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GOP Debate: Preliminary Data on Who Benefited and Who Didn't

GOP Debate: Preliminary Data on Who Benefited and Who Didn't

PRINCETON, N.J. -- It has been one week since the Aug. 6 Republican debate, and although this is a very fluid process, some effects of the debate are evident in our tracking of rank-and-file Republicans' views of the candidates. We will have our two-week update late next week.

In the first week since the debate, candidate familiarity went up almost across the board, meaning the debate appears to have fulfilled its purpose of providing more exposure for the candidates. This is not surprising. The debate televised on Fox News Channel was the highest-rated non-sports show in the history of cable television -- and has generated a great deal of news and social media focus on the candidates in the days since.

It looks like one winner coming out of the debate is former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Her familiarity to Republicans nationwide jumped by 14 percentage points over the first week, compared with where she was prior to the debate. Most of that new familiarity has been positive, as Fiorina's overall net favorable rating jumped by about 20 points -- more than any other candidate's over the first week.

That doesn't mean Fiorina is now at the head of the pack, by any means. Even with her newly energized image, she is familiar to only a little more than half of Republicans, which is about on par with John Kasich and Bobby Jindal, and ahead of only one candidate -- George Pataki. (Preliminary data show that former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who only got into the race a little more than two weeks ago, will be by far the least known of the 17 candidates; right now only about 20% of Republicans have an opinion of him.) Fiorina's net favorable rating is, however, now among the top five of all GOP candidates -- bested only by Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee -- and tied with Ted Cruz.

It's worth noting that Fiorina's placement in the second-tier 5:00 p.m. debate obviously didn't hurt her. One might argue that it may have helped her if the smaller, less imposing group on stage with her made it easier for her to stand out.

Two other candidates who gained familiarity after the debate are Kasich and Carson, up 16 and 12 points, respectively. Both also saw their net favorable scores jump by double digits, leading us to the conclusion that the three winners out of the debate look like they were Fiorina, Kasich and Carson.

Donald Trump, you ask? His familiarity score among Republicans is exactly the same now as it was -- perhaps because at 91% it doesn't have much further to go up. His net favorable score also didn't move much, edging down by an insignificant two points. Trump therefore -- at least after the first seven days -- appears to have sailed through the debate with not much change in his image in either direction.

None of the candidates went down in familiarity after the debate, as we would expect. But several took big hits in their net favorable ratings. The biggest such loser is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, whose net favorable rating is down 19 points. Rick Santorum and Rick Perry saw their net favorables drop by double digits as well.

Overall, the preliminary evidence suggests that a trio of lesser-known candidates came out of the GOP debate in significantly better positions than they went in with -- Fiorina, Kasich and Carson. Paul, Santorum and Perry limped out of the debate in worse shape. And Trump's position, in the minds of Republicans nationwide, didn't move.


Frank Newport, Ph.D., is a Gallup Senior Scientist. He is the author of Polling Matters: Why Leaders Must Listen to the Wisdom of the People and God Is Alive and Well. Twitter: @Frank_Newport

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