It will be a few more days before we get really methodologically rigorous polls measuring how the electorate felt about the second presidential debate, the impact of which will be intermingled with the Trump leaked tape scandal that broke two days earlier.
Still, the early indications suggest that Hillary Clinton has won — though less decisively than she won the first debate.
CNN/ORC conducted a poll of debate watchers — an audience that, the network’s David Chalian pointed out, “skewed a little more Democratic.” The poll found that 57 percent of respondents thought Clinton won, and only 34 percent thought Trump won.
Additionally, YouGov polled 812 registered voters who watched the debate, and found slightly less rosy numbers, but still a narrow win for Clinton. Forty-seven percent thought Clinton won the debate, and 42 percent thought Trump won, according to the poll. Among undecided voters polled, 44 percent thought Clinton won and 41 percent gave the night to Trump.
As for unscientific focus groups, one (from CNN) was a disaster for Trump, with only one participant thinking he won, and one (from Fox News) was fantastic for him, with pollster Frank Luntz proclaiming “he’s back in this race.”
So … those are two very different perspectives, and help illustrate how the results of a focus group are pretty much wholly dependent on who gets picked to participate.
Additionally, research indicates that media judgments about who "won" a debate could help influence voters’ perceptions of who won, so the spin war in the press could prove important in the coming days. And pundits are a bit more divided this time around, with some saying Trump was awful and others arguing that he averted disaster and made a strong case against Clinton.
But the bigger picture is that Trump was losing the election before this debate. There’s no real indication in the post-debate polls so far that he’s helped changed that dynamic.