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. T

    When Barry O accused Romney of sending jobs overseas, Romney should have reminded America that Barry sent taxpayer dollars to BRAZIL to create oil jobs there for Brazil (Brazil is doing nicely, by the by, as a result....). Where will the reaped oil go once it is extracted? CHINA, not USA. And yes, this was a gift to Soros (who had just bought into Petro).

    Romney also should have reminded Americans Barry used taxpayer monies to create jobs in Europe over the car battery project. Plenty of other examples Romney could have used to show how Barry sent our $ to foreigners to create jobs for them and reserve zero benefits to us.

    October 23, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  2. Namemarine

    According to you liberals, he won but that is a joke. You cant win with lies.

    October 23, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  3. Sarah

    To all of you that complain about Obama because of gas prices,
    gas prices are NEVER controlled by the president. It is based off of demand! The more gas you want, the more expensive it will be, people! Romney wishes to drill off shore of Florida to lower gas prices, but look at the facts, guys. The oil company that drills will have all rights to the contract, and they can sell the oil to any country they want, which will most likely be China since that country has a higher demand for oil than us. Stop Romney while you still can. Off shore drilling is a bad idea, and I think we already learned our lesson from BP. Obama 2012! On a side note, I hope everyone goes out and votes. If you vote for Romney, then fine. I'm not complaining and I'm not going to force people who to vote for. Just vote!

    October 23, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  4. Michael

    I kept expecting Romney to endorse the President he was agreeing with him so much.

    October 23, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  5. Mongoose

    Anybody who thinks Romney won Debate 3 must think that Obama won Debate 1.

    October 23, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  6. Dave

    If Obama referenced Green energy one more time in a foreign policy debate, I was going to turn off the tv. I thought the debate was pretty even, but Obama was more aggressive, and Schaeffer (sp?) let him go largely unchecked. 4 liberal moderators. 0 conservative. You have to wonder what the results would be if they were on a more even playing field?

    October 23, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  7. Chad

    cbs had a real scientific poll of 500 people showing obama demolished romney... people i dont want life to be like the bush years anyone remember? obviously half of america doesnt and its pathetic. obama clearly won this debate. see im not ignorant though i admitted obama lost major in the first one. republicans cant admit that romney was lost, flip flopping looking weak the whole debate. get over it people obama won.

    October 23, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  8. weerak

    As one analyst put it, the person who wins the third debate wins the Presidency. Well, President Obama did it, and did it with class, charisma, and confidence. He deserves a second term because he stabilized the economy and saved out retirements, expanded health care to everyone in the country, took comprehensive measures to improve the lives of women and minorities, and most importantly created jobs for 32 straight months. All this with one hand tied to his back by the Republican house during the last 1.75 years! He also tackled immigration reform and ended one unnecessary war and is winding down the longest war in the history of this country. It is my humble opinion that this election will see the re-election of President Obama, by what margin, I cannot tell. To all my Democratic friends, I want to thank you for your steadfast support and urge you to vote so that we can keep the Presidency and the Senate and perhaps even win the House. God bless all of you and this great nation.

    October 23, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  9. A P

    to day my vote for Mr Obama, Our all church people decided to vote for Pres. Obama. Obama is ok for next 4 year Why we change Most Job done Rest of Job finish to Pres Obama

    October 23, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  10. ForGoodOfAll

    Mittens was all over the map!! Obama/Biden 2012!!!!!

    October 23, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  11. Michael

    Ryan doesn't understand the 'horses and bayonet' comment? Really It seems very simple to me, in the WW1 there were lots of horses and bayonets as well as all the ships Romney quoted as existing. Mr. Ryan, read it slowly and maybe you will understand ... modern warfare has changed .... Who ever wrote those lines for Romney where he stated if he were elected he'd build WW1 ship levels may have been pandering to ship yard workers or it may have been complete ignorance. I doubt we'll ever know.

    October 23, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  12. macbil

    If Romney had agreed with the President's positions any more than he did I thought he was going to endorse him. LOL. Romney is a fake who can't be trusted.

    October 23, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  13. babooph

    Romney ,accusing Obama of weakness,appeared to be the weak one,& clearly did not really know what the presidents job is.

    October 23, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  14. Lib3rty4me

    So I'm supposed to vote for a flip flopper that can't make up his own mind or the president that signed the National Defense Authorization Act can't we someone else to vote for please looks like I'm going to have to sit this one out maybe i can try again in four years

    October 23, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  15. Tatyana

    Obama is dragging us into a trap. Funny, that people who call themselves "liberals" support a man who is trying to strip us of all liberties. Obama wants us to be obedient dogs patiently waiting for a bone thrown to us by the government. Hatred to Bush blinds people.

    October 23, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  16. bobbyhoying

    The bottom line is that Romney looked Presidential and the Communist looked arrogant. If the Communist is such a great commander in chief, why does 80% of the military support Romney? The Community Organizer needs to pack his bags.

    October 23, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  17. From The Telegraph today

    Romney won the first debate by a mile. Because Romney’s win was so decisive, it sparked an image change: Americans started to think of him as presidential material. That’s why Obama winning the second debate by an inch made little impact – people were watching Romney not to see him land punches but to see how well he could take them. He won the third debate because, by the end of the night, his and Obama’s positions in the narrative arc had switched. Romney now looks like the President and Obama looks like the challenger.

    October 23, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  18. Andrew

    Obama let Mitt get close enough so he could give him the Heisman and dart into the end zone. Go BO!!!

    October 23, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  19. beevee

    Definitely president Obama had an upper hand throughout the debate while Romeny looked like he is in out of his element squinting at the president as if he left his contacts at home. The president looked very presidential and emphatic while Romeny was trying to play cry foul. Romney repeated most of the foreign policy statements that the president said he would do or he is doing. Then Romney should vote for president Obama.

    October 23, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  20. ori90

    The Republicans have nominated a candidate that absolutely has no solid stand on ANY issue (that USED to be a Republican sin). There is no way that any non-idealogue Republican/Independent or Democrat can say that Mitt Romney is better prepared on any issue to lead this country. No way. It's Obama in a re-election landslide if logic prevails.

    October 23, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  21. Ganan

    A "poll" taken by the liberal media-–I don't think so.

    October 23, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  22. Veteran

    It seems there are a lot of Obama supporters out that think he was wonderful at foriegn policy. The fact is that he did little on nothing with foriegn policy after his tour of apoligizing for America which he should have never done. The credit should go to Hilary she was the front for Foriegn policy. She has already said that she is done if Obama wins again. HMMMM I wonder why that is. If you haven't noticed our country is bowing out of foriegn poolicy and world economics to give way to Russia and China. We need a strong leader to get us back in the game. I don't much care for some of things Romney is but make no mistake he is a business man not a Lawyer like Obama. He gives our country the best shot of competing in a world economy for jobs and getting them back here. He is running on that promise and we should give him a chance because with Obama there is no chance just further decline.

    October 23, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  23. Jason

    So are you still going to blame Bush if Obama gets re-elected? That's why I can't stand liberals. All you do is blame someone else. it makes me sick.

    October 23, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  24. Schooled again

    Once again, Romney looks presidential and Obama demeans the office. Obama had no plan or vision for the future. His only goal was to demean and ridicule Romney. Romney looked like the president we should have leading the nation. He'll win in a landslide.

    October 23, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  25. chicagobluejeans

    NEARLY half say Obama won? Good grief! What does the OTHER half and a few say? Terrible reporting, and I'm a registered Independent!

    October 23, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
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