It’s clear from the polls taken after the first presidential debate (http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum) that Hillary Clinton soundly defeated Donald Trump. Clinton met her pre-debate objectives while Trump did not.
One of Clinton’s primary objectives was to increase the enthusiasm of her supporters. A post-debate NBC News poll (http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/data-points/poll-majority-voters-say-clinton-won-first-presidential-debate-n656231) found that 50 percent of registered Democrats said their opinion of Clinton had “changed for the better” (whereas 46 percent of registered Republicans said their opinion of Trump had “changed for the worse.”).
Moreover, the presidential poll reflected favorably on Clinton. A Democracy Corps’ “live dial meter focus group” found that during the debate Clinton’s favorability rating shifted by +33 percent. (http://www.wvwvaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Dcor_Debate-Dials_Memo_9.27.2016_for-release.pdf) Clinton’s support increased white white unmarried women and white working-class voters.
Besides enthusiasm and favorability, Clinton’s objectives were to tighten her lead among women, Hispanics, and African-Americans.
Going into the debate, female voters tended to prefer Clinton by approximately 10 percentage points (http://presidentialgenderwatch.org/polls/womens-vote-watch/presidential-polling-data/). This gender gap is likely to increase because of Trump’s statements about women in the debate. Clinton said Trump, “has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs… he called [Alicia Machado] ‘Miss Piggy’… ‘Miss Housekeeping’ because she was Latina.” Trump responded, “Somebody who’s been very vicious to me, Rosie O’Donnell. I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it…”
The NBC news poll (http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/data-points/poll-majority-voters-say-clinton-won-first-presidential-debate-n656231) indicated that after the debate 30 percent of female viewers said their opinion of Clinton had changed for the better (while 27 percent of female voters said their opinion of Trump had changed for the worse).
Going into the debate, Trump sought to improve his ratings with African-Americans. (A late August PPP poll found that Trump had a zero favorability rating with African-American voters [http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/293752-trumps-popularity-with-african-american-voters-polling-at].) During the debate, Trump had three opportunities to improve his rating. The debate moderator, Lester Holt, asked both candidates about healing the racial divide. Trump responded the answer was “law and order.” Trump proposed to enforce this with a national “stop and frisk” policy (when questioned, he denied this is a form of racial profiling.)
Lester Holt followed up with question about Trump’s “birther” history: “What do you say to American, people of color, [about this]?” Trump responded, “I say nothing because I was able to get [President Obama] to produce [his long-form birth certificate].”
Clinton responded that Trump “has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our fist black president was not an American citizen.” She added, “[Trump] has a long history of engaging in racist behavior.”
Donald Trump’s debate objectives included looking presidential and demonstrating mature temperament. The debate split screen showed a cheerful and confident Clinton contrasted with a dour and truculent Trump — Donald didn’t look presidential.
Late in the debate, Trump boasted, “I also have a much better temperament than [Hillary] has.” The audience laughed. At least in the first debate, Hillary Clinton appeared to have a much better temperament than Donald Trump.