This is an unbiased comparison of the political positions and policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, candidates for president from the Democratic and Republican parties respectively.

On many issues, the candidates' positions align with the political platform of their party — Clinton is pro-choice, Trump is pro-life; Clinton supports the DREAM Act and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while Trump wants to deport all undocumented immigrants and build a wall on the Mexican border; Clinton wants to expand gun control legislation, Trump does not; Clinton wants to raise taxes on high-income households while Trump wants to cut taxes for all income brackets.

On other issues, the lines are more blurry. Clinton has served as Secretary of State in the Obama administration, where she was responsible for orchestrating U.S. foreign policy. Trump has criticized not only Clinton's role as Secretary of State, but also questioned key foreign policy elements like NATO and U.S. presence in Japan.

Comparison chart

Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton comparison chart
Donald TrumpHillary Clinton
  • current rating is 3.24/5
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  • current rating is 3.33/5
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(1575 ratings)
Political Party Republican Democratic
Alma Mater Fordham University, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School Wellesley College, Yale University
Date of Birth June 19, 1946 October 26,1947
Place of Birth Queens, New York City Chicago, Illinois
Current Position Businessperson - The Trump Organization 67th Secretary of State, former (1/21/2009- 2/1/2013)
Position on Immigration Build wall on Mexican border, make Mexico pay for it; allow legal immigration; triple number of ICE officers; deport all "criminal" aliens; defund sanctuary cities; end birthright citizenship; increase prevailing wage for H1-B visas Supports the DREAM act and a path to legalization for illegal immigrants that includes learning English and paying fines; toughen penalties for hiring illegal immigrants; voted for fence along Mexican border. Supports Obama's executive action.
Position on Healthcare Get rid of Obamacare; Let insurance be sold across state lines. Premiums should be tax deductible. Allow HSAs for individuals. Block grants to states for Medicaid instead of cost sharing. Expand Obamacare. 3 sick visits free before deductible. Tax credits for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses over 8.5% and 5% of income respectively. Expand Medicaid via 100% matching funds to states for 3 years & more funding for enrollment programs.
Position on Abortion Changed stance. Now in favor of outlawing abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or life of mother; supportive of non-abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood. Strongly supports Roe v. Wade; does not oppose restrictions on late-pregnancy abortions (with exceptions for health of mother); judges should protect women's rights; rated 100% by NARAL. Vehemently opposes defunding Planned Parenthood
Tax Policies New federal income tax brackets: 0% (< $25K individual/$50K couple), 10%, 20%, 25%; eliminate AMT; Lower corporate tax rate to 15%; Trump's tax plan would cost the federal government $9.5 trillion. Increase taxes on high-income earners. New tax bracket of 43.6% for incomes >$5mn. Clinton's tax plan is estimated to get $200 - $500 million in higher revenue for the federal government.
Economic Policies Declare China a currency manipulator. A one-time repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at 10% tax rate, followed by an end to the deferral of taxes on corporate income earned abroad. Higher minimum wage. Encourage corporate profit-sharing via a tax credit for 2 years.
Position on Minimum Wage Comments all over the map. In Republican debate said wages are "too high", but later said $7.25 an hour is too low. "I think people should get more". Wants to let states set the minimum. Clinton proposes to increase the minimum wage to $12 nationwide.
Position on Government Regulation "Cut" the EPA. "We can leave a little bit" [of the agency in place rather than abolishing entirely] More stringent regulation on environmental issues like fracking and drinking water.
Position on Iraq Trump claims he opposed Iraq war before the invasion. However, is on record for hesitatingly supporting it in Sep '12. Expressed early concerns about the cost and direction of the war a few months after it started. Clinton voted to authorize military force in Iraq; later opposed troop increases and pushed for withdrawal.
