Clinton and Trump finally had the policy debate we’ve been waiting for: Here’s a side-by-side summary of their positions

Side by side.
Side by side.
Image: Reuters/Joe Raedle
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Yes, there were interruptions, spats and personal attacks, but the third and final presidential debate was a surprisingly substantive one. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spoke at relative length about their positions on immigration, abortion, the economy, the national debt, the Supreme Court, and foreign policy. That is what presidential candidates are supposed to do in debates: lay out and explain their positions to the public.

A number of the topics the candidates touched on, pushed by moderator Chris Wallace, mirrored specific questions American voters have been Googling in recent weeks, including questions about their stances on abortion, guns and immigration.

Here is a brief summary of the candidates’ positions on those issues, according to their platforms:

Abortion rights

A question about abortion sparked a discussion about “ripping babies out of the womb” in Donald Trump’s words, or late-term abortion. Clinton, who as a senator voted against banning late-term abortion, also promises to:

  • Defend Planned Parenthood from Republican efforts to defund the organization
  • Repeal the Hyde amendment, which bans some federal funds from being used to pay for abortion

Trump has changed his position on abortion several times. During the debate, he said that Roe v. Wade, the seminal Supreme Court decision on the topic, would be reversed during his presidency. “It’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court,” he said. According to his official platform, his stance on abortion is essentially opposite to Clinton’s. He says he will:

  • Defund Planned Parenthood “as long as they continue to perform abortions”
  • Make the Hyde amendment permanent law “to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions”
  • Sign into law a legislation that would end late-term abortions

Gun rights

Both Clinton and Trump have strong stances on gun rights. Clinton, who in the debate emphasized that she supports the Second Amendment, pledges “reasonable regulation,” or to:

  • Strive for comprehensive federal background check reform
  • Advocate for closing the so-called “Charleston Loophole” named after South Carolina shooter Dylann Roof, who was able to buy a gun despite his criminal record
  • If necessary, Clinton says she will bypass Congress to tighten the gun show and internet sales loopholes in order to put all sellers under the same rules
  • Repeal the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” which prevents victims of gun violence from holding gun manufacturers and dealers accountable
  • Crack down on illegal gun sales
  • Make “straw purchases”—in other words having someone with a clean record buy a gun, only to hand it over to a felon—a federal crime
  • Build on existing laws and introduce new ones to ban all stalkers, domestic abusers, and people suffering from severe mental illness from buying and keeping guns
  • Clinton also supports a federal ban on assault-style weapons

Trump has portrayed himself as a defender of the Second Amendment, in sharp opposition to Clinton. In his platform, Trump pledges to:

  • Fix the background check system, not expand it. He wants to ensure that states are updating their systems with mental health and criminal records
  • Rather than ban the mentally ill from buying guns, Trump wants to “fix our broken mental health system”
  • Introduce a national concealed-carry permit, valid in all 50 states
  • Ensure that citizens can buy any gun they please
  • Enforce the laws that are already in place


Immigration is an area where the two candidates are particularly divided. During the debate, Trump said that Clinton wanted to “give amnesty,” which is not true. Here’s what Clinton actually proposes to do:

  • Introduce “comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full and equal citizenship”
  • Protect families threatened by separation due to their immigration status
  • Defend president Obama’s executive actions on immigration
  • Send back those immigrants who are a “violent threat to public safety,” but ensure a fair treatment of refugees.
  • Close private immigration detention centers
  • Provide health care to families regardless of their immigration status
  • Push for naturalization by waiving various fees and increasing outreach
  • Advocate immigrant integration

Immigration is the pillar of Trump’s campaign. During the debate, he repeated one of his most popular slogans about building a wall on the Mexican border. Trump has a 10-point plan to “Put America First.” In it, Trump promises to:

  • Build the wall, which Mexico will pay for
  • “End catch-and-release” meaning that anyone who is caught crossing the border illegally would be detained until expelled from the country
  • Deport immigrants who are felons, whom Trump calls “criminal aliens”
  • Eliminate sanctuary cities
  • Reverse amnesties carried out by Obama administration
  • Suspend issuing visas to “any place where adequate screening cannot occur”
  • “Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported”
  • Implement biometric visas at all ports
  • Eliminate incentives for immigrants to come to the US, ie. the jobs they seek
  • “Reform legal immigration”