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. Julie

    So Obama thinks it's important be clear and let the world know what will happen to those who kill our countrymen- why has he still not held a press conference to clarify what will happen to the terrorists who killed our ambassador and those who served us in Syria? And I am disappointed that Mitt did not bring that up.

    October 23, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  2. Amused

    Who actually are CNN polling? Obama clearly won again tonight and the CBS poll of uncommitted voters had it as 53% to 23% in favor of Obama. Noticed that CNN did not state what the percentage of known Republicans was in tonight's poll. What gives, CNN? Trying too hard to appear balanced?

    October 23, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  3. Barbie

    Romney/Ryan ROCKS!!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  4. Jeff Frick

    If being arrogant, non-respectful, interrupting, condesending, and overly assertive with unfounded facts then Obam/Biden is your ticket. I personally found Obama and Biden, no-presidental in the debates and terribly arrogant. But if that is what the people admire and cherish in a leader, they can vote for the Democractic ticket. I do ask you one question. Would your like your spouse or boss to treat you with disrespect, or be open to your perspectives?

    October 23, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  5. Billy

    Romney is too immature to be a leader. He changes his ideas and policy so easiy that we cannot trust what he says.

    October 23, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  6. geo blueitt

    Anybody with any common sesnse knows who clearly won the debates overall. Romney did nothin but lie and contradict himself constantly. I think itll be closerv election than 08 but Obama gets re elected 2012

    October 23, 2012 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  7. Scottsvb

    Debate was a tie... Obama started strong and Romney ended strong

    It comes down to.. what Obama has done in the past 4 years? As a independent voter, we need someone who can give us results. Obama hasn't done anything but get Osama Bin Laden

    October 23, 2012 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  8. Romney > obama

    Obama was more caustic during the debate.... I think that Romney was more presidential and his points and policies were stronger. Obama came off like a jerk much of the time.

    I guess I am one of the 40% that think that Romney beat obama–even without bringing up the Libya cover up.

    October 23, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  9. PCS

    Obama won. Romney's experience in one state or Olympic does not count that he is capable to handle Military on national budget, Obama has done well over 4 years with the hand it was dealt. He has experience as president not Romney's unspecific random nos. Romney talks about bringing technical and Engineer graduates from abroad.
    How are US graduates going to compete with immigrant graduates who does not have any student loans to pay.
    Our US graduates have 100K-300K loans. Everyone talks about making education affordable. Third world graduates get degree for < 10K. Is this fair? All contract workers should pay additional 20% federal tax and companies outsourcing should be charged 20% tax on the money they spent on outsourcing.

    October 23, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  10. Shelly

    All you have to do is look at this campaign from the beginning, listen to what the candidates had to say and you know that this country has lost its hope and needs another change!! Mitt Romney is the man with the plan. Obama is a cliche and has no plan for his second term! After 4 years, Obama still knows very little about foreign policy. Mitt wins this debate for business and foreign policy leadership skills God help us if Obama should somehow win another term; what a mess that would be!

    October 23, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  11. Bdavid

    The CNN headline the led to this page claimed that Obama won by a narrow margin. 48 to 40 is a sizable margin. Don't know if it's hype to keep the election close to the benefit of the media or just bias.

    October 23, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  12. Fsjunkie

    Obama said Cheney's name tonight. Somebody is going to have to barricade him in his quarters to keep him off the circuit tomorrow, defending Bush administration policies. He doesn't possess the discipline or humility to self-censor...common GOP trait.

    October 23, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  13. Statistician

    The margin of error is usually twice the standard deviation.

    A margin of error of 4.3% suggests a standard deviation of about 2.2%, and a sample size of about 500.

    You don't multiply the margin of error by 2 a second time. That would be 4 standard deviations.

    October 23, 2012 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  14. #Team Obama

    I'm still waiting for someone to answer how 48-40 is to close to call? Obama has been leading this campain for a while now, but for some reason, the "news" we use wants to keep saying that it's close. If you were undecided before tonight, you should be clear!

    October 23, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  15. Zoid

    This debate wasn't/isn't important. They basically have very similar positions on foreign policy. What matters is economy, tax plans, and handling the deficit. Whoever people think does a better job on that will win.

    October 23, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  16. hot air warrior

    Obama is right. It isn't the number of ships you have, but how well they work for today's troubles.. Intelligence and cyber skills rate more now than ever.

    October 23, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  17. jesse

    The President will lead us to 4 more years of stagnant growth and shadiness in the Middle East. Other countries look at the United States as weak because our Commander in Chief has a weak stance on foreign policy, and he neglects the facts that point to a nuclear empowered Iran. If I were a member of the Taliban, Obama would have my vote!

    October 23, 2012 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  18. Angie Brock

    Thank You Mitt, for endorsing Barack Obama and we approve this message

    October 23, 2012 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  19. K

    I am amazed by John King. He is clearly anti-Obama, and the way he handles CNN statistics is clearly biased. How could CNN leave someone as John King, whose position is well known to be biased against Obama, to be handling/presenting the election statistics?

    October 23, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  20. James Le

    For anyone claiming Romney win this debate. In a sense that's true because he spent 75% of the time endorsing Obama and 25% going off topic

    October 23, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  21. Romney > obama

    If you compare obama's 8 point win tonight to Romney's 40 point win in the first debate, then it was close.

    That said, everyone that I talked to thinks that Romney won and that obama behaved like a jerk. Sometimes being an aggressive jerk makes people think that noise is more important than the actual issues.

    October 23, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  22. george

    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 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  23. jojo

    I thought Romney did exceptionally well considering he does not have the foreign policy background and resources the president does. Also do not forget that this president did not have any foreign policy background four years ago.

    October 23, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  24. joseph

    I am emailing from the South Pacific. We just noitced Romney Endorsed Obama on everything. This is a weak Romney at his best. The President has made his case and he deserves to be reelected to a next term. Go Obama. The World is exctied and we are watching you. You are very Godly President and we ask God to Bless You and Your Family and God Bless the United States of America.

    Port Moresby

    October 23, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  25. Sonia

    Etch a Sketch continues ::))
    Which Romney will we see after the elections ??

    October 23, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
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