President Obama won Tuesday night’s presidential debate by narrow margins in two surveys taken immediately after the 90-minute town-hall forum ended.
In a CBS News poll, 37 percent of 525 uncommitted voters who watched the debate declared Obama the winner, compared to 30 percent who said the same of Romney; 33 percent said it was a tie. A CNN ORC International poll of 457 registered voters gave the debate to the president by a 7 percentage point margin, 46 percent to 39 percent.
The CBS News poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; the CNN poll's margin is 4.5 points.
Despite Obama’s slight edge overall, Romney was seen as better able to handle most issues.
The trend was most notable in the CNN poll: he had an 18-point edge among registered voters on the economy (58 percent to Obama's 40 percent ); a 3-point edge on health care (49 percent to 46 percent); a 7-point edge on taxes (51 percent to 44 percent); and, largest of all, a 23-point edge on the deficit (59 percent to 36 percent).
Obama’s only lead in the CNN poll was a slim one on foreign policy: 2 percent more of the registered voters who watched the debate said he would handle the issue better (49 percent to 47 percent for Romney).
In the CBS poll, 65 percent of respondents also said Romney would handle the economy better after the debate (though that decreased from 71 percent before the debate). Only 34 percent said Obama would handle the economy better, but that was a jump of 7 percentage points.
Personal metrics were split a bit more evenly. Forty-nine percent of those in the CNN poll said Romney was the stronger leader, compared to 46 percent for Obama. The president still had a lead on likeability by a margin of 47 percent to 41 percent. He was also perceived as caring more about the audience by a margin of 4 points, but also as spending more time on the attack by a 14-points one.
Among uncommitted voters surveyed in the CBS poll, 56 percent said the president would do a better job of helping the middle class, compared to only 43 percent who said the same of Romney.
Neither candidate won a majority when CNN asked if they offered a clear plan to solve the country’s problems, though Romney was closer: 49 percent said he did, and 50 percent said he did not. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they thought Obama had a clear plan, but a full 61 percent said they did not.
The expectations game clearly favored Obama: 73 percent of the registered voters in the CNN poll said he did better than expected, 10 percent said he did worse, and 16 percent said he did the same as they expected. Thirty-seven people said Romney performed better, 28 percent said worse, and 33 percent said the same.
The final word from the CNN respondents? Twenty-five percent said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney, and 25 percent said the same for Obama.
In the CBS survey, 56 percent of uncommitted voters were not affiliated with a political party; 21 percent identified as Republicans, and 23 percent as Democrats.
The CNN poll included 33 percent each of registered voters who identified as Democrats and Republicans. The network noted the sample was about 8 percentage points more Republican than the general public in an average of CNN polls from 2012.
Instant polls conducted by both outlets after the first debate on Oct. 3 declared Romney the winner, with voters in the CNN instant poll giving the former Massachusetts governor a 42-point margin.
The CBS News poll surveyed a nationwide random sample of 525 uncommitted voters who watched the debate. The poll,was conducted online using GfK’s web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population.
The CNN poll surveyed 457 registered voters nationwide by telephone after they had watched the debate.