Politics & People

Biden’s Dazed Debate Performance Shook Up Young People, Midwestern Voters, and Members of his own Party the Most

By Manzanita Miller

Public opinion polls showing declining support for President Joe Biden after his alarming face off against former President Donald Trump in the last presidential debate continue to be released, adding pressure to the Democratic Party to replace Biden at the top of the ticket.   

While Biden’s dazed and confused demeanor during the CNN debate caused an erosion of support among swing voters, a new poll reveals that Biden’s alarming performance also eroded support among demographics he should be polling well with, including Democrats and upper-income voters. 

The data also reveals that Biden’s numbers have taken a significant hit among Midwestern voters compared to the rest of the country. Biden continues to lose ground with young voters, who have arguably been his harshest critics post-debate.

A new YouGov poll conducted July 5th through 8th reveals a wide majority of Americans – 52 percent – say Biden’s performance at the debate caused them to view him less favorably. A mere 6% of Americans say the debate improved their view of Biden, and around a quarter – 26 percent – say the debate did not sway their opinion.  

The poll also reveals 11 percent of Americans are reconsidering their vote after the debate, but the debate caused 14 percent of Democrats to reconsider their vote intention. That is to say, an even larger share of Democrats compared to Independents (12 percent) say the debate caused them to rethink their vote.  

Democrats appear to have taken Biden’s performance as an unexpected dose of reality. While a vast majority of Republicans (72 percent) and a plurality of Independents (47 percent) say Biden’s performance caused them to view him less favorably, a full 37 percent of Democrats also say Biden’s performance negatively impacted their view of the president.

According to the survey, the debate caused twice as many young people to rethink their vote intention compared to older voters. Seventeen percent of voters under age 30 and 18 percent of voters 30-44 are reconsidering their vote after the debate, compared to just 7 percent of voters 45-64 and 7 percent of voters over 65. 

Among those reconsidering, a large share were formerly Biden supporters. Nearly a fifth (19 percent) of voters under age 30 say the debate made them less likely to support Biden. Only nine percent of voters age 30-44, 5 percent of voters 45-64 and 4 percent of voters over 65 say they are reconsidering their vote for Biden.

According to the survey, 8 percent of Democrats and 11 percent of independents say they are less likely to support Biden in November, as well as 12 percent of Hispanics and 13 percent of Midwest voters. These are the subgroups where Biden experienced the largest declines.

Black voters also showed a relatively high reaction to the debate, with 13 percent of Black Americans reconsidering their vote after the debate. Eleven percent of whites and 12 percent of Hispanics are also reconsidering.  

In addition, lower-income voters were the most likely to say they would reconsider their vote in November (11 percent) compared to around 7 percent of higher-income voters.

There is also a strong regional difference, with 17 percent of Midwest voters saying they will reconsider their vote after the debate compared to only 9 percent of southern voters, 10 percent of western voters, and 11 percent of northeastern voters. The Midwest, home to important battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, will be an important region to watch post-debate.

One of the notable takeaways from the survey is that higher income voters – a group Biden generally polls well with – were particularly shaken by Biden’s dazed and confused performance. Fifty-nine percent of those earning over $100,000 a year said Biden’s performance made them view him less favorably, compared to 48 percent of those earning under $50,000, an eleven-point difference.

Demographically, higher-income voters were the subgroup most alarmed by Biden’s performance, according to the data. However, higher-income voters were the least likely to say they would reconsider their vote for Biden (6 percent) compared to low income (11 percent) and middle-income (7 percent) voters.     

Americans were largely shaken by President Biden’s unsettling performance at the presidential debate in late June, but younger Americans, Democrats, and Midwestern voters were the most shaken according to the data. This means an uphill battle for the Biden campaign to reassure its own base, as well as sure up voters in important swing states. It also hints at a perhaps unsolvable exodus of young people away from Biden in recent months, a trajectory his debate performance only escalated.

Manzanita Miller is the senior political analyst at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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