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. brad

    I wish people were smart enough to learn about more than what TV has to offer. There's a reason that neither candidate will be able to fix this country. And are you seriously planning in voting on how many bayonets we use? Grow up and take on some responsibility for your country.

    October 23, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. Polli

    I know one thing. I have dealt with plenty of businesses in Chapter 11 and 13 to know they went on to lead happy vital business lives....I cannot believe that anyone would think that Romney meant for the Car companies to be left in a ditch. Not true and THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. THE COURTS ARE INVOLVED. WHAT WE DID IS WE WENT BANKRUPT FUNDING THE CAR COMPANIES...A STUPID THING, A VERY STUPID THING ...AND now who is bailing you out now that you are bankrupt??? THAT IS A LOT OF BULL TO SAY ROMNEY MEANT FOR THE CAR COMPANIES TO GO BELLY UP, AND AN INTELLIGENT, SAVVY, KNOWING PERSON WOULD KNOW THIS. All the more reason for Romney to be President.

    October 23, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  3. Sissy

    Why has it become a "Who Won The Debate" environment!?! It should be the American People who win – as they get good discussion between 2 people running for the highest office in the country and they can then make a more informed choice as to who they want to vote for based on the issued that are important to them and who they believe is most closely aligned with them on them.

    Instead it has become this showcasing event – I equate it to the old 'Saturday morning wraslin' matches. They are disrespectful of each other – and therefore the American Public who wanted to hear what was being said – by interupting each other, laughing at each others' points and snearing while the other was speaking. They both appeared pompous and insincere.

    I am appalled at what politics has become and the media does nothing to real it back in. It truly has just become another one of those horrible reality shows that are true wastes of time!

    October 23, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  4. Kay

    I watched the debate and i heard Romney agree with Obama on a lot of issues and often repeated what Presisident Obama was saying soooo why bash the President when Romney NOW has his views on 80% of the issues we are facing. Please people wake up or you and you kids and grandkids will be forced to move to China to get a job

    October 23, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  5. Tony A

    The Obama Presidency will go down in the history books as the biggest sham of the 21st Century.

    October 23, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  6. Reese

    I noticed last night the womens meter from the focus group would go up for Obama as soon as he started to speak. Most times before he would even finish his first sentence which was a lead in and had no subject matter.

    I see CNN totally spinning everything now toward Obamas favor now that we are a couple of weeks out. Like the CNN Polls, Obama and its supporters are total shams.

    October 23, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  7. MaggiesMessage

    May I suggest a house cleaning at CNN so that the American people can get real news with honesty and no bias reporting? And can you start from the top???? Who is John Galt?

    October 23, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. Polli

    Obama has and is cutting off our legs, leaving us vulnerable to the other super powers. Abetter way for Terrorists to takeover....DON'T BE FOOLED.

    October 23, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. Juaniros

    Okay half who watched the debate think obama won what about the other half? You could easily say half who watched the debate think romney won right?

    October 23, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. Romney wins

    Obama was small minded in his zingers and untruths. Romney, noit even President yet, showed howe smart he is. Obama isw best at community organizing, Romney at moving this country forward.

    October 23, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  11. Future

    Well now. What do we have here? Now introducing…Romney 2 the mix who could quite possibly b our nex president. When I think of this prospect I think of my poodle China. One sunny day China was attacked by a baby squirrel. LMBO! She did what any red-blooded animal would do. She commenced to beating the Hell out of it! My children where so upset by the sight of this. They begged me 2 move China 2 the other side of the yard so she couldn’t kill the baby squirrel. I went out for a while, came back & checked on China. Her posture was that of the Great Spinkx with her fresh kill lying in front of her. My children were horrified! I explained to them that this is Nature. The squirrel had been almost beating to death. He walked all the way (even tho I tried 2 save him) over 2 China 2 b finished off. I liken this behavior 2 that of some Americans. Bush damaged this country immeasurably. Obama has been trying 2 save America. American’s jus might vote Romney in2 office so he can finish us off. Question: Nature or Nurture? Are we a country of ppl that keeps going back for more abuse until we die? I'm jus asking.

    October 23, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  12. schadah

    Here's the thing... Before Obama went into office, the US was in a bad spot. I find it really bewildering that people expect that the economy and everything else would recover after four years. Helloooo???! Have you any idea how long it takes for a COUNTRY TO regain its economic footing after a crisis like that? More than that, let's realize that America is a superpower! When a superpower falls economically, it falls hard. Don't you think it will take some time to get back up? Interesting enough, four years after Romney or Obama we will have some more complaints. I think then Macchiavelli was right! You can never please people iin politics! And for God's sake, stop dwelling on the colour of the man's skin. Because what it comes down to is that people feel that American presidents are suppose to look a certain way and act a certain way. Obama doesn't conform to the images the general public have conjured in their minds. And that's what's fueling all of the negative things people are saying.

