We’ve been saying since we started studying the election that the debates would be won on Fluency – the part of our 3Fs model that’s all about candidates using their distinctive assets well and making it easy for people to process them as a choice.
We were right about that – but wrong about who would benefit!
Donald Trump never mentioned his most distinctive policies and phrases – like immigration or the wall. Hillary Clinton pressed her biggest asset – her experience – relentlessly. The result? For the first time ever Clinton is leading Trump on Fluency in our study, and she’s also become the first candidate to hit 5-star territory on our model.
But the debate didn’t change how people saw the candidates emotionally. Both are still at or near their highest Feeling scores, with Clinton maintaining her typical lead.
Talking points from the debate – from the “birther” controversy to worries over Clinton’s policy agenda – surfaced in the reasons people gave for their emotional reaction.
Is there a silver lining here for Donald Trump? Only that while the debate clearly helped Clinton, it didn’t harm him that much. His Feeling and Fluency are stable, which means he has the opportunity to fight back.
Fieldwork dates: 27th-28th September. Next update: Tuesday 4th October.