Position on Global Warming Trump has tweeted "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." He has said he would renegotiate America’s role and obligations under the U.N. global climate accord. Supports a mandatory cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Has called for more regulations on fracking but not outright bans. Expressed doubts on drilling for oil in the Arctic but not called for stopping.
Position on the Keystone XL Pipeline Initially Trump said he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline "immediately". His new position is that he would reject the pipeline unless TransCanada Corp. gave the U.S. a “big, big chunk of the profits, or even ownership rights.” For a long time Clinton’s campaign said she has no position, often hedging on the question. Her position now is "I don't think we need to have a pipeline bringing very dirty oil, exploiting the tar sands in western Canada, across our border."
Position on Gun Rights Supports 2nd amendment rights; opposes new gun-control laws; "Enforce existing laws"; "fix our broken mental health system"; "defend rights of law-abiding gun owners";"allow military personnel to carry weapons on military bases & recruitment centers" Supports a stricter assault weapons ban, and background checks being required for a greater number of gun sales. Wants more legislation for gun safety.
Position on Marijuana Legalization Has said: "[marijuana for] medical purposes for medicinal purposes it’s absolutely fine." Donald Trump is on record claiming (in 1990) US drug enforcement is ‘a joke’ and all drugs should be legalized to ‘take the profit away from these drug Reclassify marijuana to be a less restricted drug than it is right now, but do not legalize it. ‘Wait and See’ approach to recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana should be available, but only in ‘extreme conditions’.
Position on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trump has lambasted all trade deals — including the TPP —saying they weren't negotiated well and the terms should have been made more favorable for the United States. Clinton was more measured in her public response to the TPP. When she was Secretary of State, Clinton and her staff worked to finalize and pass the TPP trade agreement.
Position on Death Penalty Supports the death penalty; and advocates mandatory death sentences for those who kill police officers. Clinton supports the death penalty; believes it has a place in a very limited number of federal cases.
Position on Syria and ISIS (Daesh) Prefer not to have boots on the ground; rather eliminate ISIS main funding; that is to destroy the oil extraction, refineries, etc. "Bomb the s**t out of them[ISIS controlled oil fields]" Clinton supports a no-fly zone, as well as training Syrian rebels. She is for strong U.S. involvement in fighting ISIS, short of deploying boots on the ground.
Position on Iran Trump has said he would reject the Iran nuclear deal and renegotiate it. In favor of Iran agreement. As Secretary of State, laid the groundwork for sanctions on Iran and negotiations on the agreement.
Position on Afghanistan Afghanistan War was necessary. Maintaining a presence there is necessary because of proximity to nuclear-armed Pakistan. Maintain troop strength to about 5,000 soldiers. Clinton has said she'd be open to maintaining some troops in Afghanistan as necessary.
Position on TARP (2008 Wall Street bailout) Trump supported the Wall Street bailout (TARP). "Nobody really knows what impact it's going to have. Maybe it works, and maybe it doesn't. But certainly it is worth a shot." Clinton supported the TARP bailout of financial institutions on Wall Street.
Spouse(s) Melania Trump (m. 2005), Marla Maples (m. 1993–1999), Ivana Trump (m. 1977–1992) Former US President Bill Clinton
Religion Protestant (Presbyterian) Christian Methodist
Children Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, Tiffany Trump, Barron Trump Chelsea Clinton
Books Authored The Art of the Deal (1987), Never Give Up (2008), Think BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life (2007); Trump 101: The Way to Success (2007); Why We Want You to Be Rich (2006); Think Like a Billionaire (2004); and others Her autobiography - Living History; It Takes A Village: Other Lessons Children Teach Us; Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets & An Invitation to the White House.
Other political affiliations Democratic (before 1987; 2001–09); Independent (2011–12) Republican (before 1968)
Running mate Mike Pence Tim Kaine

