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. Rukidding Despierta

    So, Obama changed the military from horses and bayonets to airplanes and submarines?
    So, the US is loved more all over the world thanks to Obama and his Foreing policy?
    So, Mexican-Americans are appreciative of Obama's Fast and Furious gun run that has killed thousand of people?
    So, Obama has made good on the promise of "Change we all can believe" in regards to the National debt, education, crime, drugh use and employment?
    So, Obama's one line zingers are the key elements and magnificent plan for our country's well being.
    Why would I not vote for him? ... 4 more years of the same... must be good for the US.
    Reviewing Obama's promises 4 years ago - Reveal a magnificient picture of the man he is.

    October 23, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. msstiller58

    What scares me? Someone who is going to vote for a commander and chief instead of a commander in chief. You have to wonder....?

    October 23, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  3. 4pease

    Mitt Romney: we need more rowboats in the navy.

    October 23, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  4. Not this time

    CNN is in need of better ratings. Mitt could have thrown up his hands and said he surrendered and admitted to all his flp flops and CNN would still have reported it as a virtual tie. Wolf called last weeks 46% to 39% results as a "virtual tie" It is all about ratings. CBS poll was much more accurate.

    October 23, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  5. SDG

    I'm shocked at some of the opinions here calling Romney with 'more class and integrity'. That is farther from the truth than 2+2=4billion. As an American that looks to an intelligent, secure, solid leader, I'm scared to death by these lynching ignorant spewers that support Romney. After Obama gets re-elected, these poor people will still be amongst us......eeek.

    October 23, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  6. Howard

    EVERYONE knows that Obama's 11th hour proclamation that he has supported Israel ... is B.S. !!! ... Obama will say, or do ANYTHING to hold onto power ... including lies and coverups regarding Libya and Fast n' Furious !!!

    October 23, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  7. malibu123

    The media is in total hysterical campaign mode for Bammy. Too little, too late. The One will soon be done.

    October 23, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. strungegh

    Two people debated tonight: one stood for the people. the other stood for I am.

    October 23, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  9. VA Independent

    I watched that debate last night and once again Governor Romney came off disrespectful to Bob Schaffer and I think he really exposed himself as someone who stands for nothing. I will be honest with you, I expected him to at the very least stand up for his beliefs, even if I do not agree with them. Instead he flip flopped yet again and at this late stage in the game, that is a huge concern for me that a president who stands for nothing will fall for anything. Granted that at the end of the day, we the people will ultimately have with whatever decisions are made come November 6, 2012. But overall President Obama made a strong enough case for getting a second term. To all Romney supporters, think very carefully on what type of person you are virtually giving a vote of confidence to and expcting the rest of us to live with in the short and long term future .

    October 23, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  10. Mojobutta

    Once again, I wish somebody would smack that patronizing, bigoted smirk off Romney's Greasy face. He clearly does not know how to behave around a black man or women. This bigot will send civil rights s back 100 years. Didn't anybody want to ask why he had no black or Latino people working at Bain? Does this not scare the public?

    October 23, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. Larry

    Ships do not go underwater. Boats called submaines go underwater. Obmaa's look of disdain and literal hatred turned off more people than not. I would be willing to bet that amoung women Obama lost the debate because of his demeanor. In substance Romney held his own and Obama looked petty.

    October 23, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  12. Presidential

    There was a lot of political speak about being "Presidential" last night. President Reagan and President Clinton were Presidential because they worked with both sides of the aisle to comprimise and get things done. From what I saw last night, Gov Romney sounded as if he's willing to work with both sides and President Obama has proven for 4-years he's not. It's time to move forward not from the far Right or far Left. And the same goes for Congress. We need to remove incumbants who only look out for themselves.

    October 23, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. Gene

    Dear Mr. President. Our biggest geopolitical foes are Russia and China, not Al-Qaeda. As a president you should know the meaning of the word "geopolitical." Al Queda is a threat to our security, but not our geopolitical foe. All world terrorist organizations, including Al Queda are armed with Russian or Chinese made weapons. Russia and China NEVER take our side at the UN.

    October 23, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. John

    There is only a small margin of voters who have not already made up their mind on how they are going to vote. Even those voters, I believe, are less than honest with the pollsters. I think the true margin is small enough to be inconsequential. At this point the winner of the debate is moot.

