Exasperated American voters likely never have to sit through another debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But even if millions of Americans hate watching, general election polling throughout the race has suggested the first two contests made a difference. So who won the third and final debate?
Coming into Wednesday's showdown Clinton was sporting a seven point average lead in the national polls and Trump's campaign was in a free fall thanks to a slew of sexual assault allegations against him that emerged following the release of leaked audio from 2005 revealing the candidate's lewd comments about women. The debate was the biggest audience Trump will have between now and Election Day to right the ship, while Clinton needed only to protect her lead. Initial polling suggests Clinton did just that.
A YouGov scientific online snap poll showed a 10-point Clinton win with 49 percent of the 1,503 surveyed registered voters choosing her as the victor to just 39 percent for Trump. Another 12 percent called the debate a tie.
The same poll found that 68 percent of debate watchers said Clinton and Trump should "pledge to accept the result of the election," including 51 percent of Republican viewers. Perhaps the defining moment of the debate was Trump's refusal to promise he would do so, telling moderator Chris Wallace that he wanted to "leave [voters] in suspense."
A CNN/ORC snap poll matched the YouGov poll in what percentage of registered voters thought Trump won. The poll found Clinton had a 13-point win — 52 percent to 39 percent — giving the Democratic nominee a slightly bigger lead and reporting fewer undecided voters. The poll interviewed 547 registered voters and boasts a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
When it came to who debate watchers agreed with more on the important issues facing the country, the results were a lot a closer. The CNN/ORC poll showed 50 percent were siding with Clinton and 47 percent with Trump. More than 61 percent of voters surveyed in the poll thought Clinton displayed a better understanding of the issues.
Both polls suggest Clinton should hold on to her lead. The percentage of debate watchers who thought Trump won in both the YouGov poll and the CNN/ORC poll — 39 percent — just about matches his measure of support in the general election polls. That suggests he did little to win over independent or undecided voters or make a dent in Clinton's support from women. Clinton is currently polling at more than 45 percent.