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. REGinAZ

    The media seems to favor keeping Romney in the race and going light on their criticisms of his performances but that isn’t honestly presenting the facts. Sen. Graham was totally wrong with his defensive spin and President Obama was actually right-on with indicating that Romney doesn't have the experience and hasn't been right with his proposals or criticisms. The Republican stand is again to try to twist reality to avoid it reflecting poorly on their candidate ... but the truth is that last nights debate clearly showed Romney to be weak, unprepared, dependent on flip-flopping, as he always says anything to impress audiences and then has to change his story, and in general that he is out of touch with what is needed, waiting for someone to direct him – much like we saw and paid the price for with GWBush, just another "puppet".

    October 23, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  2. Crystal

    Mitt Romney will win the presidential race and he will get us out of this mess!!! Obama has done nothing for this country!!! Mitt Romney knows what he is talking about. And for this third presidential debate, well...... I'm glad that Mitt Romney decided to take it easy on the retard this time.

    October 23, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |

    I find it hard to believe anyone would vote for obama after he was clearly destroyed by Romney in all 3 debates. You must watch "2016" and learn what obama is all about. The unbiased experts all have Romney as the winner

    October 23, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  4. It's clear what Romney's plan is now

    It's clear what Romney's plan is now. Just copy what President Obama did, said, does, says, and will do. But like a photocopy, the copy is never as good as the original. Further, Romney can try to copy President Obama's plan to create jobs, but the plan is only part of it. The who does it and how it is done really matter!

    October 23, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  5. chanel

    obama won Romney clueless

    October 23, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. Anonymous

    I am very tired of the Main Stream Media (notice, no LAME in there – they are all VERY talented). They have convinced the middle class that it is more productive to fight amongst ourselves over slight, mostly ill-perceived differences, rather than focus on the FACTS that our elected representatives no longer represent us. From any party, except, perhaps, some independents or flukes who got elected on a Change Washington platform. We can't throw one person into the thousands of elected officials in Washington and the tens of thousands of uneleected lobbyists, and expect them to make a meaningful difference. There should be term limits on EVERYone. They should not get retirement packages and free healthcare for life after serving 2 years and 1 day in office. I certainly don't get those kinds of benefits in the private sector. Corporations should no longer be allowed to funnel billions, with a B, into election campaigns. Corporations should no longer be allowed to compell their workforce to 'volunteer' to work for political campaigns of the corporations' choosing. We are turning into a 3rd world 'haves' and 'have nots' nation, and I can't believe how many Americans are just sitting back and letting it happen. We have turned into a nation of sheep.

    October 23, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  7. mourning American

    Since Obama took over Afghanistan

    378 US soldiers per year dead – in his four years there have been 1,511 soldiers who have lost their lives serving in Obama's war.

    The numbers tell it.....As soon as Obama took over, the numbers took off.
    2006 – 98 deaths
    2007 – 117 deaths
    2008 – 155 deaths (the year that Obama was elected)
    2009 – 317 deaths
    2010 – 499 deaths
    2011 – 418 deaths
    2012 (so far) – 277 deaths

    What a foreign policy guru he is!!! Blood on Obama's hands

    October 23, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  8. mjcharron

    Now, finally a poll that is accurate. This is what it will look like come November, Obama 48%-Romney 40%

    October 23, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  9. beevee

    President Obama very cearly had an upper hand in the debate on foreign policy, looked very presidential and firmly in command of the subject. Romney looked like a fish out of water gasping to breathe and kept squinting at the president as if he left his contacts at home. He looked like a novice on foreign policy being chided by the master. Romney may have thought that foreign policy means going to a foerign country on a holiday.

    October 23, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  10. Jack Martin

    A CNN poll declaring Obama the winner? Go figure. The Candy Crowley network is nothing more than a liberal Obama licking machine! CBS' moderator showed "Cankie" how it's supposed to be done! CNN has no talent.

    October 23, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  11. John

    @Polli You do realize that credit was so tight during the economic crisis of 2008 that federal guarantees would not have freed up enough private capital to save General Motors and Chrysler, right? Obama was right, had the government not stepped in, the GM we know today wouldn't exist.

    October 23, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  12. Rich

    Obama is right, exports are up! We are exporting all our raw materials steel, cement, wood etc. to China to be manufactured. Neither canidate seems to point this out! By exporting our resources (technology included), we lose manufacturing jobs here in America. Companies that need these resources to manufacture products here face higher prices due to scarcity at home due to higher demand abroad. Wake up america!

    October 23, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  13. WheresWaldo

    After 3 debates, I still stand undecided and concerned about a "Roman Empire" syndrome in our country regardless of who wins this election. As long as special interests, partisan politics, and concerns about governing for re-election vs governing for the masses rule this system, it will remain broken. The pandering and obscure references to conversations they've had with "a woman in.." or "a little girl who..", which in no way reflect the situations faced among the critical masses only serve to illustrate how far out of touch these guys are.

