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Poll: After Debate, Women Think Less of Trump and Better of Clinton

Twenty-seven percent of likely women voters said the 2016 debate worsened their opinion of Trump. Nearly a third said their opinion of Clinton had improved.
Image: Trump and Clinton greet one another as they take the stage for their first debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S.
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greet one another as they take the stage for their first debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on September 26, 2016.JONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

Donald Trump has said, “I would be the best for women.” But according to a new NBC News|SurveyMoney poll taken after the first presidential debate, a majority of women aren’t convinced.

Twenty-seven percent of likely women voters said the debate made them think worse of Trump. Meanwhile, nearly a third, or 30 percent, said their opinion of Clinton had improved, compared to 22 percent of men. Women were also far likelier to say Clinton won the debate, by a 10-point margin over men.

“I’m undecided, but I’m leaning more towards Hillary than I ever have before because of the debate,” said Joan Hume, a 71-year-old retiree in Fairfield, Ohio who said she voted for Trump in the Republican primary because she wanted to “see Washington shaken up.”

Hume added, “There’s a side of him that’s scary to me that I’m seeing more of. I thought maybe he would change when he got the nomination, but he’s getting worse.”

Only 11 percent of women voters said their opinion of Trump had improved after the debate. Thirteen percent said their opinion of Clinton had worsened, compared to 21 percent of men who thought less of Clinton after seeing her debate.

Women were also likelier, by a 12-point margin, to doubt Trump’s personality and temperament, while men were likelier to doubt Clinton’s, by a near-identical margin of 13 points.

Trump fared particularly poorly with independent women when they were asked if he has the “temperament and personality to serve.” Eighty percent of independent female voters said he does not. By contrast, independent women voters were more evenly split on Clinton’s personality and temperament, with 51 percent saying she met the test for president.

“I was a little bit taken aback. I understand that Donald Trump is a passionate person, but in situations like that I believe he needed to pull back and not quite be so combative,” said Kathryn Fink, a 63-year-old library technician in Kirtland, Ohio who was undecided before the debate.

“If at all just based on that first debate,” Fink said, “I would say I swing towards Clinton. I thought her owning up to some of her mistakes, that was pretty good.”

Though Clinton didn't come out and call Trump deplorable in the debate, she did highlight some of his comments on women. "This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs, and someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers," she said.

In partial response, Trump said, "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 and nobody feels sorry for her."

Clinton also prominently featured the story of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe whom Trump taunted for gaining weight, both in the debate and in a subsequent video. The next morning, Trump said on television of Machado, "She was the worst we ever had — the worst, the absolute worst ... She gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem."

On MSNBC Wednesday, Trump supporter and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn conceded that the Machado back-and-forth was "not helpful. And there are some things that can be less than helpful."

Liz Fiala, a Trump supporter in Iowa, told NBC News' Jacob Rascon of the Machado controversy, "The way he talked about it was wrong and they baited him. He took the bait. I wish he would pause, take a deep breath, and explain it in the context of Miss Universe."

For all of the blowback on Trump's performance in the debate, the NBC News|Survey Monkey poll found that 68 percent of Trump supporters, both men and women, said their opinion of him hadn't changed because of it.

"I believe there is a side of Trump we don't get to see," said Fiala.

Overall, the poll found that a majority of likely voters (52 percent) who either watched the debate or said they followed debate coverage in the news said Hillary Clinton won. Twenty-one percent thought Trump won, and 26 percent said neither had.