Half of all voters who watched Tuesday’s debate said Joe Biden outperformed Donald Trump in their first televised showdown, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, with an overwhelming majority of respondents blaming the president for what they described as a disruptive event and an overall unpleasant viewing experience.
The survey, conducted the day after the candidates’ clash in Cleveland, found that 50 percent of debate watchers surveyed said Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, performed the best. Just 34 percent said the same about the Republican incumbent, and 16 percent said they did not know or had no opinion.
Most voters surveyed, 69 percent, watched the debate, and 85 percent said they had seen, read or heard about at least some of the debate. But more than half of those who watched, 52 percent, said they did not enjoy the 90 minutes of prime-time programming.
Only 10 percent of debate watchers surveyed said the candidates were “respectful of each other’s time,” while a whopping 86 percent said they were “interruptive” — but not in equal measure. The vast majority of respondents said Trump butted in more than Biden, 71 percent to 18 percent.
The White House’s allies have charged that moderator Chris Wallace challenged Trump more than he did Biden, accusing the Fox News anchor of displaying bias toward the former vice president.
But a majority of debate watchers surveyed, 57 percent, said Wallace “did not favor either candidate while moderating the debate,” and respondents appeared to have a generally sympathetic opinion of Wallace’s performance.
Two-thirds of debate watchers said Wallace did an excellent, good or fair job, as opposed to the 31 percent who said he was a poor moderator. A plurality of debate watchers, 48 percent, said Wallace “did the best he could” and that “the candidates would not listen no matter what he said.”
Nevertheless, the chaotic nature of the forum resulted in the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announcing Wednesday that it would ensure “additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates,” scheduled to take place later this month.
Some media commentators have suggested that, going forward, debate moderators should be granted the ability to mute the candidates’ microphones if they violate the agreed-upon rules governing speaking time.
Nearly three-quarters of voters surveyed favored that proposal, with 50 percent saying it was “definitely a good idea.” Most voters surveyed, 64 percent, also supported a potential debate provision penalizing candidates for interrupting.
Despite their negative reviews of the first face-off between Trump and Biden, a clear majority of voters surveyed said there should be more debates between the pair of White House contenders, 55 percent to 29 percent.
A little more than one month out from Election Day, the poll suggests that not all voters have settled on a preferred candidate. Although 86 percent of respondents said they had made a decision, 14 percent said they could still change their mind.
A majority of voters surveyed, 54 percent, disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president, with 44 percent strongly disapproving. Most respondents, 55 percent, view him unfavorably, while half of respondents view Biden favorably.
The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll surveyed a national sample of 1,856 registered voters with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Polls conducted entirely in one day can contain other, additional sources of error.
Morning Consult is a global data intelligence company, delivering insights on what people think in real time by surveying tens of thousands across the globe every single day.
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