America Speaks: Which candidate is a better debater?

October 01, 2020, 3:48 PM UTC

Close to half of Americans (48%) think Joe Biden is a better debater than his Republican rival, according to a recent YouGov poll of over 8,000 US adults. For a third of Americans, however, the better debater is Trump (33%).  

But what sets each candidate apart? We asked our YouGov Chat users to go deeper and tell us what they really think about Trump and Biden’s debating styles. You can share your views on who is a better debater here.  

“First Biden can actually debate without lying to the public. And second he can answer questions in a coherent manner.” 

So what made Joe Biden the better debater Chat users' eyes? Most saw his behaviour in the first presidential debate as evidence enough of his superior skills. “He answered questions. He maintained composure while under attack by Trump..” wrote one Chat user, “he shared his plan of action on important issues. He spoke to the people and seemed concerned and sincere. He gave us hope.”  

Biden made a point in the first presidential debate to speak directly to the camera. For many Chat users, this decision only reinforced their belief that Biden is a better debater than Trump. “He offers substance and answers... and in these times of a pandemic empathy. He is able to speak directly to the American people.” Said one Chat user. Another wrote, “Biden talks to us the American people!” 

Presidential debates aside, a number of users took the time to single out the specific qualities they believe make Biden a superior debater. Frequently mentioned traits included Biden’s calmness (“He is calmer and more composed and in general waits his turn to speak.”) his focus (“Biden is focused and clear in his messaging”) and his use of facts (“He knows what he is talking about”)  

“I think he [Trump] knows what he wants to say and just says it. Where as Biden gets confused and stumbles over himself.” 

When we asked Chat users why they thought Donald Trump was a better debater, the overwhelming answer was his aggressive debating style. “He is better at getting under people's skin..” wrote one user, “and utilizing his time to make policy points. But, his style is completely Unorthodox.” Another argued that Trump's greatest strength as a debater is “his aggressiveness… You have to be aggressive to be a leader. You cannot show weakness.” 

For these Chat users, Trump successfully deployed this “unorthodox style” during the first presidential debate. “He was more commanding in tone, kept Biden on defense most of the night and had so many clippable moments that it seems like 2016 all over again” argued one user. 

Others Chat users referenced Trump’s debating experience as justification for why they think he is better than Biden, often focusing in on his history in business (“his negotiation skills as a businessman carry over into debates with his critical approach of how to address each topic”) and his performance in the 2016 debates (“In his debates with Hillary, he left her speechless”).  

A smaller selection of Chat users admired what they consider to be Trump’s directness during debates (and Biden’s lack thereof). “Trump tells it like it is and doesn’t sugar coat it. Biden seems so scripted” wrote one user in reference to the first presidential debate. Another wrote, “Trump is not afraid to pull his punches, and Biden is too focused on speaking like a politician.” 

“Both spout nonsense, but Trump's nonsense is part of his character and always has been.” 

On both sides of the aisle, users admitted that their pick for “best debater” was often the lesser of two evils. Speaking about the first presidential debate, for example, one user confessed that “They both were a joke. I think Biden, for the most part, kept more grounded.” Another claimed “Both of them aren't great, Donald Trump is more coherent over Joe Biden though.” 

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Everyday, members of YouGov Chat are asked to share their opinion on a topic in the news. We allow anyone to take part in these chats, and do not display or weight results in real-time. Instead, to make the experience informative but still interactive, the chat displays weighted data from YouGov Direct to show them how the rest of the country voted. This enables us to pose the question to all, while retaining data accuracy and validity when communicating results. 

YouGov chat seeks to add to the ‘what?’ (the quantitative poll result) by finding the ‘why?” (qualitative open ends) in a member’s own words. Learn more about YouGov Chat here.