Carly Fiorina's second Republican Debate victory

Carly Fiorina's second Republican Debate victory
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Carly Fiorina is widely seen as having outperformed her rivals in the latest Republican debate

Last week’s GOP debate brought new focus to former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in her race for the Republican Presidential nomination – as both Republican and non-Republican debate viewers in the latest HuffPost?/YouGov Poll saw her as the clear winner, both in her debate performance and in the news coverage that came afterwards.

The current frontrunner, Donald Trump, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio were each named by at least one in ten Republican viewers as the debate winner, far fewer than the percentage of Republicans who named Fiorina..

Fiorina’s “victory” comes after her win in last month’s second tier-Fox News/Facebook debate and her successful challenge to the CNN debate rules, achieving a place in last week’s prime time debate.  This time, there was no contender in the early debate who stood out as Fiorina did last month: 21% of Republicans viewers thought Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was the winner of the early debate; 16% named South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham.  Relatively few viewers said their opinions of any of the participants had changed much: just 23% said their opinion of Jindal, who registered the most positive change, had improved.

Fiorina also finished first when those who had seen or read about the debate were asked who received the best media coverage.  More than half of Republicans said that was Fiorina.

If Fiorina was the big winner, there may have been a few losers.   More Republicans who watched the debate said their opinions of Donald Trump and Tennessee Senator Rand Paul had gotten worse because of the debate than said they have gotten better.  As they had after the first debate, opinions of Rubio also improved.   Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whose image improved among many Republicans after the first debate, did not get the same boost from last week’s meeting.  For some candidates like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, results from this debate were mixed. 

The debate was the most-watched CNN event in history.  Nearly half of Republicans in the poll said they had watched all or some of it.  Viewership did not quite reach the level of the Fox News August debate, and Republican viewers were less likely to approve of the way the CNN moderators handled the questions than they were evaluating the Fox moderators.  Just about as many Republicans viewers disapproved of the CNN moderators as approved of the way they did their job. 

Republicans are still clamoring for more debates, however.  Nearly three in four say they are looking forward to more of them. 

That may be because many potential Republican voters have yet to truly make up their minds.  Just 38% of Republicans say they have a good idea who they will vote for in their state’s primary or caucus next year; 53% of Democrats say they know whom they will support.    

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.

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