Date
25 March 2017
Though experts and TV polls suggest Hillary Clinton won the first round of the US presidential debates, online polls indicate Donald Trump actually gained more supporters after the debate. Photo: Reuters
Though experts and TV polls suggest Hillary Clinton won the first round of the US presidential debates, online polls indicate Donald Trump actually gained more supporters after the debate. Photo: Reuters

Did Trump really lose first presidential debate?

The US presidential debates kicked off Monday night (Tuesday morning in Hong Kong), and it’s widely believed that Hillary Clinton won the first round.

That reminds us of the situation before the Brexit vote in June, when all experts, academics and so-called smart money said Britain would choose to stay in the European Union.

The Mexican peso soared against the US dollar as Trump and Clinton faced off on live television.

In fact, the Mexican currency has become a key gauge of the thinking of the smart money.

And the smart money seems to believe that Trump, who advocates a protectionist policy against Mexico, stands a slim chance of winning in the Nov. 8 election.

There is also wide consensus among experts that Clinton won the first round of the debates without any question.

The political news website Politico has formed a team of politicians, party members and commentators from various “swing” states.

Republicans and Democrats have equal representation in this team.

After watching the first round, 79 percent of the team members thought Clinton won, while only 21 percent thought Trump did better.

A snap post-debate poll from CNN also shows 62 to 27 percent in favor of Clinton.

Nevertheless, two others polls showed a different picture.

Polls by NJ.com and the  Drudge Report showed that 60 percent and 70 percent, respectively, thought Trump won the first debate.

Trump had a slight lead in approval ratings in both websites before the debate, and his support rate has gone up after the first round.

Why are the poll results so different?

In its poll, CNN randomly called its respondents and asked them who they thought performed better.

Respondents answered in a passive way, but that does not necessarily mean they would actually vote.

On the other hand, NJ.com and the Drudge Report conducted online polls.

Online polls many have some flaws, such as a respondent using multiple devices to vote more than once. Even non-US citizens could participate.

But those who voted were voluntarily expressing their views.

Those polled by CNN might objectively think that Clinton defeated Trump in their first debate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to vote for her.

It should also be mentioned that during the debate, Trump garnered 62 percent of the tweets, way above the 38 percent for Clinton.

That shows that Trump’s remarks were being talked about more.

The fact is, even if Trump had outperformed during the debate, he would not be able to win over Clinton’s supporters.

His strategy is fairly clear. He makes controversial comments to consolidate his support base and attract the still undecided voters.

As such, he did well in the first debate by sticking to his populist views and comments.

There are two more presidential debates before the election.

Investors may have to prepare for the unexpected.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 28.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RT/CG

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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