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

    truth hurts is Sean Hannity. He used those exact words on Fox News twenty minutes ago.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  2. Phil

    this just in from the debate, Gov Romney endorses President Obama.....hahaha
    seriously though, Romney needs to stop saying what he will do on day one, or week one, and just explain that he will spend his first full year trying to figure out what he actually believes in, since he's changed his stance so many times even he doesn't know.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  3. NoBama2012

    Obama has no plans. Romney does. I am voting for Romney.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  4. Bob

    "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%"

    That is a clear win for the President NOT to close to call!

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  5. Brian

    Obama has an 8% point do you say it is too close to call? Republicans just can not admit when they are beat. Romney agreed with everything Obama said and offered nothing of substance on how they differed. He doesn't understand why we need less ships and bayonets to defend the country today. Romney flipped on every position...even in minutes. He says we can't kill our way out of things and in the next few sentences talk about going out and killing people.

    Romney looked foolish and out of his element. Obama didn't even have to mention the one time Romney went out of the country to get campaign donations, the newspapers were calling him "Mitt the Twit".

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  6. Henry

    Why does the headline say too close to call? All the polls show Obama won.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  7. Name Emmanuel

    Obama clearly won this, Romney is the same as bush always believe in war pls my fellow American, war is the last resort

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  8. LaToshia Malone

    After watching the debate it is clear to me that Romney can not run this country. It is too much responsibility for him. He is use to running a state not a nation. Please he can't do he's math! If when Obama got in office the deficit was 10 trillion dollars, and now 16 how is that double! I own my own business and didn't go to a four year college to know, it takes money to make money. If 1 million people that make 250,000 plus donate 10,000 to the deficit we would make some progress some where. We were already in worlds of trouble before Obama got in office. It took 8 yearss to destroy and will take 8 years to repair.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  9. Ricke1949

    Obama looked angry and frustrated. He interrupted 40 times. Sad, very sad

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  10. Ron

    Really? " Denying he went on an apology tour??? All of American KNOWS he did it and now they got to see Obama LIE about it on national TV." What a CROCK. The ONLY part of "America" who even THINKS President Obama went on a "apology tour" are totally uninformed, completely clueless conservatives. Who believe the right wing propaganda machine and believe that "critical thinking" is a profanity.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  11. jdoe

    48% to 40% is too close to call? What a joke. Maybe they should stop being so cheap and call a few more people. A 4.5% margin of error is not worthy of being published as a serious poll.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  12. RK

    Romney sounded like a broken CD, repeating the same talking points over and over again now matter what the question. He displayed a very poor grasp of foreign-policy and sounded much too militant, both traits that got the US into the completely unnecessary Iraqi war.

    Obama on the other hand sounded very presidential and in control. Obama was the winner hands down.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  13. Borderless

    I thought Obama did better than that. That's unfortunate. He still shouldn't be re-elected.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  14. Steve

    Wow! Only 8 points for Obama on CNN? Other polls going on right now actually have Romney ahead. President Obama made a big mistake by constantly interrupting Romney and coming off as petulant and angry.

    Couple this with the current polls with swing states and the Gallup's huge lead for Romney, I'd say it's time to get ready for a new President.

    October 22, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  15. Muniesh

    Tom and jerry at their best when taking a world tour one of them did the real travel the other did the virtual prime time and reality shows won the event time for Spock to say live long and prosper

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  16. jan

    Romney won, petty and imature described Obama in every debate

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  17. jennet

    Truth hurts-Maybe I missed it but where do you think the president was deceitful in his answers? Be specific please.

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  18. Clueless Romney

    The President was indeed very knowledgeable during his speech. He was articulate. He already has the Job and Romney does not...Romney does not know what it will really take to do the job. I respect him as a person but I do not believe he will be a better leader. He gets lost in his words too often.

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  19. Anne

    I agree with you, Obama just wanted to tout "four more years" and he LIED about being friends with Israel. The whole time I thought how could he continue on for four more years?

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  20. 273C

    Obama set the record straight without wavering. Romney aimed to set himself apart from the Republican party. All of American knows nothing, but, thanks to CNN, AMERICA knows who the straight shooter is!

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  21. octiny

    Romney is finished. Bye bye flip-flopper ;)..

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  22. mitt romney

    I won! Do you think that all the times Obama pointed out I changed my opinions will hurt me in the polls? Who cares! Americans are idiots! I'm gonna win!

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  23. obama supporter

    America is a country not a company, just thought I'd remind Romney supporters of that.

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  24. Texmaster

    Now Romney is playing the "peace" card and denying things he said a few weeks ago, as well as repeating verbatim what the president said about Syria and adding his message, which is essentially, I would do it better, earlier and more efficiently, as well as laughably presenting hindsight as evidence of his foresight.

    He can find the "good" people - the strength of his magical thinking is extraordinary and sadly, appears to be contagious that is if you are the kind of consumer that automatically buys the latest thing with absolutely no evidence of its efficacy. The man has no foreign policy experience, 17 out of 24 leftover neocons as his advisors.

    i shudder to think what would happen if he was in charge.

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  25. AmericanWaxwing

    ROMNEY ROCKED IT. Can't wait to have some real leadership in the White House.

    October 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
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