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. Sergio

    In short words, Obama is better prepare to continue his presidency. Romney was totally repetitive, have not a clear plan, actually agreed to various point with Obama, so in terms of brain power and confidence Obama is by far the better choice on this election.

    October 23, 2012 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  2. Jose Robles

    Mitt did a excellent job obama did not provide enough staments he got to go we need a new COMMANDER IN CHIEF MITT IS THAT ONE

    October 23, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  3. rmb

    Obama won! The political analysts especially Axelrod LOST!

    October 23, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  4. Tom

    Obama came across as a reasonable, level-headed president and commander in chief. I would not want Govenor Romney to be any where near the levers of American military power. We would be in another war in no time.

    October 23, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  5. Chuck

    Wishful thinking libs say Obama won, but deep down they know Romney won as he was on point and more presidential. Romney will win in landslide on November 6. I can't even begin to tell you how many people who voted for Obama in 08 won't do so this time around. I was one of them. I'm not a lib, but I am a Democrat who wants better for this country.

    October 23, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  6. nyetaryan

    To those military families who are debunking Obama's role in getting Bin Ladin. First, thanks for your dedication. I dedicated a bit of time myself in a little joint called Hue. Second, quite grousing about Obama on this one. He made the call and he actually rounded out the planning for the operation, insisting on more backup copters. Read the comments made by Defense Secretary Gates who called the decision one of the gutsiest ever. In this case, it really was "Mission Accomplished," unlike the real poser and posturer in chief who previously held the office.

    October 23, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  7. Tzager

    The President won the debate by far.

    Romney actually endorsed Obama's foreign policy strategy tonight!

    Obama will win this thing biiiiiiiiig!!!!

    October 23, 2012 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  8. NameRSM

    The difference is statistically significant! Check your stats. The issue is not measurement error. Check diff between two scores.

    October 23, 2012 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  9. Jimmie2

    Anonymous – sorry but the President is exactly who had the guts to defy Pakistan and go-ahead to take down Osama. No republican president did that!

    October 23, 2012 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  10. Lilfury

    I didn't think the American people were dumb enough to vote for George W. Bush especially for a second term but they were and we know how badly that turned I can't believe they are dumb enough to vote for this mormon oops I mean moron Romney but again I fear they are.....I'm really scared they are not voting for Romeny but rather voting against a black man

    October 23, 2012 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  11. Florida Family

    We watched the debate tonight as a family, and are all very proud of the president's performance.

    Florida for Obama/Biden!

    October 23, 2012 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  12. Mark

    To everyone asking why CNN has this as a near-tie, it's because of their polling margin of error (it's 4.5%). So, presumably, they're factoring that in. Consequently, Obama's 48% to Romney's 40% becomes 44% to 44.5% for Obama and Romney, respectively.

    Here are what other polls are saying:

    CBS Instant Poll of Uncommitted: 53% Obama; 23% Romney; 24% tie.
    Public Policy Poll (swing state voters): 53% Obama; 42% Romney

    October 23, 2012 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  13. candide

    CNN really has turned into Fox Lite, equally divorced from reality. Obama won big.

    October 23, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  14. irene

    Mitt the Cayman Island Bain Capital outsourcer knows nothing about being president of the United States of America, he couldn't be trusted, and he proves that over in over. Be Smart America Vote Obama. Oh and by the way CNN your losing audiences because your favoring Mitt the Cayman Island man.

    October 23, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  15. Cottonstar

    Well that's the media for you. Not biased at all.

    October 23, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  16. sr2434

    Ok, first off let me put my disclaimer out there. Younger guy, mind is pretty much made up as to who I'm voting for.

    That being said, I think that Obama may have edged out Romney in this one. But, I don't think that this is a bad thing for the Romney campaign in the sense that foreign policy, most likely, will not be the deciding factor in this election. It will come down to the economy and who the people think has a better plan for it. So, by playing it a little safe, not going on an all out blitz of the President, but still appearing dignified and Presidential, I don't think that Romney lost. If this were a football game, I would say that Obama won, but didn't cover the spread.

    October 23, 2012 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  17. Jon. in response to Pam

    Pam, you say that if the US was attacked by terrorist the President wouldn't do anything but ask them not to do it again. This is a very strange opinion to have considering that President Obama was the one who took out Bin Laden. It is scary to see you trying to persuade peoples vote and that is your reasoning! Wow!

    October 23, 2012 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  18. Brian

    Mitt Romney looked like he was the president on the stage tonight. Hard to do when you are sitting next to the actual president. Mr. Obama looked like the non-incumbent challenger trying to dig himself out of a poll deficit. The president looked petty and weak while trying to jab Mitt Romney who smiled in his face throughout the debate. Romney succeeded in showing that he would be an effective leader in foreign policy. Sadly, it's President Obama who looked diminished, angry and petulant. He made no case for what he would do during the next four years as president. Romney stayed out of dangerous territory tonight and the Obama campaign lost it's chance to paint him as Bush/Cheney 2.0. Ultimately Romney won because he proved he has a grater vision for America domestically and abroad. He wins this debate and I believe will take the election from Barack Obama.

    October 23, 2012 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  19. NameT-hill says

    I agree CNN is trying to shut Obama down they continue trying to justify Mittens odd behavior saying he's being presidential. Rule #1 never let them see you sweat..LOL...

    Go Obama! !!!

    October 23, 2012 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  20. onestarman

    Obama's 'Narrow' Eight Point Edge – Which on Election Night is called a Landslide

    October 23, 2012 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  21. Anglo Saxon

    You guys are too funny. Watch the polls next week.

    October 23, 2012 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  22. Robin

    Fact check??? To say that the "apology tour" is not that because obama didnt use the word apology or sorry is insulting to american intelligence. If obama said the words that romney repeated then fact check should summarize that as being true! Fact check is lacking.

    October 23, 2012 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  23. Chuck

    Romney did slightly better in my opinion, no real clear cut winner or looser

    October 23, 2012 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  24. benabrahamse

    8 point spread is not a "slight edge" lol. CNN fail.

    October 23, 2012 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  25. serglet

    As time goes it is becoming more vivid that Romney is a guy from nightmare. He is not the future of the US, he is from the rotten past.

    October 23, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
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