How views of Biden and Trump changed after the first debate

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
July 02, 2024, 9:11 PM GMT+0

While most Americans watched some of the first presidential debate of 2024 — hosted by CNN on June 27 — few found doing so to be enjoyable, according to a YouGov poll conducted in the days after the debate. President Joe Biden's supporters are especially likely to have not enjoyed the experience, which may be because their candidate is perceived as the night's loser, according to most people who paid attention to it.

Compared to before the debate, Americans are now more likely to say Biden is a worse debater than his opponent Donald Trump. Perhaps more consequentially, most Americans think Biden is more likely to lose the election as a result of his performance. Majorities of Democrats wish that the Democratic and Republican parties would select different candidates, though the vast majority still plan to vote for Biden in November.

How Americans reacted to the debate

80% of Americans say they've heard something about the presidential debate, with half saying they watched either all or part of it. Among people who watched at least clips or highlights of the debate…

  • 33% found watching it to be a very or somewhat enjoyable experience, while 63% said it was not very or not at all enjoyable. More Republicans (44%) than Democrats (20%) found it enjoyable.

  • 60% think Trump won the debate, while just 12% say Biden did. 11% think it was a tie.
  • 52% say that the debate made them view Biden less favorably, while 24% say the same about Trump.
  • 64% believe the debate will decrease Biden's chances of winning the election.
  • Slightly more say Biden (50%) treated his opponent appropriately during the debate than say Trump did (43%).
  • A greater share strongly or somewhat approve (56%) of how the debate was run than disapprove (33%).
  • By a similar margin (54% to 29%), Americans approve of the debate having no live audience.
  • About half (54%) say the moderators were fair and unbiased. 14% say they were biased in favor of Biden and 10% say they were biased in favor of Trump.
  • Even though many debate-watchers did not enjoy the experience, 59% want there to be more debates this year. Just 24% say they don't want any more.

Post-debate candidate evaluations

Evaluations of Biden and Trump have shifted somewhat in the aftermath of the debate. Compared to two weeks before the debate, Americans are 18 percentage points less likely to now say that Biden is a better debater than Trump. And the share who say Biden is more likely than Trump to fumble over his words during a debate rose 14 points.

Three-quarters of Americans would like to see at least one of the two major-party candidates — Biden or Trump — replaced with someone else, and 36% would like to see them both replaced. 25% think just Biden should be replaced and 13% think only Trump should be. People who watched at least some of the recent debate are more likely than people who didn't watch to think Biden should be replaced.

61% of Democrats want the Democratic Party to choose someone other than Biden as their nominee. Just 29% of Republicans say the same about Trump. Among Democrats who prefer another Democratic nominee to Biden, 48% say that if the party does choose someone else, it should let voters select a new nominee, such as through primary elections; 33% say it should quickly select a new nominee from within its ranks, such as through a party convention.

Few Americans want either candidate to run again in 2028 if they aren't victorious in this year's election, but Trump is a much more popular pick within his party for another run in this scenario than Biden is within his party. 12% of Democrats and 38% of Republicans say that if their party's candidate loses in 2024, he should definitely or probably run again in 2028.

If Biden wins this year, just 11% of Democrats would definitely or probably want him to run for a third term if it were possible; 49% of Republicans, meanwhile, say they would want Trump to.


— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on June 28 - 30, 2024 among 1,117 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Getty