The weirdest thing about the post-debate poll angst on the right is that literally no one on either side thinks Clinton delivered a knockout blow. Every scientific poll taken shows that she won, but nothing happened on Monday that would preclude Trump from undoing any gains she might enjoy this week in the next debate. It’d be easy and judicious to greet numbers like this by shrugging and saying, “Fine, he had an off night, but it doesn’t much matter. He’ll be better prepared from now on.” Entrenched resistance to unfavorable data, even when it’s obviously ephemeral and not game-changing, is one of the worst byproducts of partisan media.
Anyway. SurveyMonkey’s polls are online polls, but not the same way that the Drudge Report’s poll widget is an online poll. The sample is random, not self-selecting. SurveyMonkey chooses several thousand people among the millions who take their other polls each day and asks them for feedback. It then weights the results accordingly to try to mirror America’s national demographics. (They explain their methodology here.) They’re trying to gauge what national opinion looks like, just like Breitbart and Gravis did. Drudge isn’t trying to gauge anything except the opinion of his regular readers plus anyone who was directed to his site by other sites that linked to the poll in hopes of influencing the result. He’s not weighting the results to reflect the overall make-up of the population. It’s a brilliant traffic ploy — he knows that pro-Trump and (to a much lesser extent) pro-Hillary sites will link his poll in hopes of running up the score for their candidate. But that’s really all it is.
A majority of likely voters (52 percent) who either watched the debate or said they followed debate coverage in the news said Hillary Clinton won the first presidential debate on Monday night, according to the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Debate Reaction Poll. Just 21 percent of likely voters thought Donald Trump won the debate, and 26 percent said neither candidate won the debate…
Clinton received high marks for appearing presidential, confident and composed during the debate, while Trump received some criticism for seeming impatient and unprepared. Overall, a slight majority of likely voters said that they agree that Clinton has the temperament to serve effectively (53 percent), while a sizable majority said that Trump does not have the temperament to serve effectively as president (63 percent).
Clinton did do better than Trump in terms of temperament, but even she finished just 44/55 among independents on whether her temperament leaves her fit to serve or not. Overall, she did nothing to help herself with Republicans or even independents, really, but she might have helped herself with young and minority Democrats who have been lukewarm to her so far. She needs those people out in force on Election Day to counter Trump’s white working-class support. Given the Democratic numbers here, she may have improved the chances of that happening:
Among Republicans, opinions of Trump changed for the better by a comparatively modest 26 percent versus 68 percent who reported no change. Among independents, nine percent said their opinion of Trump changed for the better versus 22 percent who said it changed for the worse. Not an ideal result, but nothing that can’t be fixed at the next debate. Same deal (I think?) with opinions among women: Clinton improved on balance by splitting 30/13 when women were asked if their opinion of her changed for the better or for the worse while Trump split 11/27. Maybe the Alicia Machado thing worked, at least briefly.
There’s a new general poll of the election out today by Echelon Insights, incidentally, but it doesn’t tell us much about whether Clinton’s getting a bounce because Echelon doesn’t conduct polls week by week. There’s no recent yardstick to measure this against. You can infer a bounce given that a five-point national lead is larger than the margins in most other national polls right now, but all we’re really doing is guessing. It could be that Echelon’s methodology would have produced a five-point Clinton lead before the debate too.
Echelon Insights *post-debate* poll 9/26-27
1,529 LVs (Internet)
— Echelon (@EchelonInsights) September 28, 2016
For what it’s worth, here’s how NBC is spinning debate reaction within Team Trump today:
Mood in Trump world is darker than unusual. 1 source says debate was a "disaster." 2nd: might hire debate coaches. 3rd: He's a fast learner.
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) September 28, 2016
source close to Trump tells @KatyTurNBC candidate's children unhappy w/Bannon/Conway/Bossie leadership, think campaign is hurting business
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) September 28, 2016
Trump's personal response to my reporting: pic.twitter.com/voUA4jmcyy
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) September 28, 2016
Other campaign sources also dispute the “dark” mood characterization, saying everything’s fine internally. I believe them because, again, it’s stupid to freak out over one mediocre debate that’ll probably end up helping Trump on balance by scaring him into preparing more diligently for the next one. There’s nothing the media loves more than a comeback narrative too, even if it involves a candidate they despise. They’ll be primed at the townhall debate on October 9th to ooh and ahh over a “cooler, better informed Mr. Trump” or whatever. And even if Clinton won on Monday night, there are good reasons to think Trump succeeded in his core task, which is keeping undecideds from getting too comfortable with her. Rush Limbaugh made that point yesterday but Michael Barone makes it more effectively here. Trump’s job was to convince marginal voters that Clinton is the ultimate status quo candidate, the supposedly smart and well-informed establishment figure whose most important policy choices, especially internationally, invariably to turn to garbage. Why should you trust her to be a good leader? He got that message across. Now he’s set up for debate two.