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Poll Shows Fiorina Beating Clinton in Presidential Election, but It's Close

If the next presidential election were held tomorrow, a respected poll says that Carly Fiorina could beat Hillary Clinton.

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If the next presidential election were held today, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, would stand a reasonable chance of beating Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, a new poll out today suggests.

The latest national poll of voters conducted by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., contains a somewhat contradictory hodgepodge of findings, but it’s the first major poll since Fiorina’s winning performance in last week’s three-hour Republican debate on CNN, and is sure to inject some new momentum into what had previously been a flagging campaign.

First, the poll shows Fiorina in a solid third place for the Republican presidential nomination with support from 12 percent of Republican voters, behind front-runner Donald Trump (25 percent) and the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (17 percent) and slightly ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (10 percent). It’s the first time that support levels for Fiorina have broken into the double-digit range in a major national poll. The August Quinnipiac poll showed her support at 5 percent. Trump’s support fell by 3 percent while Carson’s rose by 5 percent.

Now here’s the contradictory part: Even though Fiorina is not in the lead for the Republican nomination, the portion of the poll devoted to the general election shows her running exceptionally strong against Democratic candidates. Not only that: She’s the only Republican candidate in the entire field who appears to have sufficient strength to beat Clinton.

Asked who they would vote for in a general election, 44 percent of voters surveyed chose Fiorina, to 43 percent for Clinton. Now let’s unpack that a bit.

Predictably, Fiorina’s support on this question was strong with Republican voters (86 percent) and weak with Democrats (5 percent). They drew dead even among independents with 39 percent each.

Other demographic splits are equally interesting. Among male voters, Fiorina beat Clinton handily, 48 percent to 36 percent. Among women, Clinton won (49 percent to 40 percent). Fiorina did better among voters with college degrees than Clinton (48 percent to 43 percent), and was one percentage point behind Clinton among voters without a college degree.

But wait, there’s more: Clinton won among younger voters aged 18 to 34 with a beefy 54 percent lead to Fiorina’s 30 percent. Fiorina beat Clinton among older voters — only slightly in the 35-39 age band, but her support steadily grew among voters in their 50s and older. Fiorina also won among white male voters (56 percent to Clinton’s 29 percent) and white female voters (48 percent to 41 percent), and among white voters generally (52 percent to 35 percent for Clinton). Black voters supported Clinton by an overwhelming 84 percent, as did Hispanic voters, with 63 percent.

The poll shows Clinton beating both Trump and Carson, so Fiorina can now defensibly say she’s the only candidate with a chance of defeating the former U.S. Secretary of State in next year’s election.

The telephone poll surveyed 1,574 voters during the period from Sept. 17 to Sept. 21 and included 737 Republicans and 587 Democratic voters and was said to have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent. It was conducted in English and Spanish according to the respondents preference.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.