Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton went three for three in the presidential debates, according to preliminary polls gauging viewers’ reactions to her final matchup Wednesday against Republican Donald Trump.
YouGov’s scientific online snap poll showed Clinton winning by 10 points, 49 percent to 39 percent, among registered voters who watched the debate. Another 10 percent called the debate a tie.
A 68 percent majority of debate watchers, including more than half of the Republican viewers, thought both candidates should “pledge to accept the result of the election,” the survey found. Trump refused during the debate to say he would accept the outcome of the election.
Viewers were more likely to consider Clinton presidential and well-informed on policies, but were almost evenly divided on which candidate they agreed with more on issues including gun control, taxes, Supreme Court nominations, U.S.-Russia relations and immigration. They generally agreed with Trump on trade policy, 50 percent to 41 percent, according to the poll, but sided with Clinton on the “fairness of U.S. elections,” 50 percent to 39 percent.
A CNN/ORC snap poll, which recontacted people who said in a past poll that they planned to watch the debate, gave Clinton a 13-point win, 52 percent to 39 percent.
The results mark the third consecutive debate win for Clinton. She also got the highest marks in snap polls conducted after the first two debates, and in subsequent national surveys. (The reader surveys that Trump regularly cited as giving him the win aren’t scientific and don’t count as actual polls.)
As we’ve noted before, debate-night polls come with some heavy caveats. They represent a quick snapshot of the audience that tuned in, which often looks substantially different from the electorate as a whole. Snap polls after the first two debates, for instance, leaned Democratic. Snap polls also can’t take into account media coverage after the fact, which can play a substantial role in shaping how the events are viewed.
And, just as importantly, debates ― especially third debates ― generally don’t move the needle in presidential elections.
But with Clinton up by more than 8 points in national polls, a debate that fails to move the needle is an unqualified win for her campaign. Trump would have needed to score a major coup to count the final debate as victory ― and the early results suggest that he didn’t even come close to doing so.
YouGov used an online panel to interview 1,503 registered voters who watched the debate. CNN recontacted voters, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones.