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. John

    Yay! Obama got more zingers in the debate. That more than makes up for the Dow dropping 200 points because the economy is stalling, right?

    October 23, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  2. watson

    CNN poll says Obama won. Economy says he lost.

    October 23, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  3. Willtherealleaderstandup?

    ok.... Cnn....Please...please....stop shooting yourself in the foot....... Obama wins debate according to CNN poll...48 to 40 with a 4% error.!!!!!!!
    So if you add 48+40 you get 88 and even if you add in the 4% for error... 92 Then you are still missing 8%?????? Who
    did they the missing 8% pick? This is just sloppy reporting..... you guys use to be so much better than this!!!!!

    October 23, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  4. MittFlop

    When your side it's whining about how rude the other guy was, you probably lost. How quickly we forget the first debate where Romney was the rude one but we could all admit that Obama lost. If all republicans can go off this morning is trying to get ship builders not to vote for Obama then they lost

    October 23, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  5. Guy

    I cannot in good faith vote for Obama again. I found his debate performance last night to be an absolute disgrace! He came across as angry and on the attack. If you judge a debate by style and one-liners and zingers, Obama won the debate. If you judge a debate by substance, Romney clearly won the debate. I voted for Obama in 2008, but he has not made any progress as president, and our country is worse off today than it was when he took office. President Obama has not earned the right to be re-elected. He promised unemployment would be 5.4% but it's now the exact same as when he took office. Since Obama took office, our deficit has more than doubled.

    I am a registered Democrat, but unlike the majority of you who watch MSNBC News, I am also objective and willing to vote objectively. Let's be real here. How many of you are going to vote for Obama because you are black and he is black? I find that disgraceful!

    Unless everybody, both Democrats and Republicans are willing to be objective, our country will never get better, and right now, our country is going down the toilet.

    We need change! Vote Romney!!!

    October 23, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Snake Dog

    Romney demonstrated that he is a liar and a con artist. The man will say anything that he thinks will win votes. This is a Republican trait, remember John McCain. Mr. Romeny is not ready to be POTUS.

    October 23, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  7. Nolan

    I thought Obama was brilliant, Romney fell right into the Presidents hands on most topics. Romney looked scared and affraid to attack topics he did in earlier debates, knowing how much he would lose if he did, he has no plan, he jsut likes to talk about some made up plan that may not even get approved!!!!

    October 23, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  8. Jeffrey Kreutz.

    Obama is the rite man for the JOB!

    October 23, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  9. Hugh Jass

    " Obama did skip Israel and he did refuse to meet with Netanyahu." I love how all you experts know exactly what Israel needs from us any given moment. Sometimes we stay away so they can negotiate better. Sometimes we loom and threaten.

    October 23, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  10. michael

    Does anyone even pay attention to facial expressions anymore? Obama's face muscles were everywhere last night, twitching to high heaven when he defended his apology tour. Don't forget how fast his eyes were blinking every time he spoke, looked like morse code. Put down the kool aid and wake up America.

    October 23, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  11. Doesn'taddup

    I love when Obama says that Mitt's economic plan "doesn't add up" when we all know for a fact that Obama's economic plan didn't add up. Also Obama's "horses and bayonets" comment is strange, since for one the army still uses bayonets, and two: the navy was asking for more ships! That was what Mitt was saying. Obama decreased the number of naval ships, when they were asking for more. I do agree that Obama had a win last night, but look at Obama's record. He is a liar and will expand the government even more than it is now. Government workers get so many benefits it is insane. Please check all the facts and check all the records and vote Romney!

    October 23, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |

    We all saw what Romney is all about in the debates ... smoke and mirrors on cutting taxes, adding to the military machine - all while cutting the deficit. RIIIIIGHT, magic man. Now on foreign affairs, again smoke and mirrors that boiled down to "Mr. President, I admit, everything you have done is good."

    October 23, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  13. WachetAuf

    Obama added to deficit and did not have to? Do you realize that this is a constitutional democracy and that there are three branches of government, 50 states with competing interests and that for several decades going back to Reagan the citizens of this country, farmers, opil companies, big business and small business, have been demanding wars, medicare, social security, medicaid, financial support and other programs which have helped our country to be the greatest economic power in the world? Can you articulate any plan which would have maintained us in as balanced of a position as were are in now? Please describe the fundamental economic theories which would have moved your utopia to the palce you want it to be and how it would have achieved the result you intend.

    October 23, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  14. keeeleee

    America is losing influence in the world, especially in the middle-east.
    Americans are being killed; America is apologizing; and America is withdrawing from all the frontiers of the world and you guys are still believing OB's lies...