Differences in Economic Policy

Most of the differences in economic policies of Clinton and Trump can be attributed to the fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans about the role of government.

But Trump has made some controversial comments that do not toe the Republican party line. For example, one of his suggestions about the national debt was to get creditors of the U.S. government to accept less for their debt than they are owed. While this is technically equivalent to the U.S. defaulting on its debt obligations, Trump argued he was not talking about a default but about buying back debt for less than it's worth. In the corporate sector, such buybacks are done (and indeed, Trump has used this technique for his own businesses), however, it becomes more complex when the full faith and credit of the U.S. government is on the line. Experts have said that such a move would make new borrowing very expensive for the United States, and new borrowing is necessary to pay down old debt.

Clinton vs Trump Tax Plans

We analyzed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's tax plans in detail and include the highlights below.

Hillary Clinton's Tax Plan

The highlights of Hillary Clinton's tax plan are as follows[1]:

Analysis: Economic Impact of Clinton's tax plan

According to analysis by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, Clinton's tax plan

would increase revenue by $1.1 trillion over the next decade. Nearly all of the tax increases would fall on the top 1 percent; the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers would see little or no change in their taxes. Marginal tax rates would increase, reducing incentives to work, save, and invest, and the tax code would become more complex.

According to another analysis, by the conservative research group The Tax Foundation, Clinton's proposals would shrink GDP by 1% and jobs by 311,000 in the long run. The plan would increase federal government revenue by about half a trillion dollars, but only $191 billion if macroeconomic impacts of the policies are taken into account.

Donald Trump's Tax Plan

Donald Trump released his tax plan in the fall of 2015. It was one of the few issues on which his campaign released a detailed plan, but he was looking to rewrite it in late spring of 2016.[2] Highlights of Trump's tax plan include:

Analysis: Economic Impact of Trump's tax plan

While Trump has claimed that his tax plan is revenue-neutral, experts have called this claim "pie-in-the-sky nonsense" because Trump's proposals would significantly increase government debt.

According to of Trump's tax plan by The Tax Foundation, the proposals would increase GDP by 11.5% and create 5.3 million jobs in the long run. However, the plan would also result in a big increase in federal debt because it would reduce federal government revenue by over $10 trillion in ten years. For reference, national debt currently is just north of $18 trillion.

According to analysis by the Tax Policy Center, the plan would reduce revenue by $9.5 trillion and while the plan cuts taxes at all income levels, the largest benefits would accrue to high-income households. The analysis notes, however, that the plan would improve incentives to work, save, and invest.


Both candidates have announced their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries that was signed in February 2016 but has not taken effect yet. The agreement took 7 years to negotiate, some of which was during Clinton's stint as Secretary of State. In that role, Clinton championed the agreement and advocated for its successful negotiation and completion. However, during the Democratic primary process, Bernie Sanders criticized the TPP, and Clinton remained non-committal for months before finally declaring her opposition to the trade deal. Her statements on the TPP can be seen here including:

We are 5 percent of the world's population. We have to trade with the other 95 percent. And trade has to be reciprocal. That's the way the global economy works. But we have failed to provide the basic safety net support that American workers need in order to be able to compete and win in the global economy.

Donald Trump also opposes the TPP and has claimed he can negotiate a better deal.

Neither candidate has specified exactly what provisions in the deal they oppose and what they would replace them with.


Trump and Clinton have both trash talked China when it comes to trade. Clinton has said that China should play by WTO rules:

We should focus on ending currency manipulation, environmental destruction and miserable working conditions.

Trump has complained about China "stealing" American jobs and vowed to impose an import tariff on goods made in China. Such a tariff would make imports from China more expensive, thereby hurting Chinese exports but also raise prices for American consumers. Republicans are generally for free trade and against tariffs, so this position has not been popular among the Republican establishment or other economic experts.

Minimum Wage

Clinton has supported increasing the minimum wage to $12 per hour nationwide. Trump has opposed this, saying states should set the minimum wage. He did say that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is too low, but opposes any regulation raising it. Trump has also, on a different occasion, claimed that wages in America are too high. In fact, Trump has flip-flopped on the issue several times, making it hard to discern his true position — if indeed there is one.

Healthcare Policy

Trump wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) and has made the following proposals in his policy paper on healthcare, which are all in line with traditional Republican proposals offered by Paul Ryan et al:

Clinton's position on healthcare outlines the following ideas:

Social Issues

On Abortion

Abortion is another issue where the two candidates follow party lines. Clinton has said that not only will she defend a woman's right to choose, but also Planned Parenthood because it provides women access to critical health and reproductive services.

I will oppose efforts to roll back women's access to reproductive health care, including Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. As president, I'll stand up for Planned Parenthood and women’s access to critical health services, including safe, legal abortion.

On late-pregnancy abortions, Clinton has said that she would not oppose restrictions on abortions in "the very end of" the third trimester, provided such restrictions take into account the life and health of the mother.

Trump has changed his stance on abortion issues from calling himself "very pro-choice" to now being pro-life. He has called for the usual exceptions — rape, incest and life of the mother — in any anti-abortion laws. In contrast with some of his Republican rivals, Trump had defended Planned Parenthood because of the other services the organization provides to women, like scanning and diagnosing for cervical cancer or breast cancer.[3]

Trump got into some hot water when he answered a question about what should happen if abortion was illegal and was performed any way. He said that since a law was broken the woman getting the abortion should go to jail. However, after receiving flak, he revised his position and said the physician performing the abortion should be punished, not the woman getting it.

