Poll: Debate performance gives Clinton edge over Trump

Emily Swanson
Associated Press

Washington — Americans see Hillary Clinton as the clear winner over Donald Trump in this year’s presidential debates, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. The survey shows commanding advantages for Clinton heading into the final days of the campaign.

Here are some things to know about American’s opinions about the presidential election from the new poll:

Clinton the big debate winner

Likely voters overwhelmingly think Clinton did better than Trump in the three presidential debates, by a 69 percent to 29 percent margin. And 34 percent say the debates made them more likely to vote for Clinton, while just 18 percent say they’re more likely to support Trump.

Clinton’s performance may have even helped her with Republicans, 37 percent of whom say she won and 9 percent of whom say they were more likely to vote for Clinton because of them. Just 1 percent of Democrats say the debates made them more likely to support Trump.

The Democratic nominee holds a 14 point advantage overall among likely voters in the poll, 51-37, in part because of Republicans unwilling to say they’ll support the nominee — including some willing to cross the aisle and support Clinton. Nine percent of Republicans in the poll, including 15 percent of moderate to liberal Republicans, say they’re at least leaning toward supporting Clinton. Four percent of Democrats say they’re supporting Trump.

Overall, 90 percent of Democrats say they’re supporting their nominee, while 79 percent of Republicans are supporting theirs.

Voters are increasingly certain that Clinton will ultimately win, the AP-GfK poll shows. Seventy-four percent of likely voters say they think she will be the winner, up from 63 percent in September.

Uptick in ratings of Clinton

Although voters are still more likely to have an unfavorable than a favorable view of Clinton, her ratings have improved slightly in the past month. Forty-six percent of likely voters now say they have a favorable view of the former secretary of state, and 51 percent an unfavorable one.

In September, 42 percent rated her favorably and 54 percent unfavorably. Meanwhile, just 34 percent have a favorable view of Trump, while 64 percent hold an unfavorable view of the billionaire businessman.

Clinton supporters are more likely than Trump supporters to say major factors behind their support include that their candidate has the best positions on the issues (75 percent to 65 percent), is the strongest leader (74 percent to 57 percent) and is most qualified to be president (86 percent to 39 percent).

Opposition to the other candidate is a major factor for supporters of both, but more so for Trump’s backers than Clinton’s, 86 percent to 79 percent. Trump’s supporters are more likely than Clinton’s to say a major reason for voting for their candidate is that it sends a message to the political establishment, 62 percent to 36 percent.

High on Obama

There are signs that many Americans aren’t actually looking for dramatic changes. Fifty-five percent now approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, up from 51 percent in September.

On the other hand, 52 percent of likely voters say they would most likely vote for someone else even if Obama could run for a third term.

Narrower gap on Congress

The poll shows voters are slightly more likely to prefer Democratic than Republican control of Congress, by a 5 point margin. Nine in 10 Democratic and Republican voters alike prefer their own party to have control.

Still, the poll points to difficulties for the Republican Party moving forward. Just 36 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of the party, while 61 percent have an unfavorable one.

By contrast, Americans are divided evenly, 49-49, in their favorable versus unfavorable assessments of the Democratic Party.

Alternate matchups

If Mike Pence were the GOP nominee instead of Trump, the poll shows a dramatically tighter race against Clinton, or in a matchup against her running mate, Tim Kaine, if he were the Democratic nominee.

Clinton leads Trump by far among likely voters in a head-to head matchup, if third party candidates aren’t an option. But in a hypothetical matchup with Pence, Clinton’s margin becomes only 4 percentage points.

If the vice presidential nominees were atop the ticket, the poll shows a nearly tied race. But Kaine leads Trump in a hypothetical matchup by a 16 point margin.

One reason for the difference is that Republicans appear more willing to support Pence than Trump. The 79 percent of Republican likely voters who say they’re supporting Trump this year rises slightly to 85 percent if forced to choose only between Trump and Clinton. But 91 percent say they would support Pence in a head to head matchup against Clinton, and 93 percent against Kaine.

In general, Republicans like Pence better than they like Trump. Eighty-one percent of Republican voters have a favorable view of Pence, while just 68 percent say the same of Trump.

Overall, voters are more likely to have a favorable than unfavorable opinion of both Pence (45 percent to 36 percent) and Kaine (44 percent to 31 percent).

About the poll

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,546 adults, including 1,212 likely voters, was conducted online Oct. 20-24, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.75 percentage points, and for likely voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t have access to the internet were provided access for free.