Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate on CNN did what debates usually do, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. It allowed the two leading candidates to make a positive impression on an audience of millions.
More critically, however, the debate allowed front-runner Hillary Clinton to boost her standing among a far bigger base of support, making her the clear winner in the eyes of most Democratic voters.
A 55 percent majority of registered Democratic voters who watched the debate said Clinton won. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who saw a surge in online interest and fundraising, was a distant second, with only 22 percent saying he was the best of the night.
Clinton also saw an uptick in the proportion of Democrats who say they want her to be the party's presidential nominee. Before the debate, 44 percent of registered Democrats said they wanted Clinton to be the nominee. After the debate, the figure had risen to 52 percent.
That movement, however, is thanks to a lower percentage of undecided voters. The number who wanted someone other than Clinton has remained stable. Prior to the debate, 33 percent of Democrats wanted someone else. Post-debate, it was 32 percent.
Democrats tended to think their favored candidate prevailed Tuesday night. Among those who want Clinton to be the nominee, 82 percent thought she was the winner. Only 15 percent of those who prefer someone else said Clinton won, while 61 percent of those people judged Sanders the winner.
The poll also shows that both Clinton and Sanders made good impressions on Democratic voters -- 52 percent said their view of Clinton improved, and 42 percent said the same of Sanders. The difference between candidates disappears if Democratic-leaning independents are included with Democratic voters. Among this larger group, 46 percent say their opinion of each candidate improved.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley saw some boost as well. About one-quarter of Democratic voters who watched the debate said they view O'Malley more favorably, but only 3 percent thought he won the debate.
O'Malley's long-shot rivals fared worse. Fewer than 10 percent of Democratic voters who saw at least part of the debate said it lessened their opinion of Clinton, Sanders, or O'Malley. Former Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) and ex-Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee both took a hit, though, with more than one-fourth of registered Democrats saying they held worse opinions of the two men, and just 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively, impressed by their performances.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Oct. 13 and Oct.14 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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