    The election will come down to election day and Obama will not be returned for a second term. His record on domestic policy is sadly lacking in terms of unemployment numbers, job growth, consumer purchasing power and other economic indicators such as the price of a gallon of gas. Unfortunately for the American people, Obama grew big government at our expense. Even more unfortunate is the reality that no government program ever seems to go away and Romney will be saddled with "Obamacare" while the taxpayer is saddled with the cost.

    Only the real, stark address of government spending will preserve the country. Politicians from both parties have bought votes for so long that the hand of greed and corruption is deep in the pockets of all politicians. I suspect that a major financial calamity such as a depression is the only alternative to what we presently have.

    October 23, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. inathens

    Here at CNN: 4 or 5 opinion pieces all anti-Romney. Declaring the debate a win for Obama. All pieces that appear to be bad news for Romney. Meanwhile there are equal numbers of commentators out there who think Romney won, Romney was in command etc. Some editors at CNN are clearly worried as Romney's poll numbers surge in every area and Romney moves ahead nationally. But does CNN have to be so lopsided in their coverage?

    October 23, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  16. poopyonastickmakesmesick

    Why don't you show your other polls that show independents siding with Romney for President after this debate?

    October 23, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. Horacio Garcia

    Extra, extra! Former Governor Romney campaigns for President Obama in Florida!

    In a very spirited speech, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney endorsed democratic candidate Barack Obama for President of the United States.
    Mr. Romney gave extravagant praise to the foreign policy that the government has been implementing for the last four years, from Iran to Syria to Afghanistan. At times, Mr. Romney simply refused to answer question from moderator Bob Schieffer waving his hand in the general direction of Mr. Obama and saying: "what he said".

    As a highlight of the night, and as the only contentious point of debate, Governor Romney complained that the sails and oars of the American Navy are (in his words) "rotten and dark like a pirate ship" and requested the urgent build of 100 Galleons to "begin the hunt for those pesky Malaysian pirates".

    October 23, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  18. just-decided Voter

    Obama is the only president on our modern history who did not bow too deeply to Israel. It's like we've found our long lost backbone.

    Romney – a deep bower.

    October 23, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  19. elise flowers

    I thought obama clearly won debate fair & square! Obama was asdertively aggressive w/talking point. Also, Obama looked at rommney as an adult would when scolding a child. Rommney agreed too much w/obama. Also i thought romney eas for the war in previous debate & then turncoat against the war. Rommney changed opinion it seemed to me as if he were a democrat instead of republican in most of his verbiage

    October 23, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  20. JC

    I recently moved to the united States 3 years ago from Switzerland for business purposes and 3 years later Im still very very confused? If Mr. Obama was put in office 4 years ago with the promises he gave voters, for a non bias understanding, how is his views and promises not being overlooked this time around? I understand that Dems are loyal proponents to their party but after 3 years of living in this great country nothings happened! Economy is the driver of all regardless of where you are on the map. Mr Romney continues to beat the economy and job growth position and he has a pretty good track record in making money I'd say. Facts are Facts. I know there are other issues to the equation to lead but its all the same as 4 years ago. I just dont get the democratic standpoint.

    October 23, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  21. 12victory

    Cnn might want to fact check that website poll.......I tried to vote for Romney on several occasions last night and the poll would not allow me to vote.

    October 23, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. joe

    clearly, president obama has better command of forgeign policy issues then rommey. since keeping america safe is the number one issue facing a president i will be casting my vote for president obama.

    October 23, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. Greg C.

    Romney was much more presidential than Obama; Obama's petty sarcasm was very un-Presidential and insulting. Clearly, Romney has a good grasp of the issues; knows that we are vulnerable when you need to move assets to areas of conflict and we need to ensure we have a base to launch strike capabilities. Let's put it another way, if I followed Obama's analogy, since he really doesn't understand economics; it's cheaper to move heavy material using trains as a trans-modal transport than it would be to use aircraft. Did we do away with trains because we now have airplanes that can transport? If so, then we need to inform Biden that his buddies in the train business better look for jobs elsewhere; perhaps making bayonets.

    October 23, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. Leslie

    Obama is the right pick for this nation. He will not screw up foreign policy like Bush did. Our esteem in the world has risen and he is much more capable of leading this country in the international arena than Romney who does not understand what it takes to lead this country in a time of so much unrest in the world. Anyone who supports Romney as Commander and Chief is putting this country in harms way.

    October 23, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  25. gail beck

    I find it humorous that today on his campaign trail Obama is saying Romney has no plan to fix the economy. But during all the debates Obama is saying what Romney will and will not do without giving any answers on his plans for the next 4 yrs.

    October 23, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
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