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. Matt Covington

    We the people have watched the third and final debate and I hope that the rest of the undecided voters wake up and vote wisely.

    We know that Obama has on record for the future and never did. If Obama is reelected we the people will just see four more years of failed policies. Plus sky rocking spending, bigger government, drastic changes in our health care system that will hurt us all and struggling Americans trying to put food on their table. Face it four years is enough to prove that Obama had “Hope and Change” to prove himself and we can not give him another chance to take this great nation in to Socialism.

    October 23, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  2. Citizen Patriot

    Robme doesn't have a clue about the modern military. SCORE: OBAMA!

    October 23, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  3. Shara

    I am more of a Libertarian, didn't vote last presidential election because I didn't see a difference enough between McCain and Obama that warranted the trouble of getting and casting a military ballot. I hate war, and I was rooting for Ron Paul or Gary Johnson, but after 4 years of Obama sealed with the Bengazi incident, we cannot, CANNOT have another 4 years of this man. I voted straight ticket R this year yesterday at early voting in Texas. Stood in line an hour, but it was worth it.

    October 23, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  4. Patrick in Wisconsin

    It looks like the Republicans watched a different debate last night. The real one was where half the time Romney wasn't answering the questions, and the other half he was endorsing Obama.

    October 23, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  5. maria

    4 Americans dead and still no explanation. Shame on Obama!!!

    October 23, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. Fierce One

    At least Romney talked about a vision for a strong America. Obama didn't talk at all about making America strong. Thank about it.

    October 23, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  7. bobby

    Presidential debates are stupid anyway and should be discontinued. They're nothing but performances and do nothing to educate the voters about the candidates' stances on the issues. Anyone out there who's going to base his/her vote on how well the candidates performed in a debate is clueless about what really matters in deciding who to vote for.

    October 23, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  8. bamaman

    Romney nailed the part on China, trade, and currency.

    Although Obama was better on Iran, I dont think our Embassy gets raided and Ambassador executed with Republican in office.

    October 23, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  9. Uncle Joe

    The only poll that counts is the one on election day.

    October 23, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  10. ClingWrapper

    The corporate media presents Rom-Bot and Obama-bot as two diametrically opposed warriors battling it out in a no holds barred barroom brawl. In reality, the two chuckle heads will run the show (or run the show as they are told) in much the same way. There is very little difference politically between the two "candidates". They are both empty vessels. It's like a game of Rock Em' Sock Em' robots, with Satan playing both sides. A win win situation for the "builders" and a business as usual situation for the "consumers". Yawn.

    October 23, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  11. Powerbiker

    No matter what is said and then, we clearly saw another Romney flip flop last night. Leadership is having a clear vision and resoluteness about your ideals. What Romney has demonstrated throughout this election period is he will change his position on anything so long as he gets elected. So much for leadership!! 4 more for 44!!!

    October 23, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  12. John

    Anyone who is completely honest will say that Obama clearly won this debate. Romney seems pretty clueless is this area.

    October 23, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  13. lglbert50

    What gets me don't people realize that this whole mess was caused by the republicans, we had a balanced budget with Clinton with no war then the republicans came and we were conned into. a war looking for mythical wmds, unleashing wall street and the banks and now trillions in debt with a economy in deep trouble and hundred of thousands of are youth dead or crippled. All because of the republicans. And now the stalemate in Congress. Just my two cents and had to vent.

    October 23, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  14. Rein

    Romney said that he was "severely Conservative" back in February. Now he is moderate just like Obama on foreign policy, except "more so." The only way to access this chameleon is to consider who backs him financially. He will be their servant and follow their agenda if elected. His day-to-day flip-flops on positions tell us nothing about the real man, if such a person actually exists...

    October 23, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  15. Pain

    Vote for Obama to suffer another 4 year 😦 !!!

    October 23, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  16. Nate

    LOL when people are acusing CNN of being left-wing..and others are accusing them of being know you're doing something right..

    October 23, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |

    I did not need to see three debates saver that Obama does not have the capacity to be president since before 2008 knew. Many came because they wanted to make history in USA it went for first time an African American president and the results have been disastrous them African Americans speak and lament that was the first and so wrong. Today many of these African Americans complain because their race has left hundreds ill stop talking they will not give the vote in the election of 2012.

    October 23, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  18. Miket922

    I can hardly believe these Romney supporters.. I mean seriously?? He looked so weak and stupid. Not a trace of confidence. Are you people that ignorant?? Romney is a complete lair and has flipped more times than a crackhouse mattress. lol But these folks are the same morons that voted for Bush, twice??? Romney will never!!! get elected you people! Theres not enough of you delusional rednecks to even come close.

    October 23, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  19. Tom

    The speech. Obama is good at speeches. Facts aren't always on his side though. Bayonets are still used by the marines, and nuclear submarines are ships. So, help me here. The biggest zinger of the night was 100% incorrrect but is hailed as the big throwdown. And Obama did go to the Middle East apologizing for previous US action. So after all is said and one, I am voting for the more presidential of the two. Obama has had his chance (4 years) and his time has passed. Give me someone who can balance a budget and keep us out of war– Romney.

    October 23, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  20. BigDallas

    It's striking just how unfit Romney is for the office of the President. This debate sealed my very low impression of the one-term governor.

    October 23, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  21. john

    watch the polls in the next few day; polls will be in Romney's favor.

    October 23, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  22. john

    It is all about the economy!

    October 23, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  23. keltic1

    I would give the denate to Obama on points & the voters & Mr. Congeniality to Romney.
    Obama kept giving Romney openings to talk about the economy, not very bright.

    October 23, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  24. Jorge U.U, Boosh

    Pres. Obama WINS DEBATE and soundly. Shows he's steady, clear, safe, sane, consistent. Romney is the ultimate shapeshifter, twisting & bedning his views to each audience.

    October 23, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  25. Susan

    Obama wins what? Obama went after Bin Laden against contrasting opinion that Pakistan would launch one of the one hundred nuclear warheads at the US in retaliation for entering their county uninvited. Obama just wants to wave a scalp in the air and call himself victor-it sounds like he put the US in harms way by challenging Pakistan for one scalp. This one scalp does not make up for the loss of 2000 lives lost in 9/11. We could have lost a millon lives if Pakistan retaliated. Call me a girl, but this makes no sense to me. Obama spent more than anyone else on the military and has a poorly prepared Navy and soldiers committting suicide. Why hasn't he spoken about he soldiers committing suicide. I'm a Democrat but we can do better than this.

    October 23, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
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