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Debate-watchers say Biden won first debate, but most felt "annoyed" — CBS News poll

How Americans responded to the first debate
How Americans responded to the first presidential debate of 2020 03:56

In the first presidential debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, voters who watched Tuesday night said Biden won the debate, but overwhelmingly called the debate's tone negative, and most said they felt annoyed watching it, according to a CBS News survey.

Forty-eight percent said Biden won, while 41% thought Mr. Trump was the winner. Biden's margin here is not too different than his lead in national polls. Ten percent called the debate a tie.


Immediately after the debate, the CBS News Battleground Tracker interviewed likely voters nationwide who watched the debate in order to get their reaction.

More than 8 in 10 voters who watched describe the debate's tone as negative, including majorities of each candidate's supporters. 


Few voters who watched found the debate informative. Just 17% said it was. Most came away feeling annoyed: It was the top feeling expressed by each candidate's supporters. A third of voters felt entertained — more of Mr. Trump's voters felt this way than Biden's. 


Biden was able to convince more of those in his party that he was the winner of the first debate than Mr. Trump was able to convince people in his party. Ninety-two percent of Democrats who watched say he won, compared to 82% of Republicans who say Mr. Trump won. Thirteen percent of Republicans called the debate a draw, although independents gave Mr. Trump the edge.

On balance, more debate-watchers said their opinion of Biden improved than said that about Mr. Trump. Three in 4 Democrats said the debate gave them a better impression of Biden, while Republicans were a bit more divided about their candidate. Fifty-two percent of Republicans said the debate made them feel better about Mr. Trump; 42% said their view of him had not changed. Few in each party came away with a more negative view of their party's candidate after the debate.


This CBS News survey is based on 1,039 interviews of likely voters who reported watching the presidential debate on Tuesday, September 29, 2020. Respondents were previously interviewed by YouGov between September 25-28, 2020 to indicate whether they planned to watch the debate, and if they were willing to be re-interviewed after the debate. The margin of error is +/- 3.4 points.


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