Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden did a better job in the final debate on Thursday, according to a CNN Instant Poll of debate watchers. In general, 53% of voters who watched the debate said that Biden won, while 39% said that President Trump did.
Watchers once again said that Biden’s criticisms of Trump were largely fair (73% said they were fair, 26% unfair). They, however, split over whether Trump’s attacks on Biden were fair (50% said yes, 49% no).
Compared to the first debate almost a month ago, that’s a more positive outcome for Trump, In a CNN Instant Poll after the first presidential debate, just 28% said they thought the President had won the debate, and 67% termed his criticism of Biden unfair.
Generally, favorable views of Biden before the debate stood at 55%, and they held steady at 56% in post-debate interviews. Similarly, Trump’s numbers held steady, with 42% saying they had a favorable view of the President in interviews conducted before Thursday’s debate and 41% saying the same afterward.
More debate watchers, though, said Donald Trump’s performance raised concerns about how he would handle the presidency (55%) than did Biden’s (41%).
Who would handle the economy better?
On handling the economy, Thursday’s debate watchers preferred Trump over Biden (56% say they think Trump would better handle it vs. 44% who think Biden would) and divided about evenly between the two on foreign policy (50% prefer Biden, 48% Trump).
Biden held an edge as more trusted to handle the coronavirus (57% Biden to 41% Trump), climate change (67% Biden to 29% Trump), and racial inequality in the US (62% Biden to 35% Trump).
Biden was also largely seen as offering a better scheme for solving the country’s main problems (54% Biden to 42% Trump), and voters split over who seemed to be the stronger leader with 49% each.
Although Thursday’s debate was far less contentious than the first presidential debate, Biden was seen as directly answering the moderator’s questions compared to Trump (62% said he did, 31% said Trump).
More women than men saw that Biden did the better in the debate (60% of women said Biden won, 35% Trump, while among men, 47% said Biden won, 44% said Trump did).
Independents also largely felt Biden won the debate (55% Biden to 36% Trump), as did moderates (56% Biden to 37% Trump). White voters with college degrees think Biden won (64% Biden to 29% Trump). Among those 65 and older — a group backing Biden in greater numbers than they did Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to most polls — the verdict was a split decision, with 46% saying Biden won, 43% Trump and 10% saying they both did equally well.
The young thoughts
Younger voters broadly saw Biden as the winner, with 66%, to 27% for Trump among those under age 45.
Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in this post-debate poll is just 1 point wider than Clinton’s win over Trump in a poll of viewers of the final debate in 2016. Biden’s margin is the second largest in recent CNN polling following final presidential debates, only behind to Barack Obama’s 58% to 31% margin over John McCain after the final 2008 debate.
SSRS conducted the CNN post-debate poll by telephone. The poll includes interviews with 585 registered voters who watched the October 22 presidential debate. Results among debate-watchers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.