On Immigration

Immigration is an area where the two candidates have vehemently opposed viewpoints. Trump has called for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants, and constructing a wall on the Mexican border to reduce illegal immigration. Trump opposes a path to full citizenship for immigrants who are currently in the United States illegally, including people who may have entered illegally when they were children and may have spent almost all their life in the country. Trump has also opposed President Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Trump has also called for a ban on allowing foreign Muslims to enter the United States "until we figure out what's going on."

Trump appeared to soften his immigration stance in August 2016 but later back-pedaled any softening. Trump's VP nominee Mike Pence and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway both appeared to deflect the question of what would happen to undocumented immigrants who have not committed any crimes. [4]

In contrast, Clinton has called for a path to "full and equal citizenship" for undocumented immigrants who have not committed any violent crimes. She has vowed to not only defend President Obama’s executive actions but even take them further to "keep families together". Clinton has said that as president she would "end family detention, close private immigrant detention centers, and help more eligible people become naturalized." She has also proposed creating a new government agency — the Office of Immigrant Affairs — to help deal with immigration-related matters. Clinton has promised to introduce comprehensive immigration reform and a path to legitimate citizenship within the first 100 days of her presidency.

Clinton has also opposed Trump's suggestion to ban Muslims from getting visas or entry into the country saying that it's unconstitutional and un-American because America is a secular state where all religions — and, indeed, atheists — are treated equally.

Trump's Controversial Statements about Latinos

Donald Trump has made several controversial statements about Mexicans and other Latinos. Perhaps the most provocative was the following statement:[5]

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some I assume are good people.

Facing outcry for this comment, Trump refused to back down. He defended his remarks in a TV interview with Bill O’Reilly: [6]

No, because it’s totally accurate. The border is a disaster, Bill. People are pouring in – and I mean illegal people, illegal immigrants – and they’re pouring in. Three hundred and some odd thousand are in your state jails right now, according to Homeland Security. In terms of rape – this is an amazing statistic – 80% of Central American women and girls are raped crossing into the U.S. It’s hard to believe even.

Gun Control

In terms of rhetoric, the two candidates have expressed opposing viewpoints on guns.

In his book The America We Deserve in 2000, Trump wrote that he supports the ban on assault weapons, as well as slightly longer waiting periods to purchase a gun. But in the 2016 election season, Trump has been staunchly pro-gun and against any additional regulation. Trump's latest position on gun rights is outlined on his campaign's official website.

Clinton has said she wants to balance Second Amendment rights with the goals of keeping guns out of the "wrong hands", in which category she places terrorists, domestic abusers and people with "serious mental challenges".

She has called for "commonsense reforms to keep guns away from terrorists, domestic abusers, and other violent criminals". She is in favor of "comprehensive background checks" and "closing loopholes that allow guns to fall into the wrong hands", including the following loopholes:

Clinton's official position on gun rights is outlined on her campaign website here.

Black Lives Matter movement

Both candidates have called for stronger and more harmonious relationships between the police and the communities they serve. Trump has also called for more police, especially in areas where crime rates are high. He has advocated introducing stop-and-frisk policing system in Chicago, which he claims had been very effective in lower crime in New York. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the national police union, has endorsed Donald Trump.

Clinton has said that "implicit bias is a problem for everyone", including the police. She has advocated for adding money in the budget "to help us deal with implicit bias by retraining a lot of our police officers."

Trump has also criticized Clinton for her role in the passage of a federal crime bill in 1994. An important provision in the bill was the "three strikes" law, which made a life sentence mandatory for repeat felony offenders, including non-violent crimes. Critics of the bill, titled Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, say it was responsible for mass incarceration of thousands of African American men and had a devastating impact on communities of color. Proponents of the law argue it contributed to the rapid decline in violent crime that began in the mid-1990s.

Trump's controversies regarding African-Americans include a Justice department lawsuit in the 1970s alleging discrimination when Trump's company refused to rent apartments to black tenants as well as a remark that "laziness is a trait in blacks."

In recent months, Trump has criticized Democrats for asking for votes from the black community but not doing enough to lift them out of poverty and improve living conditions. His appeal to African Americans is "What do you have to lose?"

Civil Liberties and Homeland Security

Neither candidate has addressed civil liberties questions raised by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations that the NSA engages in wide scale spying not only on foreigners but also US allies abroad as well as US citizens and residents.

Death Penalty

Trump has called for expanding the death penalty to include all killings of police officers. Clinton also supports the death penalty, but believes it has a place only in a limited number of federal cases.

On Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, in the company of other drugs like heroin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and mescaline. Other highly-addictive drugs like cocaine, oxycodone and methamphetamine are regulated differently under Schedule II. In August 2016, the Obama administration refused to loosen restrictions rejected a petition by two governors and a nurse to reclassify marijuana.

Clinton does not have a position on marijuana legalization other than to continue with the status quo. i.e., keep marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, and wait and see how the "experiments" in Colorado, Washington and Alaska turn out.

Trump has, in the past, proposed legalizing all drugs, claiming that the "war on drugs" was "a joke" and that legalizing drugs would "take the profit away from these drug czars." In more recent interviews, Trump has said that marijuana for "medical purposes — for medicinal purposes — it’s absolutely fine," implying that he is against legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Gay Rights

After the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in 2015, gay rights has become less of a political issue. It is included in this comparison to note the candidates' shifting positions.

Clinton was against same-sex marriage — but in favor of civil unions and offering legal protections to gay couples and individuals — until 2013. As public opinion on same-sex marriage shifted, many Democrats — including President Obama in 2012 and Clinton in 2013 — came out in support of same-sex marriages.[7]

Trump has been a supporter of gay rights fairly consistently — even though the Republican party has not — but Trump has said he would consider nominating Supreme Court justices who would overturn the same-sex legalization ruling. Among the few Silicon Valley elites to support Trump is Peter Thiel, who is gay. Trump has also proposed a "values test" of would-be immigrants to the United States to test their ideological compatibility with women's rights and gay rights. [8]

Ethics in Government

On October 17, 2016 Trump's campaign published a press release outlining Trump's proposals for ethics reform in the government to curb the influence of lobbyists. His proposals are:

  1. ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for 5 years after they leave government service
  2. 5-year ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and their staff
  3. expand the definition of lobbyist to include consultants and advisors
  4. a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government
  5. campaign finance reform to prevent registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in American elections.

This move by Trump is seen as a direct attack on Clinton because she has come under criticism for the Clinton Foundation accepting money from foreign donors; the allegation is that this was a "pay-to-play" scheme where donors received political favors. There is no evidence of this actually happening, and it should be noted that before Clinton became Secretary of State, she signed an ethics agreement promising to avoid any conflict of interest between the foundation and her work in the Obama administration.

Differences in Foreign Policy

Both presidential candidates believe in American exceptionalism, the idea that America is better and greater than any other country. However, while Clinton's positions reflect American foreign policy orthodoxy, Trump has made some controversial suggestions that have rattled cages across the world, including among the Republican national security community.

As Secretary of State in the Obama presidency, and as first lady during the Bill Clinton presidency, Hillary Clinton is no stranger to foreign policy issues. Some of her political views on these issues are as follows:

One of the central tenets of Trump's thinking on foreign policy is to get America's allies — Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Germany and other NATO member nations — to "pay up" i.e., to pay America for the sense of security they receive from American military presence in their region. These views have been heavily criticized. Trump's major foreign policy proposals are, which Clinton has unsurprisingly attacked:

Trump has also criticized Clinton's foreign policy record during her stint as Secretary of State in 2009-13, including for the handling of events in Benghazi and her use of a personal email server for official state department communications.

Clinton herself has touted her role in brokering a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza strip to end a sustained campaign of violence in 2012. She has also spoken about how as Secretary of State she rallied U.S. allies around the world to impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program in order to put pressure on the Iranian government to agree to a nuclear inspection deal.


Turkey is a U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS but the relationship is complicated because of America's support of Kurds. Kurds are currently one of the strongest allies the U.S. has in fighting the Islamic state but Turks are wary of Kurds seceding from Turkey and creating a separate Kurdish nation.

There was an attempted coup in Turkey in mid-July 2016. In the aftermath of the coup, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed a state of emergency in the country and was reported to be exploiting the coup attempt to purge his political enemies. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued several statements urging Erdogan to respect the rule of law. Hillary Clinton's positions are the same as those of Kerry and the Obama administration. However, Trump has praised Erdogan for his handling of the coup and not letting it succeed. Trump has also said that the U.S. lacked the moral authority to exhort Erdogan and other nations to follow the law, given the civil unrest in America related to the killing of police officers.[12]

Energy and Environmental Policy

Keystone XL Pipeline

After months of declining to take a position on the Keystone XL pipeline, Clinton announced she was opposed to pipeline, a move many say was a reaction to the challenge from the left-wing candidacy of Bernie Sanders. Clinton has said:

I don't think we need to have a pipeline bringing very dirty oil, exploiting the tar sands in western Canada, across our border.

