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. Chris

    Of course Obama had an edge in foreign policy knowledge (He has knowledge that only he and his inner circle has), but not diplomacy, vision, and record. Obama, the community organizer, had the same (actually far less) credentials as Romney did coming into the debates in 2008. As far as the winner of this debate, if we are looking at class, presidential presence, plan, and qualification then Romney won. If we are looking at arrogance, rudeness, and desperation then Obama won.

    October 23, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  2. Hahahahahhahahaha

    The GOP debate: Tax cuts for the rich to create jobs in India and China. Tax cuts for the rich to increase spending on infrastructure. Tax cuts for the rich to increase spending on health care. Tax cuts for the rich to increase spending on the military. Tax cuts for the rich to fund tax cuts for the rich. Tax cuts for the rich to create the Easter Bunny. Hahahahahahahahaha

    October 23, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. Luis Zuniga

    It is unbelievable that anyone may have seen Obama winner on the debate. Romney showed a better mastership of US military power, demonstrated how Obama cannot hide his desdain toward Israel, how Obama has been ineffective in stopping Iran's uranium enrichment program. Romney forgot to mention a key point on Obama's failed foreign policy: His poor relations with the United Kindom that has gone so far as to offend the Prime Minister. UK is our best and strongest ally and Obama has been quite open to downlow those fraternal relations. Libia's disater is an unerasable spot. Obama said that "he reacted according to the information he received from our intelligence". That is extremely interesting: Then, why he and all democrats attacked President Bush when he, in the same line, reacted to the information he received from our intelligence that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Irak? It shows a double standard.

    October 23, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  4. Trevor

    Are we done yet?

    October 23, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  5. J.R.

    If were seeing Obama as the winner of last night debate, doesn't change the fact that he has still done a lousy job.
    Smooth talking isn't going to fix our country. He doesn't care about what the American people want. If he did he wouldn't bypass congress to pass bills the American people don't approve of.

    October 23, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  6. gail beck

    I feel Romney was more presidential than Obama and once again I heard nothing from Obama about what he is going to do to fix the ecocnomy if he is reelected.

    October 23, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  7. Ancient Texan

    Willie- The "fact-checking" I saw after the debates showed Romney correct and the President missing the truth repeatedly!

    October 23, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  8. Guest

    Last night President Obama pretty much did what he talked about in 2008:

    "If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from."

    I didn't hear any agenda from Obama, just bashing.

    October 23, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  9. Bruce

    CNN sees what they want to see and publishes what they want to publish. Any reasonable person would have noticed Mr. Obama's petty come backs. You would also notice the disdain in his face....kind of like the face of child who knows they are guilty as charged. I would actually listen to Mr. Obama if he would explain the HOW to all of his Captain Obvious statemens..."we need a stronger economy", "we need to improve our foreign trade relations", Saying we need all these things doesn't make them happen. Remember all the claims Mr. Obama spewed out in 2008? How many of those actually happended....answer, NONE! If you voted for him then, because of his "great insights" into our problems and stating the obvious, what makes you believe you will see what he promised in 2008 ("CHANGE"). Now the slogan is "Forward".....yeah, right of the freaking cliff. Take a good look at the differences in policy between the Republicans and Democrats. You will see that the Democrats want all the current "fisherman" to feed the less fortunate, and so feed them for one meal. The Republicans approach is to teach the less fortunate "how to fish" on their own, and therefore feed themselves for many meals to come.

    Best quote that sums this all up is by Margaret Thatcher...."The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people's money to spend."


    October 23, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  10. charlesName

    Obama has it. Romney was in agreement with obamas job. Romney I think has no clue. He's here & there, he scares me!!

    October 23, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. chet sanders

    So Obama lost the lead in the important likeability quotient. That would seem important if this was high school.

    October 23, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  12. Aadrianov

    I saw a new Romney last night: The Pacifist moderate. The man of many faces keeps changing. How many people he thinks he can fool to pull this election?

