Omi­nous signs for Don­ald Trump in new post-de­bate poll

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - >> By­ron York By­ron York Colum­nist By­ron York is chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Washington Ex­am­iner.

A new Fox News na­tional poll sug­gests Don­ald Trump suf­fered real dam­age in his first de­bate with Hil­lary Clin­ton -- not just los­ing the de­bate, but slid­ing in some key mea­sures of voter con­fi­dence in his abil­ity to serve as pres­i­dent.

Com­pared to the same poll’s re­sults be­fore the de­bate, Clin­ton’s stand­ing im­proved rel­a­tive to Trump’s in three im­por­tant ar­eas: which can­di­date would best han­dle the econ­omy, which can­di­date has the tem­per­a­ment to serve as pres­i­dent and which can­di­date is hon­est and trust­wor­thy.

First, the over­all num­bers. In the poll, con­ducted last Tues­day, Wed­nes­day, and Thursday, 58 per­cent of likely vot­ers said Clin­ton won the de­bate, ver­sus just 19 per­cent who said Trump won, 11 per­cent who said it was a tie, and 12 per­cent who said they didn’t know. That’s three times as many vot­ers who thought Clin­ton won as thought Trump won.

Democrats, by a 91 per­cent to 4 per­cent mar­gin, thought Clin­ton was the vic­tor. Repub­li­cans, by a 35 per­cent to 26 per­cent mar­gin, thought Trump won. (Nine­teen per­cent of Repub­li­cans thought it was a tie.) Among in­de­pen­dents, Clin­ton won by a 4622 mar­gin.

So vot­ers think Clin­ton won, which is the same re­sult as other polls in re­cent days. But the larger ques­tion is what ef­fect, if any, the de­bate had on the over­all course of the race.

In the horse race, Fox found Clin­ton lead­ing Trump among likely vot­ers 43 per­cent to 40 per­cent in a four-way con­test, with Gary Johnson at eight per­cent and Jill Stein at four per­cent. The Fox poll­sters found more change in the head-to-head race among likely vot­ers, with Clin­ton now lead­ing Trump 49 per­cent to 44 per­cent. In the pre­de­bate Fox poll, Trump led Clin­ton 46 per­cent to 45 per­cent -- so that’s a six-point net change be­fore and af­ter the de­bate.

So there has been an in­signif­i­cant change in the four-way race and a sig­nif­i­cant change in the two-way. It’s not clear which is more mean­ing­ful.

But other num­bers are clearly omi­nous for Trump.

Be­fore the de­bate, Trump had a 51 per­cent to 44 per­cent lead when Fox asked likely vot­ers who would best han­dle the econ­omy. Af­ter the de­bate, Trump’s lead was down to 49 per­cent to 47 per­cent -- a seven-point lead cut to a two-point lead.

Be­fore the de­bate, Fox found 59 per­cent of likely vot­ers said Clin­ton had the tem­per­a­ment to serve as pres­i­dent; af­ter the de­bate, the num­ber went to 67 per­cent. Trump’s tem­per­a­ment num­ber stayed nearly the same, 38 per­cent be­fore the de­bate to 37 per­cent af­ter. Clin­ton’s 21-point pre-de­bate lead on the ques­tion be­came a 30-point post­de­bate lead.

Be­fore the de­bate, 39 per­cent of Fox re­spon­dents said Trump is hon­est and trust­wor­thy. Af­ter the de­bate, that num­ber fell to 31 per­cent. Clin­ton’s hon­est and trust­wor­thy rat­ing re­mained vir­tu­ally the same: 34 per­cent be­fore the de­bate ver­sus 35 per­cent af­ter the de­bate. That’s a nine-point net change. The de­bate didn’t change likely vot­ers’ views on Clin­ton’s email prob­lem or Trump’s tax re­turns.

There have been a lot of polls, method­olog­i­cally sound and oth­er­wise, since Mon­day’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate. But it takes a while for the ef­fect of a de­bate to per­co­late through the elec­torate. Vot­ers who watched the de­bate think about what they’ve seen, dis­cuss it with fam­ily and friends, and watch and read news cov­er­age. Vot­ers who didn’t watch form opin­ions from cov­er­age and word of mouth. It all takes a few days.

Now the first real ef­fects of the de­bate are be­com­ing clear. And they are not good news for Don­ald Trump.

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