Who is leading in the polls? Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are still close

One reason Monday night’s debate was so hyped by the media — other than the fact that this was literally Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fighting it out in person for the first time after a whole year of talking shit (ratings! ratings! ratings!) — is that Clinton and Trump are polling awfully close. But who’s leading in the presidential polls? Of course, every poll is slightly different, but let’s examine.

One unsettling national poll by Bloomberg released Monday, before the debate, showed the Republican and Democratic nominees each tied at 46 percent of likely voters in a head-to-head contest, but when third party candidates were included, Trump got 43 percent to Clinton’s 41 percent.

Granted, another poll by Monmouth University released the same day found Clinton leading Trump by four points, but all in all, most polls released immediately ahead of Monday night’s debate were nail-bitingly close. It’s worth noting (and cringing) at the fact that Trump is seriously making gains in critical, battleground states, but there’s one reason you can hold off on phoning a Canadian real estate agent and booking your flight: most Americans by and large think Clinton won the debate. CNN polling found 62 percent of voters who watched think Clinton won, while just 27 percent said they thought Trump did.

Clinton’s perceived victory over Trump in the first debate is no small deal in terms of historical significance and the influence it’s likely to have over the outcome of the election. FiveThirtyEight notes that her victory margin of 35 points is “the third-widest margin ever in a CNN or Gallup post-debate poll,” dating back to 1984. And FiveThirtyEight additionally predicts this debate victory is going to inspire a notable gain in Clinton’s polling. Naturally, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Throughout the night, Clinton exposed Trump’s weaknesses, from his temperament, sexism, and immaturity, to the shadiness of what he’s doing (and not doing via those alleged tax evasions) with his purported billions of dollars. Trump certainly hit back, and interrupted a great deal, but for the first time, it really seemed to matter that he was clearly lacking any real policy plans as he stood next to Clinton, one of the most calculated, policy-oriented politicians out there.

hillary trump debate
CREDIT: Timothy A Clary/Getty Images

It’s worth noting, that competitive races, and even polling that shows Clinton lagging a bit behind Trump, while literally terrifying as all hell, have historically helped candidates a bit. Clinton, throughout the primary season, had an air of inevitability to her, and while this inevitability might have dissuaded Bernie Sanders supporters from voting and gave her an edge, in this general election, it could hold back Americans who aren’t crazy about her from voting.

Meanwhile, the image that it’s entirely possible Trump could actually win would likely move more voters (i.e. those who resent Clinton but would rather not live through the Trump apocalypse) to vote for her.

The election is just a bit more than a month away, and we could speculate and hypothesize for days on end, but nothing will be known for sure until the end of Nov. 8.