Carly Fiorina is widely seen as the winner of the 'Happy Hour' debate, while Marco Rubio and Donald Trump came off best at 9pm – but overall impressions of Rubio have improved while Trump's ratings have slipped
Following last Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, many Republicans went away wanting more. Three in four Republicans in the latest YouGov Poll say they are looking forward to more GOP presidential debates.
For many Republicans, more debate may be necessary. In this poll, only 39% of Republicans say they currently have a good idea of whom they will support in the 2016 GOP primaries and caucuses.
The debate did relatively little to change minds about the 16 men and one woman who participated – though a few, including developer Donald Trump, one of the most positively-viewed candidates before the debate, suffered losses in popularity among Republicans.
The percentage of Republicans with favorable ratings of Trump dropped nine points after the debate; his unfavorable assessments rose five points. But Trump was not the only Republican participating in the primetime debate to drop in popularity. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s ratings worsened even more than Trump’s after the debate. Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio may have gained a bit.
There were a few participants in the earlier debate who also suffered in comparison with the way Republicans viewed them beforehand. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham were all less popular after the debate than they were beforehand.
Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was overwhelmingly viewed as the “winner” of the 5 p.m. debate. 64% of Republicans who saw at least the clips of the debate or viewed it live said Fiorina did the best job, far ahead of the 5% who named Texas Gov. Rick Perry. 59% of Republican viewers said they left the debate with an improved opinion of Fiorina, and just 3% said their opinion got worse. More than a quarter did, however, say their opinion of Graham worsened after the debate.
Overall Republican opinion of Fiorina, including both those who watched the early debate and those who did not, changed little between the pre- and post-debate polls. 46% of Republicans before and after had a favorable impression of Fiorina; at both times, less than one in five were unfavorable.
As for the “main event,” opinion about who did the best was less clear-cut. Trump and Rubio tied for first, but with just 18% and 19% respectively when Republicans were asked which participant won; just over 10% of Republicans viewers said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or neurosurgeon Ben Carson was the winner.
But Republicans who saw some of the debate were much more likely to say their opinions of Carson and Rubio had improved because of it than to say this about any other participants. But Cruz, Huckabee, Kasich, Walker and Trump all received significant positive mentions.
Republicans overwhelmingly liked the use of a live audience during the debate. Just one in ten did not. But there was somewhat less overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Fox News moderators. Under half approved of how they handled the debate, and nearly a third disapproved.
Those Republicans with a favorable view of Trump were even less kind to Fox News. Just about as many disapproved of the moderators as approved of them.