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South Carolina debate watchers most impressed by Sanders and Biden — CBS News poll

CBS News post-debate instant poll
CBS News post-debate instant poll 08:26

By Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna, Anthony Salvanto

It was a debate that viewers said brought clarity, but in which most viewers said the candidates spent more time criticizing each other than making the case for themselves. And Democratic debate viewers said national front-runner Bernie Sanders impressed them the most of any candidate, followed closely by Joe Biden and then Elizabeth Warren.

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Immediately after the debate, CBS News interviewed likely Democratic primary voters across the country who had tuned in.  

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Sanders was also tops in viewers' minds in making the case that he could beat Donald Trump, followed by Biden. Fourteen percent said none of the candidates made the case they could win. 

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A slim majority of watchers thought the debate made the Democrats' ideas and platforms more clear. 

Viewers have some mixed emotions about how the debate made the Democratic voters feel. 

Forty-seven percent of Democratic voters say the debate made them feel nervous about the group of candidates they have to choose from, though another 42% say it made them feel optimistic. Most white Democratic voters say they feel nervous, though most black Democratic voters say they are optimistic.

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At one point, Sanders was challenged by some of his rivals about his comments regarding communist governments, but most debate watchers say he did a good job explaining his positions. 

We asked debate watchers to pick from a list the most memorable moment of the debate. The top pick was Amy Klobuchar saying if the Democrats tear each other apart, Donald Trump will win — far ahead of some other moments. 

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This CBS News survey is based on 1,554 interviews of U.S. adults who watched the Democratic debate on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. An  initial  survey was conducted by YouGov between February 20-22, 2020 using a nationally representative sample of 10,000 U.S. registered voters, including 6,498 self-identified Democrats, as well as Independents who plan to vote in the Democratic primary this year. Respondents who planned to watch the debate were recontacted for this survey. Only those who watched the debate were included in the analysis. The margin of error is 3.2% pts.

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