    October 23, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  15. ann

    OBAMA did not Win the Debate !!
    HE Lost the United States out as odds against one another, over race, ran us Further in Debt Far more !!Ps Don't Blame Bush, At Least when someone attacked americans here or overseas, Bush did something to show our Strength and not to Hurt our People, Obama just recently let them hurt our people and did nothing and didn't ever say it was Terror
    PS if you think Medi Care is all its cracked up to be , call local doctors offices see what heart surgeon, back etc will accept it, or internal medicine, etc, then call a local nursing home and see what they will do to help with Medicare if your parent or loved one needs it, its 10,000, a month and they will take your parents home and money first then use medicare when they have 2000.00 left, ( Thats what americans want ? ) I hope not !!!!
    How can you leave your kids anyting ? Wake Up america this is the Home of the Free, the Proud, not the Stupid and ignorant, Lets out God back into the light and lets give another Man a TRY Romney cannot do worse in 4 Years
    plus my Goodness, God Forbid we would ever have Big mouth Biden as a President YIKESSS

    October 23, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. FLIndependent

    This poll should be 80/20 President Obama! Come on, the President showed he IS the Commander in Chief and had full command of every topic. He showed the world last night what a dishonest, flip-flopping, weathervane Romney is and that he can NOT be trusted. Is this what we want as the Leader of the Free World? No one can say for sure how Romney would govern and, honestly, if he gets in he won't be making any of the will left up to those around him and Grover Norquist who only needs a president that will be able to sign whatever he puts in front of him. People need to wake up and realize this President has been steady, strong, and is forward thinking which is what we need to be competitive again and a leader on the global front. Vote Obama!!

    October 23, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  17. Nancy

    Likeability? I LIKE when the POTUS knows his facts; I LIKE when he points out to Romney that he's a flip-flopper and doesn't know the facts; I LIKE that the POTUS saved our country from the brink of economical collapse...what's not to LIKE?!?!

    October 23, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  18. WVWildman

    Obama did not win! As an independent I thought Romney played it safe and Obama came off as arrogant and smug. It looked as if Romney intentionally sat there and let him spew the same BS that hasn't worked. Obama's lack of real world business experience shines through the spewing. I'm definitely voting for Romney.

    October 23, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. FLIndependent

    For those that keep saying our soldiers still use bayonets, the President said we use less, not that we don't use them. If you're going to pick on him at least be honest about what he said.

    October 23, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  20. Santee

    Romney's test was " not look stupid and ignorant" on foreign policy matters to milliions of people. He failed that test! He was weak! We all saw it! There is so much unrest, foreign Policy is just as important to our stability in the world as the economy. Do not forget 911! We need strong leadership, someone who is strong and knowledgeable regarding foreign policy. It is very obvious MItt Romney is not that person, because all he said was "I agree with the President" Hey Romney on election day, do the American people a favor, vote for a strong leader, vote President Obama! You've already endorsed him!

    October 23, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  21. Robyn Guimont

    One thing that I've noticed in all of the debates is that Romney blinks. A lot. I had always heard that blinking indicates that a person is lying. Not sure if that's true, but it sure seems to me that Romney has a difficult time with the truth or at least keeping his positions on the issues straight. That, or his contacts are killing him!

    October 23, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  22. Gallagher

    I don't think they always SHOW Obama the respect he merits. Who knows why. I do wish he had made mention of Romney's 47% comment. When Romney thought he was speaking in private, he spoke from his heart. I think all of us are in that 47% at one time or another. I heard a song on You Tube, "Frank's 47 Percent Song" that spoke to this issue plainly. Some of us are retired, some of us can't get hired, it said. And you know, most of us are just doing the best we can and just need a little help now and then. But I heard no empathy from Romney. To him, we simply take no responsibility for ourselves. It makes me sad.

    October 23, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  23. paul

    CNN polls 90% democrats, manipulates the samplying error and goes out on a limb to declare an Obama win. Liberal sheep celebrate, film at 11:00. In other news, little boy declares the Emporer has no cloths. Liberal sheep balk at the audacity. Wake up sheeple, this president is sailing your country off a cliff!

    October 23, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  24. Chris

    If Romney had won 48/40 with a MOE of +/-4.5% the headline would have read "Romney in statistical tie with Obama", which is what it was on points. Romney won in terms of style and maturity. Obaba came off snarky and petulant. Romney dominated the first, most important, debate and tied in the second and third.

    October 23, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  25. citizenvetus

    He ran the country with reckless abandon the last four years and the look on his face is disappointment and realization of reality his re-election campaign is lost.

    October 23, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
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