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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

Young people want checks on Big Tech's power

Data: Generation Lab; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The next generation of college-educated Americans thinks social media companies have too much power and influence on politics and need more government regulation, according to a new survey by Generation Lab for Axios.

Why it matters: The findings follow an election dominated by rampant disinformation about voting fraud on social media; companies' fraught efforts to stifle purveyors of disinformation including former President Trump; and a deadly Jan. 6 insurrection over the election organized largely online.

Updated 6 mins ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Trump dogs "dull" DeSantis ahead of potential 2024 matchup

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a "dull personality" and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown, according to sources who've recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor.

Why it matters: The two are among the most popular Republicans in the country, and as the former president eyes another run in 2024, he's irked by DeSantis' popularity and refusal to rule out running against him.

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