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. Patmajek

    Being a debate on Foreign Policy I fully expected Obama to enter the debate and bow to Romney when they were introduced! He's bowed to everyone else, why not bow to his mental superior?

    October 23, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  2. Gloria S.921

    Neuffy – are you kidding me? geeeezzze please stop watching fox news...
    Obama is a very strong President. Especially when it comes to his foreign policy. George Bush sent us to war!!!!

    October 23, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  3. Gene

    Well, its clear from all the debates that Obama has no plan. His record is terrible and all he can do is throw "zingers" instead of addressing issues with real substance. I was on the fence between Obama and Romney before the debates, its clear now Obama needs to go ASAP.

    October 23, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  4. Boo

    Howard – grow up!!! This is not a Miss Manners contest.

    October 23, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  5. Head in the Sand

    The people who thought Romney won last night's debate are as delusional as the people who thought Obama won the first debate. Romney's foreign policy is a joke and he has said things regarding foreign policy that should scare people. He constantly talks about putting leaders in place that we like. Who in their right mind believes that America has the right to pick other countries' rulers for them?

    Romney essentially says he doesn't believe in the intelligence of the Egyptian people or the power of Democracy.

    October 23, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  6. blessourprez

    President Obama is awesome!
    He will be viewed in History as a beloved president.
    A steady, considered, brilliant man who came in & took the helm of a sinking ship; a once majestic ship crippled by the actions and misdeeds of a reckless and dangerous Republican Administration.
    While I am sorry this historic presidency came into being at this turbulent time; I can think of no other person more right for the job.
    President Obama inspires me. He instills trust. He exudes strength.
    His unflagging confidence in the American people has helped us all more than we know.
    He has been a strong yet caring leader during our darkest days.
    Bless him for his faith is a country & a government so divided – as well as portion of a population so consumed by hatred for him..
    He persevered & we are better & stronger for it.
    America is coming back, thanks to the sure guidance of this amazing man.

    October 23, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  7. Beach Guy

    How much foreign policy experience did President Obama have when he was running in 2008? For that matter, how about any political experience other than state senate?

    October 23, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  8. marv

    I believe that Mitt Romney still won, as he played as a in control intelligent man, not a street fighter. President Obama is fighting to stay in office, and as such, he needed to use low handed lies and tactics. he is NOT a Netanyahu supporter, He has to support Israel, as the Nation supports israel. Obama is a man who has not been able to get bills passed, even when the democrats were in control. I fear 4 more years of him, and fear him more, for his inability to answer questions and to personally attack Mitt Romney. Mitt will be a better President, a more politically correct man to show the world we are back. and not a man who I am not convinced really wants to remain President.

    October 23, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  9. Al

    Mitt: overand over again "I agree with the president". Sounds like Mitt will vote for Obama!

    October 23, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  10. Porchia

    This CNN "poll" is moot. Many of the local polls declare Romney the winner. CNN is "endorsing" the joke of a President and are trying to be subtle about it.
    Give it up CNN. Your opinion is garbage.

    October 23, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  11. John Kaufman, Oceanside, CA

    Obviously a majority of your poll takers no NOTHING about debate! Obama was long winded and rambled on and on. He could not make specific answer points on a number of quesitons asked. He avoided answering the one question asked, You get a call from the Prime Minister of Isreal and he say the bombers are in the air on the way to attack Iran what do you do? If you don't bleive me review the tape for yourself. Obama was not a solution oriented debator, he is a labeling, character attacking person. No he did not win he lost because he could not get his points out clearly and suscently. He ramples on and on and is very long winded, many times going over the alloted time of 2 mins. This is poor communication skills. But then again some of the voting public especailly a majority of Latinos, Blacks are unable to use any form of critical thinking, and most have poor listening skills, they only do what the media tells them to do and how to vote, only a very few can think for themselves. It's the economy stupid! This is what will bring America down as a world leader.

    October 23, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  12. Ruben

    Obama Won, wow how can Romney say two times that it's not about him is he crazy, it's all about him and how he is going to run this country. Romney got mad because Obama was telling the people what Romney would do and all he can say is it's not about him come up

    October 23, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  13. Facts are Facts

    Versus what Obama did to the national debt and what Romney proposes in his plan is the issue here. Romney, whether his plan works or not, flip flops too much, and when it made his plan, he also flip flopped his ideas contradicting his plan throughout his campaign.

    October 23, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Where was the real Romney? The extremely conservative Romney who threw red meat at the conservative win of the GOP/Tea Party didn't show up. Instead we saw a remade etch a sketch moderate version of Romney who tried to appear presidental without any success.