    October 23, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. Rachel

    Why on earth would any American want him back for another 4 years. He has accomplished nothing but devastating our economy and dividing the rich and poor.

    October 23, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  15. FLIndependent

    The reality is that Romney did not even win the 1st debate, President Obama lost it because it is now obvious that something was weighing on his mind and he wasn't his usual self. At any rate, Obama clearly won the 2nd & 3rd and has proven, once again, that he is the right man to lead our country during these times. No one in their right minds can say they know who Romney really is and how he will govern. Just remember, Grover Norquist said they only need someone who is able to sign whatever they put in front of him and Romney will be a bigger puppet for the neo-cons and the 1% than Bush was.

    October 23, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. rrmuse

    When Romney get elected women will lose the right to make a private choice about their health, they will lose insurance assistance with birth control, but men will get to make private choices about their health and get insurance assistance for Viagra. Due to cause and effect there will be more unwanted children, over-population issues, more child support cases and maybe force marriages, more child abuse cases, more mental disorder case for rape and incest victims forced to be mothers, more high school drop outs, more welfare recipients, more medicate recipients, more unwanted children in the care of the state and last but not least more crime due to abuse, lack of education and poverty.
    He will cut taxes by 20% for all and will have to pay for it by cutting social programs that will be need more than ever with the new administration pro-birth laws and insurance restriction on birth control, plus by cutting deductions to make it deficit neutral.
    Just a side note, what’s the point of putting 20% more money in your pocket, just to turn around and take it back at income tax time.

    October 23, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  17. mike

    In the debates Obama/Biden-3, Romney/Ryan-1. Obama the real leader/President/Commander in Chief.

    October 23, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  18. Notblindedbygreed

    I almost hope that Romney wins just so I can wag my finger at the Romniacs and say, "you're getting what you deserve."

    October 23, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. Some Vote To Destroy Themselves

    There can be no doubt that many Americans would vote for a man who loves to flip-flop, who changes his position so many times it could make your head spin, and one who would throw women under the bus, and that's Mitt Romney. Why do they do it? Perhaps it gives them a sense of satisfaction that he would take away the very things most have worked so hard for all of their life, just to be defiant. But can we really afford Romney in the nation's highest office? Unequivocally NO, We Cannot! And we should not support this man. America's ONLY hope to continue towards the path of Prosperity is President Obama in 2012!! He earns our vote and rightfully deserves our support for a Second Term in Office!

    October 23, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  20. Nothing's changed

    Romney proved what we already knew. He is an empty suit that only looks out for the well to do. My 12 year old son knows more about foreign policy than this clowns. He tried to shift the debate to lies about " apology tours" and the " auto bail out".

    October 23, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  21. Name

    Obama = commander in chief , Romney = used car salesman

    October 23, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  22. Polonius Politician

    It is clear that few if any minds are being changed at this juncture regardless of performance in the debates. I thought Romney's personality metamorphosis was a mistake and consistent with the criticism he has received all along that he says anything he needs to say (and behaves any way he needs to behave) depending on the audience, which makes him appear unprincipled. We are constantly bombarded with false and misleading info about the candidates. As a result, I think Romney's own words (not the words of Obama or a liberal media or some other biased source) regarding how the man perceives 47% of the population are very significant. I find it difficult to believe that close to half of voters support a man that made those statements, defended them for a few weeks, and them disavowed them when he finally realized they were indefensible. He showed his true colors. If he wins the election, I expect those who voted for him will get what they deserve, while the rest of us pay for it.

    October 23, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. KM Arnold

    I don't think we need to think about things as they are today (even though they are pretty crappy if you filled up your tank lately or bought a lb of ground beef)...think about what Obama has the ability to do if re-elected??? You think he has liberal and socialist philosophies now??? Why again did he tell the Russians to wait until after he is re-elected and has MORE flexibility??? Like Romney or not...the man has a proven record of leading more than ACORN rallies. Obama had his chance and we didn't get the "hope and change" we thought...we got the "hope and change" HE wanted us to have.

    October 23, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. hk

    Sorry Mr. Romney. I do not like your campaign style and do not like lies. No vote from me.

    October 23, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  25. Cindy

    The claim that Obama does not surprise. Obama excells at BS and hot air, and spinning word which are "double-speak". The reality is that this debate is irrelevant. He had 4 years to make his words from his campaign 4 years become reality. But America is in a downward spiral. The truth is Romney was at his best when he focused the economic underpinnings of any foreign policy matter, noting t and American' lack of fiscal health underwrites and affects national security.

    October 23, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
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