Oct 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

SurveyMonkey poll: Trump improves, but not enough

President Trump and Joe Biden on a split screen on a mobile phone during the final debate
Trump and Biden during the final debate. Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

President Trump's final debate performance exceeded Americans' expectations, but it wasn't enough to shift the dynamics that left him trailing Joe Biden across most measures, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

What they're saying: "Liar" was the word used most by debate watchers to describe Trump's performance, followed by "lies," "strong," "presidential" and "childish." "Presidential" was the word used most to describe Biden's performance, followed by "liar," "weak," "expected" and "honest."

  • "Informative" and "Trump" led the descriptions of the debate itself, followed by "Biden," "civil" and "boring."
Trump word cloud
Trump word cloud. Graphic: SurveyMonkey

The big picture: Biden's favorable-unfavorable rating among U.S. adults is at 46-45% after the debate, while President Trump's is 10 percentage points underwater, at 42%-52%, with a week and a half remaining in the race.

  • Among independents, Biden's favorable ratings have climbed into positive territory, jumping 18 percentage points to +4 since the first debate on Sept. 29. Trump climbed seven percentage points with independents, but that still leaves him at -27.
Biden word cloud
Biden word cloud. Graphic: SurveyMonkey

By the numbers: 44% of debate watchers — and 73% of Republicans — said Trump did better than they expected. Only 11% overall said he did worse than they expected.

  • But Biden was more trusted than Trump on five of seven issues covered in the debate: the coronavirus (48%-36%), the environment (50%-31%), issues of special concern to women (48%-30%), ethics in government (47%-36%) and issues of special concern to Black Americans (44%-37%).
  • Foreign policy (44%-43%) and crime/safety (41%-43%) were essentially a draw between Biden and Trump.

The intrigue: Is the mute button here to stay?

  • 64% of debate watchers, including a slim majority of Republicans, said allowing the muting of candidates' microphones made the debate better.

Methodology: This SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted October 22-23, 2020 among a national sample of 2,742 U.S. adults, including 2,322 who watched the debate or followed coverage of it.

  • Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day.
  • The modeled error estimate for this survey is +/- 3.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.
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