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. n

    Obama clearly won by a land slide. This we know is true . . . No matter what these polls are saying. Romney was crumbling under the facade of looking presidential, instead he looked like he had some serious gas. He was sweating as he deployed a sharted look of embarrassment. I thing the president gave Romney the first debate and schooled him on the last two. Period.

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  2. Moneyballs

    Obama just sunk Romney's battleship.

    Romney looked pre-Alzheimers up there- just all sweaty and lost, surprised the President was there to debate after trying to be a tough guy in rounds 1 and 2.
    The GOP was just reminded how totally laughable and humiliating this campaign had been prior to the 1st debate.

    It's over.
    Obama won the election tonight.

    Romney can't lie about the auto bailout without paying the price in Ohio = he loses.

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  3. andytobo

    Cnn, I don't know to tell you this, but an 8 point lead is NOT with a 4.5-5 point sampling error.

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  4. Marnie

    Well, that's funny, because according to your own poll on your own site, 74% believe the President won the debate.

    October 22, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  5. april

    A comment to the above (Eric Morgan). The US Marines still use bayonets...its true check the facts.

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  6. rs

    Four and The Door-

    You mean the "petty" attack pointing out that only one of the candidates made lots of cash actually moving jobs to China, and purposely investing in Chinese industries, and that likely that meant Romney would have no stomach to actually do anything? THAT petty remark?

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  7. TxFox

    Regardless of how many ships we had 100 years ago vs present day... Every Modern naval ship currently in our fleet is far more advanced than anything we had back then.

    Even if you agree that our air force has fewer operational planes... we also have close to 100,000 drones in operation that have added significant depth to our air resources.

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Your own poll has Obama winning, CNN. 48-40 is /not/ too close to call. The CBS poll has Obama winning by a THIRTY point margin. CBS's poll was of uncommitted voters, not including Republicans who can't admit when their candidate has lost like CNN's. Why is that by the way, Republicans? Democrats admitted that Obama performed poorly in the first debate, why can't you admit Romney lost this one? Romney LOST, period.

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  9. sharon

    Obama needs a lifeline! AND a suitcase!

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  10. Pengwen6

    You drank the kool-aid 4 years ago, looks like many of you are drinking it again. When you can't stand on your record you attack your opposition and blame everyone else for your own failures.

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  11. Name marlos

    Seriously guys when obama lost in the first debate no one complained, now he won this one hands Down. The man has demonstrated he knows his stuff

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  12. Mnmark

    Obama is lucky to have a third debate. His demeanor maybe typical in his every day postion and why there may be no bipartisan agreements in Congress.

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  13. Sharon

    Winning a debate does not make you a good president, it makes you a good debator. I look at the record and where our country is today, it's not looking that good. I am not changing my vote.

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  14. snowyowl

    @Lisa Petlock – Your opinion sounds like a typical Romney position statement. It has nothing to do with reality. Obama won this debate and it wasn't close. Romney demonstrated his profound ignorance of world affairs. The idea of Romney as commander in chief is scaring a lot of Americans tonight, and it won't be good news for your man's poll numbers.

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  15. DV

    Obama clearly won. You could see Romney wanted to ramble on & on to try to stop Obama from responding. He agreed with so much of what Obama is already doing and had basically nothing new to propose!

    October 22, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  16. Will

    Romney was thoughtful and serious. Obama was petty and direspectful. Romney addressed foreign policy questions in a presidential fashion. Obama had nothing to offer but personal attacks. It's so disheartening that the media only focus on superficial sound bites instead of the substance of the important issues. Romney was better prepared and more substantive. He'll be a much better leader.

    October 22, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  17. Zuq

    Check the CBS poll. Barack won by over 30% in this debate!

    October 22, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  18. helloooo

    48% to 40% is between the sampling 4.5% margin of error? So you are off by over 4% in EACH direction? Call it like it is the President won.

    October 22, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  19. g

    Romney endorsed President Obama's policies all night long. How was that a debate?

    October 22, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  20. Lisa

    Obama is not pro America. Romney is clearly the right person to lead our country.

    October 22, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  21. Glen Wurden

    If the numbers are 48% to 40%, with a +- margin of error of 4.5 points, then the poll shows a clear difference, outside of the margin of error.........contrary to what the author of this article states.

    October 22, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  22. glenn turner

    Debate win? – Romney was presidential and avoided the "war monger" trap. He win go on to win the election.

    October 22, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  23. Beverly Gay

    Slam dunk by the President!

    October 22, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  24. Harry

    Where is Romney policy.only bashing Obama can not bring him victory.Romney is a empty soda can,,,gone,lost in last two debate.All time he keep agreeing with Obama plans,policies and expect to win?No way this guy can lead our country.He is great flip flop .For auto bailout he is liar....he can not be trusted.

    October 22, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  25. Sue James

    Mitt WON as far as I'm concerned. He is a true leader. He knows how to work with the other side. He will not divide and class or by political Obama continues to do. We need someone who doesn't think he knows it all. So vote for Mitt Romney. He will bring us back together as a country and move Americans into a better place!

    October 22, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
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