Trump has said he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline if the deal would be renegotiated and the U.S. federal government was given 25% of the profits from the pipeline.

Global Warming a.k.a Climate Change

Trump has said that global warming is a hoax.

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012

However, when Clinton mentioned this statement during their first debate, Trump denied it. His campaign manager later clarified that Trump does not believe that global warming is a man-made phenomenon. Trump is also a supporter of fracking; he believes that fracking will lead to American energy independence and that falling natural gas prices will be a strategic advantage for the nation.

Clinton has said that climate change is real, a view that a vast majority of scientists hold. Clinton has vowed to make large investments in clean energy, with a goal of having 500 million solar panels in the nation by 2020. She has also expressed doubts about whether drilling in the Arctic should be allowed.[13] On fracking, Clinton has called for stringent regulations but has not rejected fracking outright.[14]

Clinton vs Trump Debates

First Clinton - Trump Debate

The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was held at Hofstra University on September 26. It was a fiery debate with both candidates attacking each other. Many political analysts[15][16][17] opined that Clinton won the debate; she seemed better prepared with more detailed policy answers. But several of the exchanges that went in her favor were set up by the moderator. The neutral BBC reported:

...the opening for Mrs Clinton's advantage was set by the moderator. He first brought up Mr Trump's taxes. He asked about the Obama "birther" controversy. He pushed Mr Trump on the Iraq War and brought up his comment about her "look", which led to the extended discussion of presidential temperament and judgement. Mrs Clinton's weaknesses - particularly her use of a private email server and potential conflicts of interest in her charitable foundation - were barely discussed.

If the winner of political conflict is dictated by the ground on which it is fought, then most of the debate was contested on terrain that was favourable to the Democrat. Some of that was her own effective strategy and preparation; the lawyer's advantage. Some of it was Mr Trump's missteps and meandering; the salesman's failure to move his product. A lot of it, however, was Holt's doing. That will have Democrats smiling and Trump supporters howling.

Highlights from the Debate

The full debate video is available here. The BBC prepared this highlight reel from some memorable debate moments:

Trump criticized Clinton on trade deals like NAFTA and TPP, deleting her emails, letting ISIS grow during her tenure as Secretary of State. He said she has the experience but the wrong kind of experience. He also said he thinks she doesn't have the stamina to be president. Clinton had a rejoinder about traveling to 112 countries and giving an 11 hour testimony to Congress.

Clinton hit Trump hard on not releasing his tax returns, alleging that he is trying to hide something. She also criticized him for questioning Obama's citizenship and not paying federal income taxes, which he claimed was a smart thing to do. Finally, Clinton criticized Trump for his remarks about certain women ("this is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs").

Second Debate

The second debate was be held on October 9. Trump's campaign had suffered a setback a few days before the debate when the Washington Post reported that Trump had bragged about groping and sexually assaulting women in 2005.

So that was the first question of the debate and Trump responded by saying he had apologized to his wife and the American people. He also denied having actually done these things, implying that he had lied when bragging about it. Trump also brought up Bill Clinton's history of misconduct.

Other highlights from the second debate include:

Third Debate

The third and final debate between the two candidates was held on October 19th.

The debate began with a question about nominating Supreme Court justices. Clinton talked about the kinds of issues that were important to her, including upholding LGBTQ rights and Roe v. Wade. Trump talked about nominating conservative judges who would be pro-life and uphold the second amendment.

On abortion, the two candidates followed the party line. Clinton is firmly pro-choice. She defended voting against a ban on late-term abortions saying the proposed bill did not have a provision that would protect the life and health of the mother. Trump said late-term abortions should be illegal.

On gun rights Trump touted his NRA endorsement and said that Chicago had the toughest gun laws and yet a lot of gun-related crime. Clinton said she supports the second amendment and people's right to bear arms but that it's possible to protect those rights granted by the second amendment and still institute some regulations like background checks for all gun sales, including online and gun shows.

On the economy, Trump proposed tax cuts and "better" trade deals to stem the outflow of jobs to lower wage countries. He contended his plan would jumpstart growth in the economy, create millions of jobs and grow the pie. Clinton said she wanted to raise taxes on households earning more than $250,000, raise the minimum wage and make college tuition-free. Their talking points on the economy were not new or different from this Trump-vs-Clinton-Tax-Plan comparison of the economic policies of Trump and Clinton.