    October 23, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  15. Hugh Jass

    "If that is not an apology, I don't know what is." At least you admit you can't tell the difference between a flat general statement and a specific apology. Romney looked sad.

    October 23, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  16. cpeters

    After listening to our Commander of Speeches give yet another one, and then looking at the state of the Middle East, I'd say that the usual rap on Obama remains – all talk and no action. I'd rather have someone who believes that peace comes from strength, not weakness. I'm voting Romney/Ryan.

    October 23, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  17. Mittens

    Although I do like Obama, I've actually made an effort to try & like Romney. But honestly, I can't.

    The comments that he's made along the way have completely turned me off. From acting like an elitist, where he doesn't care about me (yes, I'm one of the 47%, Mitt), to...the constant flip-flopping, is terrible. But, to then flip-flop, then, deny he said what he stated initially is even worse. That's WHY he's being 'attacked' by Obama in these debates so easily.

    I believe that Obama has had some nice accomplishments in his 4 years, but it hasn't been easy – especially when you walk in as President & you need to clean up the many messes the previous guy left you. An economy in shambles AND 2 wars. Yet, to Obama's credit, he rarely slammed Bush for leaving him with so much crap to clean up.

    The economy may not be perfect, but its slowly gotten better. Its kind of like being overweight. IF you weighed 300 lbs last year, but you now weigh 280 this year, you're still fat. But, at least you still have lost weight and you're slowly going in the right direction and making progress.

    Good luck in the next 4 years, POTUS. I think you'll continue to do well, Obama, for us all.

    October 23, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. Namebigburnzie2000

    Obama clearly knew much more on foreign policy then Mitt.Very clever how he demonsttrated how Romney didn't care if we caught Bin Laden. Mr. President well done.

    October 23, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  19. H. L. Mencken

    Nobody "won", and there hasn't been a real "debate" since Kennedy-Nixon in 1960. These are staged events...fully vetted and scripted for your dining and dancing pleasure. Clinton, Reagan and Llyod Bentsen at least provided some entertainment value when the lights came on, but most of these things are just dry, flat table readings. It's advertising...pure and simple. Nothing is revealed, no truth emerges. It's easier to figure out the meaning of lhe last episode of "Lost" than gtrhying to glean any information from these 2 candidates. Hobson's choice, folks. Go ahead and pick your favorite rattlesnake. Ain't no statesmen at the top of the ballot this year.

    October 23, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. Educated not Infuebced

    Its funny how when anyone the media suports the right how they are "Biased" I watch all the networks, They all have there own spin. Rachael Maddow two weeks ago had a whole segment saying that the right was tellng folks that Polls dont matter. She said "Wake Up republicans, Polls do matter" Now when they tell a different story, CNN is Biased and the only correct polls are the ones that support Obama. WOW. I can see it now, 4 or 8 years of Romney Bashing. At least then they can stop blaming George Bush

    October 23, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. Idalia Cabrera

    Idalia Cabrera

    I agree with the NEW YORK TIME. He looks like a beauty queen. Actually is MR. CONGELIALITY

    October 23, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  22. Adam

    @Rob, you're partially correct. The Fact Checkers ARE having a field day. But they are doing so with Romneys statements, not Obamas. Though this has become the usual affair since Romney has yet to say 1 honest, truthful thing.

    October 23, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  23. Frank

    This CNN poll is a scientific poll that consists of more Republicans. So we can expect that the president won by a larger margin. The CNN poll was the same case with all three debates.
    On ANY other poll that consists with the same number of republicans and democrats, the President won with a much larger gap.
    Also, any poll of UNDECIDED VOTERS, the president won with a huge gap as well.

    This is the REAL truth.

    October 23, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  24. just me

    My worst fear is the American people did not comprehend that if Mitt Romney wins we will be at war in the near future! He is arrogant and a hot head who thinks he can strong arm other countries! The way is trough our allies and diplomacy. If you think the economy is bad now just wait until we have gone through another World War! I have read many books on both World War I and World War II and the political arena is the same. Does anyone remember the cold war? I have read about it and we must have a president to be level headed not hot headed and who just has to have the last word even if he doesn't know what he's talking about. To conclude we must have a president who has experience in foriegn affairs or we will pay a much bigger price in the end.

    October 23, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  25. Nolan

    Romney played the I don't know card alot, He'll get smashed come election day, if he ever got elected god help our economy!!

    October 23, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
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