Clinton wins, Trump exceeds expectations, but few move

Clinton: Donald Trump owes America an apology
Clinton: Donald Trump owes America an apology

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Story highlights

  • Most said the way Trump handled the video in the debate didn't change their views on him
  • Neither Trump nor Clinton shifted their favorability ratings among debate watchers

(CNN)Hillary Clinton scored a second victory over Donald Trump in Sunday night's presidential debate, according to debate watchers in a new CNN/ORC poll. But even though he trailed Clinton overall, Trump far exceeded debate watchers' expectations. 

Among voters who watched the debate, 57% said Clinton did the best job in the face-off at Washington University in St. Louis, while just 34% thought Trump did. That's a less commanding victory for Clinton than in the first debate, but she still boosted her edge over Trump among debate watchers on handling the economy and being the stronger leader. 
    More than 6-in-10, however, said Trump did a better job than they expected, while 21% thought he did a worse job than expected. Clinton also exceeded expectations, but by a smaller margin: 39% said she did better than they were expecting her to, while 26% thought she did worse. 
    There was a wide gender gap in perceptions of who won the debate, with 64% of women saying Clinton did the best job vs. 49% of men. 
    Most who watched the debate said that they had heard a great deal about the 2005 video revealed Friday in which Trump used sexually aggressive language during a taping for "Access Hollywood." Most, 59%, said they thought his remarks in that video did reflect his views about women generally, 37% said it did not. Women were more apt to say it reflected his views than men (63% of women thought so vs. 55% of men). 
    Still, most said the way Trump handled the video in the debate didn't change their views on him: 58% were unmoved by it, while one-quarter said they viewed him less favorably after hearing his explanation from the debate stage, and 16% said it improved their view of the Republican presidential candidate.
    Neither Trump nor Clinton shifted their favorability ratings among debate watchers compared with pre-debate measures, but by a wide margin, Clinton was seen as the candidate who cared more about the needs and problems of the audience members who asked the questions (67% said she did vs. 21% who picked Trump). She also was seen as better addressing concerns that voters had about how they would handle the presidency (59% said Clinton did better on that score, 32% Trump). 
    In an incredibly contentious debate, Trump was far more often named as the candidate who spent more time attacking his or her opponent (68% Trump to 16% Clinton, with 15% saying both spent equal time attacking), and Clinton held the edge as having the temperament to serve effectively as president (64% chose Clinton, 27% Trump).
    Debate watchers overall were slightly more likely to be Democrats than the overall population, and they started out largely backing Clinton over Trump when asked whom they'd support for president. Overall, though, few felt their votes would be moved by what they saw from St. Louis Sunday night. A majority, 53%, said the debate did not affect how they would vote, while those that were moved were split between Clinton (25%) and Trump (21%). 
    The CNN/ORC post-debate poll includes interviews with 537 registered voters who watched the October 9 debate. Results among debate watchers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Respondents were originally interviewed as part of an October 5-8 telephone survey of a random sample of Americans, and indicated they planned to watch the debate and would be willing to be re-interviewed when it was over.