government creating all those jobs, oh yeah, government doesn't create jobs. And we wont be able to send stimulus money to the Fisker car company in Finland either, or give our tax it to other companies that go bankrupt. All so sad – it'll be nice to him go.

    October 23, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  18. AK

    Funny how the networks are dying to have a headline that says "Obama won debate" Romney sounded more presidential tonight. Obama had no retort when asked why he skipped our only ally n the region -Israel – when he went on his Middle Eastern tour. He is not a good president. He snubs our ally and parties with dictators. He's an embarrassment.

    October 23, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  19. alamb

    Romney looked very steady and absolutely not the amateur that Obama painted him to be. Romney looked Presidential, Obama looked snarky.

    October 23, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  20. grace

    obama beat the lying mitt, he keeps changing his mind about war and diplomacy, vote for mitt and send our children to more untimely death.

    October 23, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  21. LM Slone

    I'am a small bussiness and Obma showed me a road to a better america!

    October 23, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  22. gessoart

    Strange approach by Romney... "You're the worse president and I agree with most of your policies." If elected, this could be the most vanilla president of our time. When he left his job as a one time governor, he had an approval rating of just 37%. I don't know why – just read it on wikipedia.

    October 23, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  23. Yo mama

    Oh man CCN says Obama won - so it must be true! Haha, dream on libs - you lost. And you will continue losing on Nov 6th.

    October 23, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  24. Lori

    Obama won. CNN needs to get it together.

    October 23, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  25. life5678

    3rd debate is a draw, which is a win for Romney since the president had a huge upper hand in FP.

    Overall: Debate viewers split 48% for Obama and 40% for Romney in the poll, a margin within the sampling error of plus or minus 4.5%

    But much more telling: CNN poll of debate watchers: Who did debate make you more likely to vote for? Obama 24%, Romney 25%, Neither 50%

    Romney has the wind at his back and a draw is a huge win.

    October 23, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
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