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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. 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. 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.

Go deeper

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
8 hours ago - Technology

TikTok gets more time (again)

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House is again giving TikTok's Chinese parent company more to satisfy national security concerns, rather than initiating legal action, a source familiar with the situation tells Axios.

The state of play: China's ByteDance had until Friday to resolve issues raised by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), which is chaired by Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin. This was the company's third deadline, with CFIUS having provided two earlier extensions.

Federal judge orders Trump administration to restore DACA

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, giving undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children a chance to petition for protection from deportation.

Why it matters: DACA was implemented under former President Obama, but President Trump has sought to undo the program since taking office. Friday’s ruling will require Department of Homeland Security officers to begin accepting applications starting Monday and guarantee that work permits are valid for two years.

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