Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton: Who won the presidential debate?

Click to play video: 'Presidential debate: Donald Trump refuses to say whether he will accept the result of the election'
Presidential debate: Donald Trump refuses to say whether he will accept the result of the election
WATCH: U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump refused to commit about whether he would accept the result of the election, no matter the outcome saying he will keep the public in suspense – Oct 19, 2016

The earliest viewer poll following the third and final debate of the presidential election campaign appears to indicate yet another debate victory for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, who overshadowed one of his strongest debate performances with a refusal to declare he’d accept the election results should he lose.

According to a CNN/ORC instant poll after Wednesday night’s debate wrapped, 52 per cent of debate watchers surveyed decided Clinton won the debate, compared to 39 per cent for Trump.

A CNN focus group of undecided voters also tipped the scales in favour of Clinton, with 11 voters saying the former Secretary of State won the debate and nine other saying it was the real estate magnate who won. One participant was undecided on who won.

Clinton’s campaign was quick to herald the results of that poll.

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Trump has shunned reputable post-debate poll results that don’t favour him but often touts unscientific online polls that do, such as one from the Republican-leaning news website Drudge Report that suggested he won by three times as many votes as Clinton.

The debate started off cordial enough, even though the candidates avoided shaking hands, but it wasn’t long before slid back to the yelling and cross-talk of the previous two debates.

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Trump and Clinton went after one another on each other’s experience, credibility and fitness to be president as debate moderator Chris Wallace tried his best to keep the two candidates on topic.

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As he has throughout the campaign, Trump aimed to brand Clinton as a liar while she went after his business credentials and his comments on women.

Trump has struggled in the voter polls in the past weeks, thanks in part to a string of sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Alain Sanders, a professor of Political Science at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey, praised both candidates’ performances, but he said this final debate is “unlikely to change the trajectory” of the election in the final weeks.

WATCH: Las Vegas celebrities react to final presidential debate

Click to play video: 'Las Vegas celebrities react to final presidential debate'
Las Vegas celebrities react to final presidential debate

While Sanders said this was Trump’s best performance, it wasn’t exactly the polished presentation one would expect.

“He performed very well, compared to his past performances,” Sanders told CKNW, a Vancouver radio station owned by Corus Entertainment, the parent company of Global News.

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“That’s the way you would expect a candidate to go in during the first rehearsal and then of course be coached and learn how to be better during the actual debate.”

He called Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the election results “unprecedented” and felt it could hurt the Republican nominee’s chances of winning.

Trump’s comments that he’ll decide at the time whether he’ll accept the election results created a social media tidal wave of criticisms.

Analysts at the Los Angeles Times wrote that would be the takeaway from the final debate.

“[H]is statement that he would not pledge to abide by the results of the election if he loses overshadowed everything else. Trump needed to reassure voters who have been spooked by him. That one exchange undid whatever progress he might have made in that direction,” wrote David Lauter.
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