Poll: Clinton won final debate; 53% of Republicans would accept election results
BY HANNAH HARTIG, JOHN LAPINSKI and STEPHANIE PSYLLOS, NBC News
(NBC News) - Hillary Clinton won the third and final debate of the 2016 Presidential Election cycle by a 9-point margin over Donald Trump, according to likely voters who watched or followed coverage of Wednesday's face-off. A 46 percent plurality said Clinton won the debate, while 37 percent said Trump won. Another 17 percent said that neither candidate won the debate. Clinton's final victory over the Republican nominee marks a decisive sweep of all three debates.
These results are according to the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Third Debate Reaction Poll conducted on Thursday, October 20.
The debate was most notable for Trump's refusal to say he would accept the outcome of the election—causing a backlash among GOP leaders including Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Arizona Sen. John McCain said that while he didn't like the outcome of the 2008 election, he had a duty to concede, and did so without reluctance: "That's not just the Republican way or the Democratic way. It's the American way."
At a campaign rally in Florida on Thursday, President Obama called the remarks "dangerous," and urged Democrats to turn out in force for the Presidential Election.
Among likely voters, however, 31 percent said they might not accept the results as legitimate if their preferred candidate did not win. Eighteen percent said it's unlikely they would accept the election as legitimate if their candidate loses and 13 percent said they would definitely not accept it.
This sentiment was stronger among Republicans, suggesting that Trump's message is getting through to a sizable number of his party's constituents. Among Republican and Republican-leaning likely voters, 45 percent said they might not accept the election as legitimate if their candidate doesn't win, including 18 percent who said they would definitely not accept the outcome. A majority of Republicans—53 percent—said they would accept the results of the election if their candidate loses.
An overwhelming majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters—82 percent—said they would definitely or probably accept the election.
Partisanship is still very important in this election, and it played a role in how voters assessed Clinton's and Trump's performance in the final debate. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning likely voters, 88 percent said that Clinton won the debate. An overwhelming majority of Republicans stood behind their candidate—72 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning likely voters said Trump won the debate. Independents were more divided. Thirty-nine percent of likely Independent voters said neither candidate won the debate.
As we head into the final weeks of the campaign, the impact of Trump's refusal to say whether or not he will accept the results of the election will be watched closely.
The NBC News|SurveyMonkey Third Debate Reaction Poll was conducted online October 20 among a national sample of 6,538 adults who are likely to vote. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from the nearly three million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points. For full results and methodology, click here.