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. Neha

    Our President won hands down.Obama set the record straight without wavering.Romney sounded like a broken CD.He was passionate and articulate and showed he has a strength of character.

    October 23, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  2. Ramon

    Without any construction of rethoric from reporters,and experts opinion,it is a clear fact, that the President won the last two debates,any other argument aiming to the contrary, is irrelevant for regular Americans

    October 23, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. Cal

    What's the deal, CNN? Obama won by a similar margin in your poll for the 2nd debate, and you called that one a "split decision". Finally remembered how math works?

    October 23, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  4. Ron

    I can't help but notice that they have had polls in ALL three debates, after which it's been announced that there were more Republicans in their polling groups. Perhaps the media trying to influence the poll numbers? Certainly it has skewed the results to some degree. Hmmm? Are Obama's poll numbers actually higher due to stacking the deck?

    October 23, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  5. KLynn

    No surprise that Obama won. I sleep so much better knowing that he is President and is the one dealing with all our issues. Romney scares me- Who is he really? he flip flops so much and then tries to ride on Obama's coat tails.

    October 23, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. bigfatshady

    On this type of debate the sitting president will always have the edge. And well he should, he has a huge amount of experience in world affairs while Romney has zero experience in that arena. So the sitting prez will always most likely win. What is interesting is that the CNN poll has 48% Obama, 40% Romney,12% tie. It should have been more like 60% it looks like Obama underperformed and Romney overperformed in the end. Not a game changer at all.

    October 23, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. fikru

    What I tink the precedent for the past 4 years he ded good job z economy we now he's not he's folt world crayce so and he make frand oll the world we need this cayned p now!!!

    October 23, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  8. cars

    ride on cars If you live with a V8 engine so powerful that it will be the Honda Fit and Chevrolet Aveo. These ecological vehicles were marketed by the governments. General Motors last chance to survive, but they have fewer moving parts in a diesel engine. E Mini Cooper by BMW gets mini performance at 150 miles per hour.

    October 23, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  9. ivy of madison

    Anne, engineers may know the math, but shame on you if you think your "engineeringness" entitles you to skew the data to Romney's favor. You need to go back to school to learn some common sense.

    October 23, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  10. Kenny Bowl

    Romney really knew his stuff about China and what to do about their unfair business practices. But why would we want to put a successful businessman in the White House who has a plan to fix the economy? Anybody?!?

    October 23, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  11. Our ONLY Hope To Move Forward

    President Obama was last night and has been all along truly PRESIDENTIAL, compared to Mitt Romney! Obama Won the final debate and deserves our Full Support for another Four Years! The country is now Moving Forward despite Republican opposition in Congress all along and that is why he needs his second term to finish the job. Gas prices are going Down! Jobs are on the Upswing! Education will be Saved under the president's policies! People have better confidence in President Obama now! More and more people are touting the increasing recovery of the economy to the President's policies to move the country forward. What we don't need is Romney in office to Reverse all the good that has taken this long to come about! Remember, under Republicans, our overall economic growth was stymied until Clinton came to fix it. Now Obama has inherited much of the Bush legacy of cut and revert to failed policies and he is trying to fix it but he needs another four years to get the job done! Let's Give It To Him So That He Can Finish the Job To Help Us ALL Move Forward In This Country! OBAMA 2012!!

    October 23, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. mr.really

    I have to laugh at these comments left.....You GOP kill me with the Romney presidentail comments. I to can look the part when I piggyback on everything Obama says too....he agreed so much that I thought he was endorsing Obama for 4 more years...

    October 23, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. ReasonableXX

    Anyone who can sit there and watch Romney reverse his positions on every major issue in the last month and still believe he has integrity or deserves your vote is either stupid or has a serious memory problem. You are voting for a idealized conservative ideology that doesn't even exist in Romney instead of listening to his words and making a rational decision based on what he is really saying. It really is shameful!

    The facts and numbers don't lie. Obama has done a decent job with what he was given. Everything is on the upswing these last 4 years no matter how much you like to argue to the contrary. Now is not the time to switch things up to someone with such low integrity who will say anything to get elected. Mitt has no firm positions and no details for all his outrageous claims. All we know is that he will be more similar to Bush in his policy decisions and that's what got us into this mess.

    October 23, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  14. marvalea

    Personally, I resent that Romney has – for months – refused to provide specifics of his plan(s) for this country then, abruptly, reverses many of his previously stated policies! Just proves to me that he's little more than a wealthy used car salesman – capable of saying ANYTHING to "make the sale" with NO intention of upholding HIS promises. His comment about the "47%" – statements made when he didn't realize he was being recorded – certainly appear more credible than anything else he has said. He has flip-flopped once too many times!

    October 23, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  15. David Townsend

    Could you really watch that debate and suggest that Romney was better at Foreign Policy. The Pres. was sharper, clearer, and articulated his statements to the point that everyone understood his position. And it has not changed. Romney spent the eveny praising the Presidents Foreign Affairs policies. He basically told the world, he this guy has done an outstanding job. He only offered that he has changed his position to do the same thing that is alreade being done. Why did he even debate?

    October 23, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  16. vvalenc

    In this corner Mitt Romney a nobody Vs The Campion of the world Obama Ali . After 3 rounds.
    The score cards are.The republican's have thrown the white towel. No more rounds please . Mitt can't take anymore.

    October 23, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. Ram215

    Obama only was attaking Romney because he can't run on his failed poliies...if you think for one minute Obama won then the acid test is 6 Nov 12. Romney will be the victor!

    October 23, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. Anoop Rathod

    Obama edged Romney in the second and third debate. But Romney won the first debate overwhelmingly on the most concerning issue – Economy.

    We need a President who can really create jobs, not who creates a big government.

    October 23, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. Jim in Kentucky

    I thought Mr. Obama was the aggressor in the debate, and won on many points. However, I now intend to vote for Mr. Romney. He is not nearly as radical as portrayed, and he seems better fit for the job. I think he will work better with both sides of congress. We need to do something, and it appears to me Mr. Obama is not as effective with others.

    October 23, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. Tracy Green

    Obama/Biden 2012 no doubt! What a wonderful debate!

    October 23, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    John & Polli said that "Even the CEO of GM states unequivocally that Romney's plan would have been the end of General Motors." So you are saying that Dan Akerson, who became a board member at GM in 2009, appointed by the White House, agrees with President Obama? Why don't we say that Romney's plan would not work because Biden says so. That would carry the same wait. You need to remember that both GM and Chrysler did go through bankruptcy after they got the bailout money.

    October 23, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  22. Darryl

    I’m really enjoying watching the DOW dive like a rock the past few days on the concerns that Obama could get another 4 years. Since my wife and I make about 150k per year combined we get the pleasure of helping heavily to pay for those on SSN, welfare, foods and other government handouts. All the while we are trying to build a 401k that we can retire on since Obama will have us so deep in debt that I would be dead before I could collect SSN.

    Thanks Obama for the middle up approach to the economy!!! That is a new one on me. I’ve never heard of the middle ever creating jobs before. I must have missed college that day!

    October 23, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  23. vvalenc

    In this corner Mitt Romney A nobody Vs Obama Ali. After 3 rounds of dispute ,the score cards are . The republican's have thrown the white towel. Stop the fight Mitt can't take anymore .

    October 23, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. Richard

    The "Carter" effect...people saying they will vote for Obama will get behind the curtain at that crucial time, and won't be able to do it !!

    October 23, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. obama unqualified

    obama clearly has been found wanting, unqualified and has no plan. thank god romney is surging in ohio now and donnally is losing in the senate race we are on track to beat the progressives !

    October 23, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
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