The biggest story coming out of the third debate was Trump's refusal to say that he would accept the result of the election if he loses. Trump has claimed repeatedly that the election is "rigged", citing media bias, the government refusing to prosecute Clinton over her email scandal, and newly released videos alleging voter fraud and the Clinton campaign paying people to incite violence at Trump rallies.

Another memorable moment was when Clinton was asked a question about her comment in a paid speech where she said she prefers "open borders". In her response she brought up the fact that the speech was obtained through illegal hacking and alleged Russian president Putin was trying to interfere in the election by helping Trump. Trump astutely noted how Clinton changed the topic from her favoring open borders to Russia and Putin. However, he failed to capitalize and did end up taking the bait and talking about Putin.

Highlights from the debate are in the following video:

Trump vs Clinton in Opinion Polls

Hillary Clinton originally had a lead in nationwide opinion polls but Donald Trump has managed to close the gap, especially after sealing the Republican nomination. A list of head-to-head match-ups for Clinton and Trump in opinion polls can be found on Wikipedia.

Consolidated results for nationwide opinion polling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election pitting Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton head-to-head. The trend line shows the daily weight average, weighted by sample size.
Consolidated results for nationwide opinion polling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election pitting Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton head-to-head. The trend line shows the daily weight average, weighted by sample size.

RealClearPolitics also compiles an average of national polls, which mirrors the Wikipedia compilation above and shows Clinton leading Trump by a thin and fluctuating margin until mid-July 2016.

Another tracker of national sentiment is compiled by Their model shows a more consistent and slightly wider lead for Clinton. It is also different from the other models because it shows a 3-way race and includes libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Controversies and Criticism

No discussion of the 2016 presidential race would be complete without a mention of the many controversies that have plagued the candidates.

Criticism of Hillary Clinton

The two biggest areas of vulnerability for Clinton are from her time as Secretary of State: the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi and her use of a personal email server rather than the state department's official email.


Clinton has been criticized for her role in the events surrounding the attack on an American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya on Sep 11, 2012. The US ambassador and 3 other Americans were killed in that attack. The State department and the White House initially blamed the attack on mob fury resulting from a reaction to the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims. It was later uncovered that the attack was a pre-planned terrorist strike. Not only is Clinton blamed for this incorrect initial assessment, she also received flak for the fact that the State department under her leadership denied requests from U.S. security officer Eric Nordstrom for additional security for the mission in Benghazi.[18]

E-mail server

When she was Secretary of State, Clinton used a private email account, with messages stored on her private email server, to send and receive official state department communications. These included several thousand messages that were later (retroactively) marked classified. The investigation by the FBI concluded that Clinton was "extremely careless" in handling her email system but recommended that no charges be filed against her. In a move widely criticized by Republicans, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Department of Justice would file no charges and not prosecute Clinton even though she broke the law.

Connections to Wall Street

Clinton has earned millions of dollars in speaking fees over the years, including $225,000 for an appearance at Goldman Sachs "Builders and Innovators" conference where she spoke with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein. The Clinton campaign has been accused of trying to cover up her ties with Wall Street.

Connections to Oil Companies

Allegations of impropriety have also been leveled against Clinton because the Clinton Foundation benefited from millions of dollars in donations from oil companies, who were lobbying the state department for the approval of an oil pipeline from Canada.

War mongering and the Rise of ISIS

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whose biases are covered here, has alleged in a TV interview that Hillary Clinton is a war monger citing the example of Libya:

the emails we [Wikileaks] revealed about her involvement in Libya, and statements from Pentagon generals, show that Hillary was over-riding the Pentagon's reluctance to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Because they [Pentagon] predicted that the post-war outcome would be something like what it is, which is ISIS taking over the country.

Public vs. Private Positions

In October 2016, Wikileaks leaked emails from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta's account, some of which contained Clinton's private speeches to Wall Street firms. Clinton has refused to released these paid speeches that she has delivered over the years. In one such speech, Clinton said that politicians need to have a public position and a private position to get legislation passed because politicians get nervous if negotiations happen when "everybody's watching" instead of "back room discussions and the deals". The larger context of her comments is available here.

Criticism of Donald Trump

Donald Trump is no stranger to controversy or criticism either.

