Voters Say Hillary Clinton Won Last Saturday's Debate

If a candidate wins a debate that nobody watched, does it make a difference?
Hillary Clinton speaks during the second Democratic presidential primary debate in the Sheslow Auditorium of Drake Unive
Hillary Clinton speaks during the second Democratic presidential primary debate in the Sheslow Auditorium of Drake University on Nov. 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. A HuffPost/YouGov poll found that Clinton is seen as the debate "winner."

Hillary Clinton was the victor in last week's little-watched Democratic debate, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey of voters who belong to or lean toward the Democratic Party.

Just 8.5 million viewers tuned in last Saturday night, the smallest audience yet for any presidential debate during this election cycle.

But among Democratic voters who saw at least clips or highlights of the debate, 49 percent named Clinton the winner, with 22 percent naming Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 5 percent naming Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, and 23 percent saying that nobody won or that they're not sure who performed the best. Those who watched part or all of the debate named Clinton the winner over Sanders by a wider, 40-point margin.

The debate modestly improved voters' opinions of all three candidates.

There's little sign, however, that the debate altered the larger trajectory of the Democratic primary, which has remained mostly stable over the past month. The margin by which Clinton was seen as the winner closely mirrors her margin in national horserace polls, suggesting that viewers' opinions of who did best were mostly based on who they were backing to begin with.

The event did, though, underscore some of the policy differences between the candidates. Foreign policy, which was mentioned prominently in Saturday's discussion, is an area of strength for Clinton. A majority of all Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said they trust Clinton the most to handle foreign policy and the fight against the Islamic State group, with fewer than one-fifth preferring Sanders on either topic.

Sanders, who criticized Clinton's reliance on Wall Street donors, holds a modest advantage on that issue, with Democratic voters saying by a 9-point margin that they're more likely to trust him than Clinton to deal with Wall Street and big banks.

 The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Nov. 16-18 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls' methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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Scenes From Democratic Debate No. 2