FACT CHECK: Did CNN delete a poll that showed Bernie Sanders won the first Democratic presidential debate of 2016?

Claim: CNN deleted a poll that showed Bernie Sanders won the first Democratic presidential debate of 2016.

Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 2015]

Various sources are reporting that CNN deleted an online poll that shows Bernie Sanders as the winner of the first debate. Is this true?

Origins: In conjunction with the first debate held between contenders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, held on 13 October 2015, CNN hosted a live poll on their Facebook page inviting followers to indicate who they thought had “won” the debate:

Shortly after the debate ended, reports began to circulated online claiming that CNN had deleted the poll, which greatly favored Bernie Sanders, in order to release an article proclaiming Hillary Clinton as the debate’s winner:

Hillary Clinton proved without a doubt Tuesday night why she is the Democratic Party’s presidential front-runner.

Clinton remained unflappable throughout the debate, showcasing her political experience and her command of the issues — all the while deftly handling criticism of her flip-flops and displaying a humor that put a more human face to her oft-criticized candidacy.

David Axelrod, CNN senior political commentator and the chief strategist for the Obama campaign that trounced Clinton in 2008, said she did “very well” and that her campaign was likely “thrilled with the performance.”

“She was poised she was passionate and she was in command,” Axelrod said. “If I were her campaign I would be thrilled with what she did tonight.”

While it’s true that CNN reported Hillary Clinton won the debate in their editorial content, CNN did not actually delete the results of the public poll that conflicted with their assessment. In fact, as of this writing the poll is still available for viewing on CNN’s Facebook page. (One of the reasons people may have thought that the poll was deleted may have been that it was featured on CNN’s Facebook page and not CNN’s web site.)

Nonetheless, many readers were still left wondering how CNN could name Hillary Clinton as the victor of a debate that 81% of the viewing public felt Vermont senator Bernie Sanders had won. The answer is that real-time audience participation isn’t a particularly rigorous scientific polling method; CNN instead based their reporting on the opinions of a panel of political experts, such as the above-quoted David Axelrod, who analyzed the candidates’ performances during the debate.

Last updated: 18 October 2015

Originally published: 18 October 2015