Bragging about Assaulting Women

In a leaked tape from 2005, Donald Trump bragged to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush that he had groped and kissed women without consent. Here is what Trump said:

“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p---y. You can do anything.”

In the second presidential debate, when moderator Anderson Cooper pressed him on the issue of whether Trump had actually done these things, Trump stalled before denying that he had. If Trump indeed do anything like this, that would be sexual assault, which is a crime.

Following the release of this tape, Trump lost the support of a number of prominent Republicans, including John McCain and Paul Ryan.

Allegations of Sexual Assault

The New York Times reported that two women have said that Donald Trump touched them inappropriately. A series of allegations have surfaced from several other women.

Donald Trump has denied all allegations.

Racism allegations

Trump has been labeled racist for his remarks about Mexican immigrants and for proposing a ban on allowing non-citizen Muslims to enter the country.

Khizr and Ghazala Khan

Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant and father of an American soldier killed in Iraq, spoke at the Democratic national convention and criticized Trump for his anti-Muslim proposals. He also accused Trump of not having made any personal sacrifices. Republican leaders wanted Trump to ignore Khan and not respond to the criticism. However, when George Stephanopoulos asked Trump to respond to the charge during a TV interview, Trump made a remark about Khizr Khan's wife Ghazala who was on stage during Khan's speech but did not speak: "If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. [Maybe] she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me."

Trump's remark received widespread condemnation not just from Democrats but also from prominent Republicans like Paul Ryan and John McCain, both of whom have had a tenuous relationship with the GOP nominee.

Trump University

Trump University was a business founded by Donald Trump and some of his associates. While it was not an accredited college or university, the company offered training courses in real estate, asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation. While it is no longer operational, Trump University and Donald Trump himself are embroiled in multiple lawsuits from past students who allege that the business was a scam that made false claims.

In addition to the allegations of impropriety in the running of this business, Trump has also courted controversy by claiming that the judge in one of the lawsuits is biased against Trump because he's Mexican-American. This remark by Trump has also been widely criticized both inside his party and outside.

Tax Returns

Donald Trump is the only presidential candidate from a major political party in the last 50 years to not release his tax returns. Critics have speculated myriad reasons for this, ranging from a lack of charitable contributions, to the fact that his income and wealth may be far lower than he claims, to allegations it might reveal links with Russian oligarchs.

In October 2016, The New York Times reported that Trump had claimed a loss of close to $1 billion in 1995 and speculated that this would allow him to carry forward his loss and avoid paying income tax for as long as 18 years. The Trump campaign has neither confirmed nor denied the accuracy of this reporting but did say that carrying forward business losses is not only legal but a smart thing to do.

Russia and Putin

In a remark about Clinton's email scandal, Trump said at a rally:

They [Russian hackers] probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted. Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next.

Trump has a long history of business deals with Russians. He has also praised Putin on several occasions. America has historically, and especially under president Obama, had an adversarial relationship with Putin. Russia under Putin has been an ally of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Russia has also helped Assad by launching air strikes against ISIS in the Middle East. While ISIS is a common enemy for both Russia and the U.S., other considerations have prevented a strong partnership between the two superpowers. Trump's remarks about Putin are a departure from traditional American foreign policy, and therefore a source of controversy and consternation among many foreign affairs officials.[19][20]


A candidate's health is usually a non-issue but in this election Trump has cast aspersions on Clinton's health and "stamina". Clinton's physician released this report proclaiming her to be in good health overall, while noting a history of deep vein thrombosis. The letter notes that Clinton does not smoke nor take illicit drugs; she drinks alcohol occasionally.

On September 11, Clinton wobbled and almost fainted at the 9/11 memorial service in New York; it was reported that she has pneumonia, a lung infection that can be bacterial (in roughly two-thirds of cases) or viral. Clinton’s doctor released a statement saying she was prescribed antibiotics and advised to rest but did not identify the type of pneumonia (viral or bacterial) she has. Antibiotics do not cure viral pneumonia but are often prescribed to prevent the spreading of the infection.

Trump's physician has also released a letter about his health but it has become controversial because it uses exaggerated language and he claims to have written it in only five minutes. The letter declares Trump to be in excellent health, noting he does not smoke or drink alcohol.

David L. Scheiner, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Medical School and President Obama's personal physician for 22 years wrote in an op-ed article that neither candidate had released enough information about their health given their advanced age — at age 69 and 70 either contender will be the second-oldest president in U.S. history.


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