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. spent

    Romney 50%, Obama 50%, American people, 0%, We loose!

    October 23, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  2. Bazzle Leggett

    Rommey keeps forgeting the republican put us in this mess 8 years ago and Obama is trying to get us out of this mess.
    Go Obama!

    October 23, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  3. Tonie

    At the end of the night, there was only one person who actually had a plan, stated that plan, and has been consistent with that plan over the last few months. That was Romney. I hate it, but Obama is just out of his league. He himself said if he couldn't turn the economy around in 4 years, he didn't deserve another term. Obama has succeeded in only one thing and that's making America weak. I'm shocked that people will consider voting for a man who has lied to so many, broken so many promises, and apologized to other countries. Obama looked and acted like a spoiled brat last night. Instead of telling us what HE would do for our country, he wasted 2 hours of my time telling me how bad Romney is. Mr. President, actions speak louder than words. You may have sounded "strong" last night, but those are empty words and I have 4 years of inflated prices, lower incomes, high jobless numbers, and $6 trillion more debt dollars to prove it.

    October 23, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  4. Berta

    How anyone can say that Mitt Romney won Monday night's debate is beyond reasonable comprehension. He has no foreign or domestic plan to set the country on a productive path. The country can ill afford to go back to the Bush era tax cuts or engage in another unfunded war! The money spent on Iraq and the revenue lost by the tax cuts for the wealthy are the culprits for the downturned economy in this country. Four years has not been long enough for any president to fix the economy Bush left us! As far as foreign affairs are concerned, Romney is clueless as to what it takes to be the leader of the free world and make the life and death decisions required of the President of the United States! As the President said last night, he only puts our military lives at stake as a last resort. Most republicans jump at the chance to make a name as a "war" president. President Obama has been on the front line and has made those decisions that took out one of our biggest threats – Osama Bin Laden. He credited our military with providing the intellience, but ultimately he made the decision to strike. The best man for the job as President has already been doing the job for four years, and he needs the opportunity to complete his plan to bring America and better and brighter future!

    October 23, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  5. Big Dog

    Nice job Mitt....... I'd call it an OK 3 wire in anyone's book.

    Less than 300 ships ..... but the same sized ocean (70% of the earth) ......Obama math , like everything else, doesn't add up.

    "Fly Navy"

    October 23, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  6. Insight

    Romany is confused

    October 23, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  7. Scott Reed

    Romney was the clear winner. Why? Because he achieved his goal of looking presidential and in command of the issues of foreign policy. He took the high road and avoided missteps. I thought Obama looked desperate when he, again, brought up the auto bailout and lied about Romney's position on government assistance.

    October 23, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  8. Vote 2012

    Mitt Romney is confused, what was he talking about mentioning the planet, the earth? He's weak, sensative and schizophrenic. He babbled about a bunch of non sense, tried to get completely off subject by agreeing with President Obama, that's because he had no answers about foreign policy so he sat there and tried to slide out of by agreeing with everything President Obama said. The first debate he attacked President Obama throughout the debate, the 2nd and 3rd debate President Obama stated facts, Mitt Romney called facts attacks including during last night debates. Those weren't attacks they were facts. God help us, Mitt Romney as President would be a disaster not only to this Nation but to the world, our economy, our allies, world trade, etc.

    October 23, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  9. ronnie

    Obama was very small and mean in this debate. I am old enough to remember Nixon and thats who he reminded me of, both in looks and in manner. Very small and mean.

    October 23, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  10. steve

    Obama clearly won. I am an independent but the GOP put up this guy Romney against Perry, Bachman, etc... – not much of a group to run against in the primaries.

    October 23, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  11. Rick

    Nowadays we have a Republican party which has moved far to the right not necessarily on Economic issues. It certainly is not the same party of Eisenhower. As far as the Economy goes I cannot see how Romney is the best man for the job, he was not very successful along those lines as governor. From Wikipedia "Job growth in Massachusetts rose at a rate of 1.5 percent (compared to the national average of 5.3 percent), placing Massachusetts 47th of the 50 states in new job creation over the course of Romney’s term."
    I am concerned that if Romney gets elected he will appoint Supreme Court Justices that will tilt the Supreme Court far to the right for years to come. Women rights would certainly be affected by it.

    October 23, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  12. Mike

    As the polls indicate the President was far and away the better performer in this debate. The choice is clear now more than ever for America. Re-elect President Obama and continue on the path to recovery for this great nation. The road of change was always going to be a difficult one, but we must remain focused and allow this progress to continue. RE-ELECT PRESIDENT OBAMA!

