The first post-debate poll still gives Donald Trump a commanding lead

Despite a critically shaky debate performance and a fresh round of controversy, real-estate magnate Donald Trump still leads the Republican presidential field, according to a new poll.

The new poll, from NBC and SurveyMonkey, showed Trump’s popularity among GOP primary voters mostly unchanged. According to the new poll, 23% of Republican primary voters said Trump would be their first choice for president if the election were held today. That’s up from 22% last week, though well within the poll’s 3.4% margin of error.

The survey was the first major poll conducted after the first Republican debate on Thursday.

The poll also showed some big winners from the main debate — which featured the top-10 polling GOP candidates — and the lower-tier debate, which featured the other seven major candidates. According to NBC/SurveyMonkey, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina jumped from 2% to 8%, following what many pundits and analysts said was the strongest performance of the early debate. 

But the poll’s most interesting finding is a surge in popularity for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). While almost every candidate besides Fiorina remained virtually unchanged considering the margin of error, Cruz shot up to 13% from 6%.

The poll showed a surge in popularity that corresponds with what many respondents saw as a strong debate performance: Aside from Fiorina and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Republican primary voters said that Cruz performed best at the debate. 

Many political pundits on both sides of the spectrum have said that Trump’s supposedly poor debate performance, as well his subsequent tangling with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, would likely result in a drop in popularity.

The new poll doesn’t show that effect — yet. But it’s unclear whether Trump will remain at the same levels following his widely condemned comments about Kelly on Friday, when he made a remark that critics interpreted as lewd and sexist. The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday, meaning that many voters may not have been fully aware of those comments when responding to the poll.

It’s also worth noting that some political analysts remain sceptical of the NBC/SurveyMonkey poll results. After airing the results on Sunday’s “Meet The Press,” host Chuck Todd took to Twitter to defend the methodology. 

Polling experts have been wary of online poll results for years, partially because some believe that respondents tend to skew younger, and pollsters have found it difficult to find representative samples of a population when conducting polls online.

But since jumping into the polling business, SurveyMonkey has established itself as a reliable polling source. Jon Cohen, the vice president of survey research at SurveyMonkey, noted on Twitter that SurveyMonkey polls correctly predicted the outcome of the 2014 midterm midterms, as well as the outcomes of the recent United Kingdom parliamentary elections — both of which other polling organisations missed badly.

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