A new NBC poll has gotten a lot of attention today for suggesting that Donald Trump won the Republican debate on Thursday. And maybe he did! But I’d take the results with a grain of salt. Here’s why:
- As the chart on the right shows, Trump’s support didn’t increase. It stayed where it was. The big gainers were Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson.
- It was an overnight poll. So it might reflect what viewers thought of the debate itself, but it doesn’t take account of the weekend fallout over Trump’s post-debate treatment of Megyn Kelly. Nor does it take into account the media treatment of Trump over the past few days. This may or may not make a difference, but I’d wait a few days to see how things play out.
- It’s an internet poll, not a telephone poll. The methodology is fairly sound, but it’s nonetheless another reason to treat the results with caution.
I’m not foolish enough to predict what’s going to happen to Trump’s poll numbers over the next week. I feel safe saying that Trump will implode eventually, and that he’ll implode over something like this weekend’s lunacy. But whether it will happen over this weekend’s version of this weekend’s lunacy—well, who knows? The base of the Republican Party is pretty inscrutable to a mushy mainstream liberal like me. I’m really not sure what will and won’t set them off these days.
As for the rest of the results, I’m stumped over Ted Cruz’s gain. He didn’t seem to especially stand out on Thursday. Conversely, Fiorina is easy to understand, and Carson’s bump might just be due to increased name recognition. Bush and Walker dropped a little more than I would have guessed, but 3 percent still isn’t much. We’ll see if all these results hold up over the next week.