Obama Won Final Presidential Debate: CNN Poll

President Barack Obama and Republican Challenger Mitt Romney
President Barack Obama, right, debates with Republican challenger Mitt Romney as moderator Bob Schieffer listens at Lynn University in Boca Raton. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Barack Obama won last night’s debate on foreign policy with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to a CNN/ORC International poll of 448 registered voters who watched the nationally televised event.

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said Obama fared better in the final campaign encounter compared with 40 percent for Romney, according to results aired on CNN. The poll found 51 percent thought Obama seemed to be a stronger leader compared with 46 percent for Romney.

Half of those surveyed by CNN said the debate wouldn’t affect how they planned to vote, while 25 percent said they planned to vote for Romney and 24 percent for Obama. The poll had an error margin of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Last night’s showdown at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, took place amid a tightening presidential race. Romney’s performance in the candidates’ first meeting on Oct. 3 in Denver gave him a boost in national polls. Obama rebounded in their second debate on Oct. 16, though viewers surveyed afterward gave him a less-resounding victory than Romney claimed in the first encounter.

A CBS News/GfK poll of uncommitted voters last night found that 53 percent thought Obama won compared with 23 percent for Romney and 24 percent who considered it a draw. Seventy-one percent said they thought Obama could be trusted to handle an international crisis compared with 49 percent for Romney. The CBS poll of 521 uncommitted voters had an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points.

National Poll

Nationally, Obama and Romney were tied at 47 percent in a national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of likely voters released Oct. 21. The survey of 816 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Surveys over the past week have shown Romney narrowing Obama’s lead in several swing states, those with a history of supporting either party’s presidential candidate. Six of the nine most-closely contested states -- including Iowa, Ohio, Nevada and North Carolina -- had early, in-person voting under way as of yesterday.

In Florida, the biggest prize among the swing states, the candidates were virtually even in an Oct. 17-18 CNN/ORC International poll of likely voters, with 49 percent backing Romney and 48 percent supporting Obama.

The president’s earlier advantage on foreign policy has slipped in some recent voter surveys. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released yesterday found that 49 percent of likely voters said they trusted Obama more to handle international affairs compared with 46 percent for Romney. Obama had led on the question by seven percentage points earlier this month.

Losing Edge

The Obama administration’s handling of international affairs has been criticized by Romney and fellow Republicans, particularly since last month’s attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died.

Last night’s debate, moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News, was dominated by questions about U.S. policy in the Middle East and in combatting terrorism.

Romney faulted Obama for what he described as growing threats in Syria, Libya and Iran. While congratulating Obama for the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the former Massachusetts governor called for the U.S. to have a “comprehensive strategy” to stamp out extremism.

Obama touted his credentials as commander in chief and accused Romney of lacking a coherent foreign policy vision and instead pressing strategies that are “all over the map.”

First Debates

After the first presidential debate almost three weeks ago in Denver, 67 percent of those surveyed by CNN said Romney fared better compared with 25 percent for Obama, according to results aired by the cable channel afterward. The CNN post-debate poll on Oct. 3 interviewed 430 Americans and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The second debate, a town-hall style event, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, featured questions from undecided voters. Forty-six percent of registered voters surveyed afterward said Obama fared better compared with 39 percent for Romney, according to a CNN poll. The poll of 457 registered voters who watched the event had an error margin of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE