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. Dhurba

    Romney u get back to ur previous business n creat jobs for Chinese

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  2. lb6751

    Romney WON hands down !!! Obama has constant need to remind us that he is the commander and chief. A real leader should not have to tell us that he is a leader over and over ! If looks could kill, Romney would be dead. Obama looked like he was trying to stare Romney down in a way as to "scare" him and shut him up. Romney looked like a president . He was composed , confident and had a smile on his face. He showed Obama the respect of listening to him with a smile on his face, no look of scorn !

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  3. Romnesia

    There is not one issue where Romney has held firm. He is a snake that will say anything to get your vote and then dismiss you when its convenient for him. But wait – I'm being unfair, right? It's only 2 weeks until the election and he still shares no details of his saving cuts or how he plans to pay for his military expansion. He cloned himself into Obama tonight not being able to distinguish his plans from the current administrations. So if you are looking for a leader – typically someone who remembers and stands by what they have said time and time again than you simply can not support Romney.

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  4. David

    I think I just watched Romney endorse Obama, Romney had the weirdest debate ever.

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  5. rene

    How is 48-40 too close to call?

    October 22, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  6. Dreck

    Mitt made money by killing Jobs and outsourcing work and technology
    Now he says China is stealing it from US.

    Not a good person to lead USA. Mitt might be ok to run a company which keeps there share holders happy at any ost.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  7. Travis Peterson

    It seems to me that there is actually a clear winner based on the numbers you're reporting!

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  8. gloria de silva

    Again and again Romney lies & lies & lies........

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  9. Julian Solorio

    BBC poll shows Obama is favored globally, but Romney is favored only Pakistan.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  10. Robert in Havertown

    Romney is bought and paid for by Israel. How many times did we hear about Iran 4 years closer to a bomb. Shouldn't they have one by now? Yes they should but our policies devastated them. Its working, and Romney agreed. Romney is a flip flopping muppet that will say anything to get elected then turn the whole thing over to Trump and the Koch Bros.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  11. Ginger

    Go ahead and trust Mitt w/ SS and Medicare. Good luck with that medicate "voucher". Also, have fun with the tax "deduction bucket" whatever that is. Mitt, Bain Capital was involved in hostile takeovers that threw Americans out of work. You can't have it both ways buddy. You weren't giving a rat's butt when companies were dismantled resulting in longer unemployment lines. Just so long as you and Bain stuffed massive $$ in your pockets. And why don't we see more of your tax returns Mitt? because you are using every loophole under the sun? You don't have my vote Mitt.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  12. Fact Check

    Truth hurts..I corrected the minor typos in your post. Hope you don't mind: Obama was serious, knowledgeable and presidential. Romney was petty, petulant and downright deceitful in many of his answers. That tired BS about a purported apology tour??? Didn't happen. All of America KNOWS it didn't and now they got to see Romney LIE about it on national TV. Romney's problem is that he's told so many lies he is now starting to trip all over them.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  13. Ruke

    Talking points, lies, attacks, and bias aside... the true take-away from this debate is that Mitt Romney agrees with Obama on the majority of our foreign policy actions and future plans.

    Anyone telling you otherwise, is flat-out blind to the truth and/or lieing.

    And this both helps and hurts Mitt Romney. It helps because, as in past debates, attempting to paint yourself as equal to the POTUS is an effective strategy... and during this time in particular, any foreign policy stance more aggressive than our current one will lose essential middle-ground voters.

    It hurts, because as someone that described themselves as "extremely conservative" and being championed by the same GOP that very recently rallied passionately behind McCain, with a very clearly aggressive foreign policy objective, anyone who has been following these ideals of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party can clearly see an attempt to pander and say what will win votes as opposed to following the platform of the party.

    But, most people are not informed enough to recognize this.

    I mean, I personally hope Mitt Romney was 100% honest about his true ideals tonight, but I don't truly believe it to be the case.

    Regardless, when it comes down to it, "me too" isn't an effective foreign policy and it isn't the words of someone basing most of their argument on being a better leader.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  14. Rational

    Was on the fence, but now I know. Obama 2012.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  15. pedestrian

    @truth hurts – you need to turn off fox news every few days and get some fresh air. Everyone does NOT know that Obama went on an apology tour, because he never did any such thing. This story has been debunked countless times. Repeating a lie does not make it so.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  16. bigdoglv

    Obama may have won, but Mitt did not lose. I expect the polls to continue to lean towards Romney.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  17. Joe

    Regardless of who you support in the elections, aren't these polls basically useless? If a 48% to 40% victory is "within the sampling error" than I have no use for your poll at all. I can probably conduct a poll amongst 100 people I know and get the percentages right if I have a 10 point cushion too.

    October 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  18. Ryche

    Of course Romney agreed with parts of obamas foreign policy. Obamas doing the exact same things Bush did while in office. Using drones, surges in Afghanistan, sanctions on Iran. Duh!!! You liberals act like its Romney who flipped on this when in fact it was Obama who is the one flipping from what he said 4 long long long years ago.

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  19. tony

    Obama can take this "win" back to Chicago after he packs his things and leaves the White House in January. How he can say that he has provided strong leadership in the middle east with a straight face is beyond me. Only lemmings would follow that logic off the cliff. Close friends with Israel you say? Netanyahu pleaded with the American people just a few weeks ago to vote Obama out of office.

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  20. imvotingformitt

    Mitt won.

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  21. CnnSPin

    I like how CNN will try to play the middle news agency when Obama had 48% to Romney's 40% and then try to call it an even split. WHAT? Are they assuming the worse case scenario with the 4% margin of error. Notice how noone ever talks about the margin of error going the other way. Here is a clue; Obama 52% Romney 36%, which is much closer to CBS poll.

    Romney essentially endorsed Obama tonight.

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  22. rs

    truth hurts-

    Really, you are truly delusional. Presidential? Romney? That's a hoot. Here's a hint: Presidents tend to know very basic facts about their foreign policy assertions. Geography for example. Something like saying Iran uses Syria to get to the sea might make sense IF: they shared a border (they don't), and Iran didn't have ocean access (they do).

    Pathetic. Romney is a simply pathetic excuse for anything. He actually adopted positions AS LIBERAL as Obama's and denied that he ever thought or said different.

    A pathetic, spineless jelly-fish of a man- doesn't say much for those who "believe" in him!

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  23. Anne

    Obama did not "win". a 4.5% margin error is 44.5% Romney and 43.5% Obama. Some of you people need to go back to school and learn your math skills. No wonder so many people can't find a job ! I'm an engineer and I've never had a problem finding a job, and neither has any of my engineer friends!

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  24. BWC

    What would you expect considering the state of the race. President is behind, has to be aggressive and attack. Romney just kicked back, didn't make any mistakes, hit some battleground state appeals. Mitt knows people dont really care about Syria they care about getting a job. Probably had more people watching baseball tonight

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  25. truegrit1

    October Debates score
    Obama/Biden 2-1-1
    Romney/Ryan 1-1-2

    October 22, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
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