The Polls are in on the First Debate

It’s been four days since the first presidential debate was held at Hofstra University. There have been several polls taken on who won the first debate, and just like everything else in the 2016 election, the results are mixed.

Traditional polls show Clinton won

The ‘traditional’ polls show Hillary Clinton as the clear winner of the first debate. The HuffPost/YouGov poll had Clinton winning by a 27-point margin, 49 percent for Clinton to 22 percent for Trump. The NBC News/Survey Monkey poll had similar results with 52 percent saying Clinton won and 21 percent saying Trump won. Interestingly, 26 percent stated that neither candidate won. Finally, Public Policy Polling had Clinton ahead 51 percent to 40 percent for Trump.
Post-debate surveys like CNN’s aren’t always popular with poll mavens, in part because the universe of poll-watchers may not match the electorate overall. The voters in CNN’s poll were Democratic-leaning by a net of 15 percentage points, for instance, a considerably wider advantage than Democrats are likely to enjoy on Election Day. — Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight

Online polls give different story

However, online polls taken by several major news outlets showed a different story with Trump leading in the opinion of those who voted. Online polls differ from standard polls in that viewers are invited to vote for one candidate or the other with a click on the computer or smartphone. Critics note that campaigns can manipulate these polls by encouraging their supporters to vote.
Still, these polls get a far larger number of responses and can give a picture of how aggressive each candidate’s supporters are. An online survey sponsored by Time had 1.6 million responses and showed Trump as the winner by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent for Clinton. A CNBC poll had over a million clicks, and Trump was selected the winner by a margin of 67 percent to just 33 percent for Clinton.
Every scientific poll we’ve encountered so far suggests that voters thought Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in Monday night’s debate. — FiveThirtyEight

Clinton gets bump in national polls

Another measure of the candidate’s success in the debate is in their performance in national polls. Real Clear Politics showed that Clinton had improved in the poll averages by about one point over the past week and now holds a 2.9 point lead over Trump in the poll averages. On Thursday the FiveThirtyEight polls-plus model gave Clinton a 63.7 percent chance of winning, to just 36.2 percent for Trump. On the day of the debate, the site gave Clinton smaller odds of winning at 54.8 percent.

Trump momentum stopped

The caveat to all poll data is that polls represent past views, and events can change the numbers in a heartbeat. Still, it seems fairly clear that Hillary Clinton has managed to stop the momentum that had been building for Donald Trump for most of September with her debate performance. Whether or not that trend will continue for Clinton in the weeks ahead is anyone’s guess.

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