    October 23, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  13. Chris33

    Romney's ignorance of middle-eastern geography was astounding.

    He stated that Syria was Iran's route to the sea when in fact...

    a) Iran has NO border with Syria

    b) Iran has miles and miles of it's own coastline.

    October 23, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  14. Anonoymous

    I finally had a revelation after watching last night's debate. Obama is an unapproachable individual. No wonder why there is a great divide between Dempcrats and Republicans. I imagined if Obama was my manager. I wouldn't work for that guy. He is unapproachable and thinks he is a god.

    Romney is very approachable and would give a person his undivided attention and listen to your ideas. He is definitely the right choice to get work done because he would work with both Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats keeps talking about mathematics. Let's talk math. In 4 years, $6 trillion in new debt. If Obama is re-elected, 4 years = 6 trillion in debt totaling $22 TRILLION in national debt. Really? Who wants that? Oh, irresponsible people want that.

    October 23, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  15. jgjgjgjgj r right

    October 23, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. middle Moderate

    In four more years when Romney is running for re-election the Democratic party will be distancing itself from Barack Obama just like the Republicans distanced themselves from Bush. My prediction for the 2016 Democratic Convention: Obama will not even be invited.

    October 23, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  17. 2020

    Ron Campbell – Romney nail his own toe. he made a fool of himself.

    Instead of showing what he believes in foreign policy, he was the door man to Obama. yes, sir, you are right, sir. me, know nothing, sir.

    If he think Obama took the apology tour, Romney lick on Obama shoe and wag his tail. Such a joker, Romney

    October 23, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  18. I love the false dilema

    Anyone else find it hysterical that so many people are terrified of Obama to the point that they are 100% certain that this country is doomed by simply reelecting him? Barry doesn't have as much authority and power as you credit him for when it comes to the economy. You can thank congress for that.

    October 23, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  19. Bob in Ohio

    P.T. Barnun has been credited as saying "there's a sucker born every minute". After reading some of the comments from Mr. Romney's supporters, I think he may be correct.

    October 23, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  20. High Way

    The problem is, Obama has to work twice as hard and is expected much more of him because he is black and its a sad reality. The way I see it, Romney is a stereo typical business white male with the looks and know how to do a show while being a chamelion to get what he wants be not necessarily whats good for everybody else. Also, many journalists who interviews hims don't have the guts or the courage to make him take a stand on issues. I call it a free pass and biased in favor of Romney.

    October 23, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  21. Opposition

    Romney: "But we can’t kill our way out of this mess."

    and a little later in the debate ........

    Romney: "Well, my strategy’s pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to kill them, to take them out of the picture."

    Even flip flops on strategy. Better to stick to the one strategy he has been consistent at, and that is the strategy to flip flop.

    October 23, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  22. 2020

    Romney hid his ignorance with a big smile, covering his silliness.

    I have never heard a man of non substance like Romney. I won't put my dog under his care, I will never trust him to guard the safety of this nation, our people.

    He irks allies and attrack terrorist attack due to his ignorance and naiveness.

    Oh gosh, what a joker Romney.

    October 23, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. kbone3

    Funny. Republicans are just mad that President Obama won the last two debates. They were all dancing in the streets after their debate one victory and thought it was over. But I knew President Obama would come back and set the record straight.

    October 23, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  24. independent

    I love these people who say the President has added some much to the debt since elected. First, it is Congress that does that, not the President. Second, most of the increase in the debt is due to actions, i.e. two wars and Medicare Plus, passed by President Bush and a Republican Congress that were unfunded when passed, not to mention cutting taxes at the same time. Do you want the President to precipitously pull out all the troops, cancel Medicare Plus and put the Clinton tax rates for everyone back in place? Use you head people, not your political rhetoric.

    October 23, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  25. davecu

    The one thing that qualifies Mitt over Barry is his ability to play well with others.
    Mit CAN cross the aisle, Barry, Harry and Nancy don't feel they NEED to.

    October 23, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
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