Biden seen as stronger in what most viewers characterize as a good debate

However, the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos Post-Debate Poll indicates little change in the overall race

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, October 23, 2020

1. According to a new FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, conducted immediately following the Oct. 22 presidential debate, the majority of debate watchers felt it was a good debate.

  • Republicans (84% good) appear most pleased with the debate followed by Democrats (78%) and then Independents (70%).
  • Before the debate, the coronavirus outbreak continued to be the main issue for Americans, with a third (37%) listing it as their #1 issue and over half (59%) listing it as one of their top three.
    • The economy is also a top issue with 22% listing it as their top priority and 51% listing it in their top three.


2. Both candidates received more positive reviews, particularly compared to the first debate, but Biden appears to have more people crediting his performance.

  • Two-thirds (69%) of debate watchers say Joe Biden had a good performance. Biden is particularly strong among younger viewers (ages 18-29; 75% good), those with a college degree (74%), and Black Americans (87%).  
  • Just over half (52%) say Donald Trump had a good performance. Trump was best reviewed by older (ages 65+; 60% good) and white (59%) viewers.
  • Biden appears to have the edge with Independent debate watchers, 70% of whom give him good reviews compared to 53% for Trump.

3. The debate does not appear to have fundamentally altered views of either candidate. As a consequence, it seems unlikely to change the trajectory of the final week before the election.

  • Perceptions of the two candidates are largely unchanged from before to after the debate. Before the debate, Biden had a net (favorable – unfavorable) +5 favorability rating. After the debate, Biden’s favorability is essentially unchanged at +6. President Trump appears to have slightly improved views of him, going from a net -24 favorability rating before the debate to a net -21 after.
  • Candidate preference is also largely unchanged. Before the debate, Americans gave Trump an average score of 3.76 on a 1-10 scale of the chance they would vote for him. After the debate, it was a largely unchanged 3.79. Biden too saw his position change little from 5.16 before the debate to 5.12 after.

For additional analysis, visit FiveThirtyEight

Washington, DC, October 21, 2020

For additional analysis, visit FiveThirtyEight

About the Study

Wave 1 of this FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos October 22nd  Debate poll was conducted October 15th to October 21st, 2020 and Wave 2 was conducted October 22nd to October 23rd, 2020 by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. Wave 1 of this poll was based on a nationally-representative probability sample of 3,263 adults age 18 or older. Wave 2 was administered to those who completed the Wave 1 poll. A total of 1,873 adults participated in the Wave 2 poll.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households are randomly sampled from all available households in the U.S. All persons in selected households are invited to join and participate in KnowledgePanel. Ipsos provides selected households that do not already have internet access a tablet and internet connection at no cost to them. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methods, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.

The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, and party identification. The demographic benchmarks came from the 2019 March supplement of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). Party ID benchmarks are from recent ABC News/Washington Post telephone polls. The weighting categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (High School graduate or less, Some College, Bachelor and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
  • Party ID (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Something else)

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1.9 percentage points for Wave 1 and plus or minus 2.6 percentage points for Wave 2 at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.21 for Wave 1 and 1.31 for Wave 2. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).


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The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs