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

    romney won!

    October 23, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  2. will

    Romney is such a liar, pretender, clueless, flip flopper.... INDECISIVE and will NOT make a strong leader. Romney will continue to send our jobs to China and keep his pockets and his shareholder pockets fat; as middle class and poor americans struggle. We will be in BIG trouble w/Romney on Foreign Policy, Medicaid and Health Insurance!

    Obama is a very decisive, knowlegable, experienced and a very strong leader. Let him finish the JOB –FORWARD!!

    October 23, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  3. peter


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

    Good post... Oblammer being snarky is all he has left...

    October 23, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  4. Cristian Atria

    Fortunately only the Americans who watched the debate have their say on who won the debate... "This poll does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans. It only represents the views of people who watched the debate."

    October 23, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  5. Maryellen

    Not sure how you come to a conclusion that 8% advantage is "slight" while you also state that your poll audience was more republican. How is that fair? What's with CNN? Has Romney paid you to throw the election?

    October 23, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  6. Michael

    Once again CNN's poll is a complete waste of time. How could the debate poll even be THAT close?! There's no such thing as an undecided AND informed voter at this stage in the election cycle so no idea how you gathered your respondents. You'd have to be an absolute IDIOT to be undecided still after all the info that's been posted by and against each of the candidates. If a debate makes someone change their mind then they shouldn't be voting in the first place. Stating an incorrect word, phrase, or stat by either candidate doesn't always accurately reflect a candidacy. It's a deeper issue that deserves serious people to serious decisions and undecided voters are just cowards who won't state what they're really thinking. C'mon, you've got to be at least 95% by now, right?

    October 23, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  7. Sonia

    Who is part of the 47% that Romney isn't a big fan of ?

    Obama 2012

    October 23, 2012 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  8. Dave

    When a Republican wins a debate, as Romney did the first debate, everyone says he won, but when a Democrat wins a debate, like tonight for example, half of the people says he won. Republicans will never admit defeat. The Republican party is not phased by things like facts, evidance, or even reality. It is time the GOP goes away and the Libertarian party takes their place if we MUST only have a bipartisan system.

    October 23, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  9. M. Gonzales

    When both sides forum partisans are saying their guy won and the other guy was terrible then it was a tie. However Obama needed a clear victory and not a tie to stop Romneys gains he's made in the past 2 weeks. Unless a Oct. suprise happens it looks like Romney will win the election. Swing states are tied up if you take into account over sampling and with Romney slowly making gains with Independents it does not look good for Obama.

    October 23, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  10. cal

    Obama won! Romney was not engaged he just agreed with the president. And of course the subject was suppose to have been foreign affair what happen to mitt on the subject?

    October 23, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  11. Collins Akeyo

    I give to President Obama, he articulated his issues concisely..the rest of the world looks on the US favourably.He listens to the world..

    October 23, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  12. Anonymous

    From our military family to Obama. Stop stop stop with WE got Obama. Our Navy Seals did. You did nothing! Our military did. You just happened to be in office. Second, we still have have troops in Iraq that you said are not there. Go Romney!

    October 23, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  13. Sandy

    Wow, I can't believe anyone thinks Romney won this one who isn't already a big Romney supporter. Obama was in command from the start, and Romney looked like someone who had crammed as much as he could, but still found himself copying off the smarter kid's paper in a pinch.

    October 23, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  14. AverageBear

    How would a one-term governor know anything about foreign policy? Senator Ryan would know more – at least he is in Washington.

    It was obvious to me tonight Obama made an argument against Romney's credibility, his honesty and ability to stick to his word.

    October 23, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  15. itstimetovote

    Where did our President go again? He was emotionally detached and seemed angry again! AT least, he did not show up as the schoolyard bully, like the last debate which showed him as being very UNpresidential. I know that the biased media polls are saying he is in the lead BUT when Mr. Romney is stating facts and our President is only saying "it's not true"–things are not adding up. I think, for me, the most damning statement was the one our President was seen making to Russia's Putin. VERY FRIGHTENING FOR OUR NATIONAL SECURITY. When you see the conversation between our President and Russia’s Putin with your own eyes and hear it with your own ears…and then if I voted for President Obama, I would be a fool and voting to destroy our USA…just can’t do it!

    October 23, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  16. CSB7

    I can't wait for our country to be in debt 20 trillion. Vote Obama, we'll get there quick!

    October 23, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  17. Bcarney

    Romney did a fantastic job making sure I a woman voter knew his stand on Israel. Sorry folks but when it comes to foreign policy, I vote Israel. Period. One of the only things we as a nation have continued to do without fail, regardless of political party, except recently. And yes I heard the same thing you did, he will stand with Israel...again folks, actions speak louder than words. Regardless of who punched who harder...My vote is Romney, I know where he stands...Well I also know HE HAS ACTUALLY BALANCED A BUDGET.... Craziness...I am so ready to vote!!!!!

    October 23, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  18. Reggie

    The President always looks better in Foreign Policy than the challenger because they are involved in everything. Don't let Obama fool you, he's the one who considered Iran a tiny country that wasn't a legitimate threat back in '08.

    October 23, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  19. Major

    CNN always bias to Obama, supporting Romney. From the news to news anchor.....why?

    October 23, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  20. Handdown

    I have been watching CNN a lot but have never post a comment but this headline by CNN is so crappy that I have to make a noise. The poll by CNN is just unbelievable wrong. It is tilted towards the slippy slope of being unfair for fair sack . Obama is the proven leader taking us through the hardest time, determined and truthful. He will be the leader of tomorrow!

    October 23, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  21. Lhly

    first 5 minutes of the debate Romney " I don't think we can kill our way through this" .....60 seconds later Romney " My plan is simple, go after the bad guys....kill them."

    October 23, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  22. Alireza

    I am not sure who won the final debate (all of us, but I am pretty sure CNN leans right. I wonder why they don't make it public like Fox News...

    October 23, 2012 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  23. A

    I think Obama clearly won the final debate and showed the country that Romney cannot be trusted as he
    changes his position about issues to try and trick the American public to vote for him.
    I am also curious as to why CNN has not revealed to the public the CBS poll from tonight's debate as well?

    October 23, 2012 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  24. Jeckers

    This just goes to show you that polls, no matter which way they swing, really can't be trusted. Obama looked desperate, angry and upset this evening – I didn't hear anything of substance come from his responses. No new ideas, no new plans. His only answer to fixing the economy was to hire more teachers and build infrastructure. You don't have to be economics major to figure out that won't work – it hasn't work the last 4 years and we will not be able to pull ourselves out of this hole if this is the approach Obama is going to continue.

    October 23, 2012 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  25. Glen Hards

    Looks like the republican faithful know what many on the left felt about the last two elections and the so called polling done then. Polling only serves the interests of those who pay for them, me and you as private citizens don't: Corporate America does; by way of their corporate owned Media outlets.

    October 23, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
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