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.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

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. Lisa

    Way to go Romney

    October 22, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  2. Mariela Rosas


    October 22, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  3. Rich

    Obama called Romney out on hit 7 Trillion dollar lie, anyone else catch on that he said he would balance the budget in 8-10 years. Hey I said it would take 8-10 years to balance the budget so if I raise it be an extra trillion again every year just trust me it will balance.

    October 22, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  4. Eric

    In what way is 48% to 40% at tie? Does this mean Obama and Romney are "tied" in South Carolina and Tennessee. C'mon CNN! "Obama gets the edge" might be a fair headline, but a 20% advantage is NOT a tie.

    October 22, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  5. Evelyn

    Romney lost again.Fliped-lopped yet again. Funny how he is for equal rights for woman in foreign countries but not for the American woman Can't make uo his mind which side of the fence he wants to be on.

    October 22, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  6. eagle eye

    Romney clear winner tonight. What night. And won the fact check. The idea tonight helped Obama is dream.

    October 22, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  7. hehe

    Romney looked weak tonight.. No matter how bad he does CNN tries making him look good. Pathetic.

    October 22, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  8. Jim

    How do you come out with a headline that says "...did not identify a clear winner" and then go on to say Obama 48%, Romney 40%, with a margin of error of 4.5%. I call that a win for Obama.

    October 22, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  9. jmm

    With a tie, the momentum will continue for Romney.

    October 22, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  10. Name

    Thank you Obama for your true leadership and concern for ALL Americans...not a select few...

    October 22, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  11. Steve

    Sometimes politicians don't think before they speak, and observers fail to perceive the ramifications of these comments. Romney's highest point in the debate was apparently his comment that he'd advocate a global blockade of "ships from Iran" docking in any port. Sounds noble, but IF Iranian oil is completely removed from the world market from, say China for example, the countries that no longer have access to Iranian oil will turn to other oil producers and GUESS what that will do to the price of oil and ultimately the price of fuel at the pump in America??? SO go ahead Mitt – inflict $6/gal gasoline on American consumers.....twit

    October 22, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  12. Name

    Too close to call? Um, 48 to 40 with 4.5% margin of error. Obama wins as he should have.

    October 22, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  13. Fred Coyle

    Obama crushed and left thelying Romney stuttering again. Not very Presidential looking. He looked disheveled.

    October 22, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  14. blue dog

    Breaking news, Romney disagrees with all of his own statements and endorses Obama.

    October 22, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  15. ramkuv

    48 vs 40 %, with sampling error of 4-5. How is that a tie??? Obama Won ! Plain and simple. Yes by a small margin but its by no means a tie.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  16. packerfans

    Vote for Mitt Romeny!!! Obama will never change and forward destory America freedom!!

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  17. Michele

    Clearly, Obama won the debate! I wonder if people were watching Fox news UNFAIR AND UNBALANCED!!

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  18. Mike Hunt

    NO clear winner, 8 percent is pretty big when its a Republican favoring poll. Cbs has it 58 to 23

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  19. jmm

    More states will come into play at the end of the week. Obama is in trouble.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  20. Rich

    All polls are in, Obama smashed Mitt.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  21. rocky

    48 – 40%, yet no clear winner, are you guys kidding?????

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  22. kaloshilo

    President Obama won.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  23. Robert in Havertown

    "Since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24," Clinton said. "In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs. So what's the job score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42."

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |

    Great job Mr. President.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  25. maath class for the math challenged lefties

    For the math challenged leftists in here that haven't graduated 3rd grade, allow me to explain.

    48% with a margin of error of 4.5% becomes 43.5%-52.5%.
    40% with a margin of error of 4.5% becomes 35.5%-44.5%.

    There is a point at which those ranges overlap and thus the results ARE WITHIN THE MARGIN OF ERROR.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53