In a new Axios|SurveyMonkey poll conducted immediately following the last presidential debate of 2020, a majority of debate watchers (64%) say the rules on muting the candidates’ microphones made the debate better, while 8% say they made the debate worse and 27% say they had no effect. Democrats (76%) and independents (64%) were more likely than Republicans (52%) to say the mute rule made the debate better.
More than four in 10 debate watchers say President Trump did better than expected in the last debate—that’s more than 6x the number who said so after watching the first debate. A full 73% of Republicans say he did better than expected (up from just 14% among that group after the first debate), as did 36% of independents and 20% of Democrats.
Among those who watched or followed coverage of last night’s debate, 24% say it left them feeling mostly excited, 38% relieved, 25% disappointed, and just 10% angry—all improvements over their responses following the first debate.
But does it matter? Both Biden’s and Trump’s overall favorability ratings, among those who did and didn’t watch the debate, were virtually unchanged from the first debate to now. Biden’s performance may have made a difference among independents, 40% of whom now view him favorably (up from 27%) versus 35% who view him unfavorably (down from 41%). Among partisans, there was virtually no change in either candidates’ favorability over the last month.
Debate watchers express a clear preference for Biden to handle five out of seven issues discussed during the debate: ethics in government, the environment, issues of special concern to women, issues of special concern to Black Americans, and the coronavirus. On two topics—foreign policy and crime and safety—about equal numbers of debate watchers said they trusted each candidate.