    October 23, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. SokrMom

    Romney lost my vote when he said to Obama, "I'm speaking right now." The fact that Obama was speaking did not inhibit Romney in the slightest whenever HE wanted to interrupt. I'm VOTING right now, Romney–and I'm not voting for you!

    October 23, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. FLIndependent

    Those of you saying the President was rude & petulant are obviously repeating what you heard your Repub pundits saying and, sorry, but if Mittens can't take the heat he better get out of the kitchen!! It was fine and dandy though when Mittens was the bully in the 1st two debates and when President Obama was polite you all said he was lazy and unprepared. We'll give Mitt the 1st debate but Obama clearly won the 2nd & 3rd and will be re-elected.

    October 23, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  15. MIddle Class Swing State Voter

    Obama clearly won this debate. He was articulate, consistent, and Romney agreed with everything he's done. Honestly, I feel sorry for Romney's followers. I can't imagine how hard it is to keep up with his policies as he constantly changes position. Their only option is to turn to Fox news so that the can be told how to think and defend their horrible candidate. It's really sad b/c you have to be totally blind, deaf, and dumb to believe the spin coming from the right.

    Let keep moving forward American and re-elect our President Barack Obama!!!

    October 23, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  16. The President of The United has...

    The President of The United has a steady hand and that is why the US' standing in the world has improved significantly since The President took office. He's united the world against the worst enemies, support democracy and peace around the world, significantly reduced threats by eliminating Osama Bin Laden, and saved GM. If any President had Pressuent Obama's record, he would be re-elected without issue, because President Obama has character and integrity.

    October 23, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. Alexandra

    If there were awards given for Presidential Debates, Romney would take the main ones, First Debate: Best Actor For acting like a different Romney than the others that show up everywhere else and convincing others he knows what he is talking about. 2nd Debate: Best Villain For being the bad guy and getting killed by Obama in the end. 3rd Debate: Best Supporting Role for agreeing with everything Obama says. And of course the Miss Congeniality Award for knowing when you're not sure of how to answer the question, go with World Peace.

    October 23, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  18. Name

    I think that. President Obama did a great job on last night and I got your back thank u for a job well done

    October 23, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Obama won the debate, no doubt. All Romney did was direct people to his website, give the same answer as Obama and add "I would have done it earlier", and look stupid. Obama had better points and as a plus slapped Romney in the face with a couple of zingers (even if you are a republican, you know he had great comebacks).

    October 23, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. Kurt Jaworski

    Please tell me, if I missed something in debate 3, but did Romney express a single substantial point in the entire 90 min. ?Instead, he supports the President's position on everything, accept to offer an occasional add: "Yes, what he said, but...stronger, faster." Mitt approached the whole evening like he was "fumbling through the final question in a beauty pageant." (NYT). how does he reconcile his 'bought and paid for' bellicosity towards Iran with his "world wants to live in peace" makeover. Insulting, to say the least

    October 23, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. msstiller58

    A win and a draw are not the same. Likewise, a CNN poll is not the same as Rasmussen or Gallup. Can CNN say "bias"?

    October 23, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  22. Steve

    Romney wants to give the military another $2 trillion, money that it has not asked for and does not need, yet thinks that cutting funding to PBS is going to balance the budget.

    October 23, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  23. Portia

    @guy.. are you seriously saying that black people are voting for Obama because he is black. There are more racist people in America that are not voting for him because he his black. What did Romney do in MA when he was governor.. abosolutely nothing of significance. Romney does not have the interest of ordinary hard working people as a priority. Why would any person who has had to work for living vote for a guy like that. Obama 2012- this is the guy that passed up the big law firm job to help people!!!.

    October 23, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  24. Reese

    People that vote for Obama are those looking for a handout. Too lazy to work or playing the victim their entire lives so they begin making up disabilites so they can retire on the tax payers backs. Thats why they stick to his side like gnats.

    Well guess what, President Romney is the pesticide thats can force you back to work!! Now get out of bed, support yourself and quit feeling sorry for yourself, no one believes youre a victim anymore even your own family members.

    October 23, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  25. Keep This In Mind

    The issue is the economy, and it's not a matter of whom won the last debate (and I think CNN has a great bias here), it's how people feel when they go to the polls to vote. Obama has a track record now, and it isn't that great ~ not to say Romney's much better, and I could be wrong, but I think people will give him the benefit of the doubt and put him in office this time around.

    October 23, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
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