    October 23, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  13. Abe Lincoln

    The 48% that said Obama won are the same 48% that will vote for him when he is defeated by Romney Nov. 6.
    This is not going to lead America forward.

    October 23, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  14. Robert

    I was struck by the smug, little smirk of a grin that Romney kept on his face while Obama was speaking. And the Republicans dared complain about Biden's smiling! There was little difference between the two looks. It was inappropriate and it was after a while very irritating. President Obama won the debate handily and deserves another 4 years.

    October 23, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  15. warner

    Romney was much more than what the pools here are saying. I think He won overall but he disappointed me in respect of Pakistan by saying He will reward them for having nukes and Taliban. That is exactly the Paki Generals game: they want US taxpayer money by pointing the twin guns of nukes and Taliban at your temple!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 23, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  16. Abe Lincoln

    America will be led forward by the 52% who will vote for Romney. Douglas and I agree on that one fact.

    October 23, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  17. Genie

    Romney clear solid winner...Obama all over the place and taking immature , not so presidential a leader and stop the sarcasm . I personally don't think the war is a funny matter...Obama is a puppet...

    October 23, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  18. dbacts

    President Obama will serve a second term. He won this debate, hands down.....The American people have awakened to the chicanery of the "Republicans" throughout the past one hundred fifty years. The voters know that the common people have never benefited from "Republican" administrations.....The eight years of President George Bush ended any serious consideration for another "Republican" as President.

    October 23, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  19. charles

    so Obama wins.1 in 6 Americans live in poverty.

    October 23, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  20. .rb

    based on prudence and intellect...clearly Romney

    October 23, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  21. Patrick

    Well a lively debate unfortunately for Obama, Romney proved he could indeed be the Commander-in-Chief. Unfortunately for Obama running on his record on how much further he has stalled the economy and driven up the debt is going to be a one-term Prez.

    October 23, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  22. kf

    Romney better explained why we need to do certain things with the different countries of the middle east. Obama did not. Our military and CIA found bin ladin, Obama did not. Obama has done nothing here at home except inact legislation that will bring this country down. Obamacare will kill us and tax us to death. That is his plan here. Abroad, he has no plan and no respect except from Chavez and Castro. Doesn't it worry you that they endorse him. Because they are all socialist. You have the same Obama supporters flying down and spending time with Chavez. I didn't see Obama win the debate. I just saw two differing opinions. I really think Romney got out more real information while Obama tried to attack to look tough compared to the first two debates. I'm sure after the sad previous performances, the obama camp thinks they won. I guess they won by not looking like complete idiots a third time. Still, Romney was correct in saying obama just attacks Romney's record instead of explaining his own. And he has a lot of explaining he needs to do to be re-elected.

    October 23, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  23. Jeannette, Toronto

    As an American Abroad, one can only see the major difference between President Obama and Gov., Gov., Romney, indeed is a business man; but, only for the 1% and his own interest. Not the 99%! President Obama, did indeed make promises, which most of them, either couldn't keep or had to be adjusted. No Thanks, to the GOP Stone Norquist Wall! In which the pockets of those 1%, was more in their interest than the 99% of those trying to survive the worst, Bush/Cheney, economy. And, of course the worst of all, position's, some have taken about President B. H. Obama; is his legitimate and racial Presidency to date. When all these and endless debates still underscore, President Obama: results can never be reach in any by-partisian point. When all issues, truths and lies, are separate and fact checked; one can only make a true and have a decisive outcome in any debate/election. As an Independent Voter, not an Undecided Voter, I make my decision on all separate fact checked scenarios. Because that is what is important to the present and future of a country.

    October 23, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  24. Amy

    This is fairly simple. They took a poll of what viewers thought after the debate was over. The numbers calculated and Obama came out on top. I guess those who don't see that also think that Romneys plan to reduce the budget will work to. It is numbers that a fourth grader could figure out and realize that his plan in mathematically impossible.

    October 23, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  25. MAC

    It's obvious that most posters do not understand statistics. The reason there was no clear "winner" according to the polls was because the margin of error was +/- 4.5%. If you subtract 4.5 from 48 (43.5) and add 4.5 to 40 (44.5) the numbers overlap...meaning no statistical difference. You can believe what you want, but the polls say it was a tie....that's all the author is saying, geesh!

    October 23, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
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