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Poll: Who won the second Democratic debate?

By Anthony Salvanto, Jennifer De Pinto, Sarah Dutton and Fred Backus

Immediately after Saturday night's Democratic debate, CBS News interviewed a nationally representative sample of debate watchers assembled by GfK's Knowledge Panel who identified themselves as Democrats or independents. By a 23 point margin, these debate watchers say Hillary Clinton won the debate. Fifty-one percent say Clinton won, compared to 28 percent who favor Bernie Sanders. Just 7 percent pick Martin O'Malley as the winner. Fourteen percent called it a tie.

Among Democrats, Clinton is seen as winning by more than two to one, while independents are split between Clinton and Sanders.

Handling the Issues

In light of the terrorist attacks on Friday night in Paris, Saturday night's debate shifted much of its focus to foreign policy, terrorism, and addressing the threat posed by the Islamic militant group ISIS. On these topics, Clinton scores a commanding lead over her rivals. More than six in 10 Democrats and independents who watched the debate think Hillary Clinton would do the best job on each of these measures, compared to about a quarter who pick Sanders, and about one in 10 who pick O'Malley.

But on domestic issues, views are more mixed. While Clinton has a slight lead over Sanders on handling gun policy (43 - 36 percent), Sanders beats Clinton by almost two to one on handling income inequality. When it comes to the economy and jobs, Clinton and Sanders are about even. O'Malley trails both candidates on all of these by a wide margin.

Candidate Qualities

Large majorities of Democratic and independent debate watchers see both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as having strong qualities of leadership, though Clinton leads Sanders on this measure by thirteen percentage points - 83 percent to 70 percent. About half think Martin O'Malley is a strong leader.

About seven in 10 see both Clinton and Sanders as sharing their values, and six in 10 say the same of O'Malley.

Honesty remains Clinton's biggest weakness. Though a majority thinks she is honest and trustworthy, Clinton (58 percent) trails both Sanders (86 percent) and O'Malley (76 percent) by double digits on this measure.

Democrat and independent debate watchers are more likely to say the debate improved their opinions of all three candidates instead of making their opinions worse, though even more say the debate didn't make a difference.


This CBS News poll was conducted online using GfK's web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 674 voters who identified themselves as Democrat or independent who watched the debate.

GfK's KnowledgePanel®'s participants are initially chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, GfK provides at no cost a device to connect to the internet.

This is a scientifically representative poll of these voters' reaction to the debate. The margin of sampling error could be plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

CBS News Poll: Hillary Clinton maintains lead among Democrats after debate