A Trumptastic start to the most interesting week of presidential polling this year so far, which should answer the question, “How much does a debate watched by 24 million people really matter?” If you’re a Trump-hater, good news: This was an online poll, and you know to be wary of online polls. Wait for your Gallup/NYT/WaPo/CBS/NBC/ABC/CNN/Fox polls before forming any judgments.
If you’re a Trump-lover, one word: Yuge.
If you’re having trouble reading the graph, that’s Trump with 32 percent (up from 25 last week), Jeb Bush with 11, Ben Carson with nine, and Scott Walker and Marco Rubio tied with six. Is that result plausible, something we should expect other polls this week to replicate? Well, you tell me. Trump did have double-digit leads in several pre-debate polls last week — 11 points, specifically, according to CBS, Fox, and Bloomberg and even bigger leads in some others (14 points in Monmouth and 16 points in Rasmussen). A 21-point lead now wouldn’t be an unfathomable jump from those starting points, especially given the size of the debate’s audience. Likewise, Morning Consult detected some modest upward movement here for Carly Fiorina, rising from one percent last week to three percent now along with a sharp spike in her favorable rating. That’s the sort of thing you’d expect an accurate poll to capture given the consensus view that Fiorina’s performance was the biggest standout on Thursday night.
On the other hand, the whole reason Team Trump did so much grumbling on Thursday night was that they thought Megyn Kelly poisoned the TV audience against him by confronting him with things he’d said about women. As Greg Gutfeld put it afterward, Trump’s boasts about having clearly won the debate notwithstanding, “which team lost? the one complaining about the refs.” Could be that even Trump’s own campaign misjudged how effective he was at the debate, but a decisive win to the tune of seven more points in the polls would be … surprising. Then again, if you’re one of the people who thinks polls are still mostly about name recognition at this point, it’s not surprising at all. If there are nine random people on a stage plus a guy who’s been nationally famous for 30 years, the famous guy is apt to stand out in people’s minds afterward.
More polls to come later this week, hopefully even later today. Stand by.