Pundits—from the liberal stooges at Slate to cable talking heads to conservatives at the National Review to Republican operatives like Frank Luntz—generally felt on Monday night that Hillary Clinton had a better debate performance than Donald Trump. But who cares what pundits think? Let’s take it to the American people!
Unfortunately, the most meaningful indexes of how the debate changed what the American people think—new polls of likely voters taken entirely after Monday’s debate—won’t be out for several days. But what we do have are two quick polls that cover what debate viewers thought.
- A PPP poll found that viewers thought Clinton had won the debate by a 51-40 margin. Among that group, 40 percent of viewers said the debate had made them more likely to vote for Clinton vs. 35 percent who said it’d made them more likely to vote for Trump.
- A CNN/ORC poll found that 62 percent of viewers thought Clinton won vs. 27 percent who thought Trump did so. That’s the most lopsided result in CNN’s data set, which goes back until 1984, except for Romney smoking Obama 67–25 at their first debate in 2012 and a Bill Clinton triumph over George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot in 1992.* Of CNN’s respondents, 34 percent said the debate had made them more likely to vote for Clinton while 18 percent said it had made them more likely to vote for Trump.
It’s impossible to say with this limited data how many truly undecided voters had their minds changed Monday night, but at the least it’s evidence that HRC didn’t underwhelm the the expectation that she would perform more competently than Trump. She definitely went right out there and whelmed!
*Correction, Sept. 27: This post originally misstated that Clinton’s victory was the second-largest in CNN/ORC’s data set. It was the third-largest victory.