A Historic and Consequential Debate

On behalf of Page S. Gardner’s PSG Consulting, Democracy Corps on June 27, 2024, conducted online dial meter research during President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump’s live debate, among 374 registered voters nationally.

Key line groups include:

  • Dual haters
  • Third Party voters
  • Black voters
  • Hispanic voters
  • White Unmarried Women
  • White Millennial/Gen Z

To ensure each line was as representative as possible, these lines were individually recruited. Surveys were administered before and after the live dial meter session.

What’s unique?

  • A controlled experiment where participants watch the debate and complete pre- and post-interviews
  • Open-ended responses to key items
  • Introduction of attributes on racial priorities and whites becoming a minority
  • Questions on current events like abortion, Donald Trump’s New York felony conviction, and the Gaza-Israel conflict
  • Questions on the issues worries around the candidates
  • Questions on trust of government and trust in people

President Biden needed another stage of momentum to raise his approval and his vote nationally and in the battleground states. His approval went down 2 points and the deficit with Trump grew 8 points. And on who is better handling an issue, he lost 6 to 7 points of margin on inflation, strong, and makes me feel safe. In the past, the polls have almost always reflected the direction and patterns we identify here.

Donald Trump didn’t benefit on any measure, except the vote. And as one can see in the dial meter exchanges, Trump nearly always lost with the groups we monitored, especially the dual haters whose vote did not shift after the debate. Biden retained strong and virtually unchanged on abortion, affordable health care, and protecting women’s rights.

The dials were conducted with large samples of dual haters and third-party voters and the so-called base of Black voters, Hispanics, white unmarried women, and white Gen Z/millennials. These are all strongly leaning Democratic voters who give Biden 65% of their vote in two-way ballot. Yet only half have warm feelings for Biden or Harris.

Responses of Black voters, Hispanics and white Gen Z/millennials show here why they seem to be underperforming for Biden in all the public polls. In multiple segments, Hispanics and white Gen Z/millennials lag behind other base groups. White unmarried women surprise on level of support for Biden and resistance to the idea of another Trump term.

Dual haters play an important part in Biden’s fortunes, but it was because of Biden not Trump. He didn’t raise his approval with these voters.

Before the debate they are hoped he would see their economic concerns and affordability, have a plan on immigration, show he has the mental fitness, address the foreign conflicts, and protect women’s rights.

The debate dropped Biden’s already low approval by 2 points but hit his vote lead, which dropped by 8 points. He took his biggest hit with Black voters and Hispanics, as well as third party voters.

When asked the overall impression, the first was on his cognitive and physical fitness, expressing concern about his age, mental acuity, saying words, “confused” and “frail.” Then, they commented on difficulty articulating his thoughts and his train of thought. Some respondents spoke of honesty.

And after the debate, Biden did well on cares for people, honesty, representing the middle class, and being for forgotten Americans. But a majority of these base and target voters disagree with strongest economy, and Biden being mentally fit or strong. Almost 60 percent reject that he’s getting the border under control or doing well in Gaza. And two-thirds (with 43 percent strongly) say, he’s too old to be president.

When comparing Biden and Trump, these voters give Biden big margins on price gouging, health care affordability, protecting democracy, and being for working people. At the end of the debate, 65 percent preferred Biden on abortion (48 percent strongly). Trump gained only 3 points on abortion

Remembering these voters give Biden 2/3rds of their vote in a two-way, but only a bare majority choose Biden before and after the debate on helping with the cost of living and the economy or re-invigorating American manufacturing.

But something more fundamental happened. The biggest shifts against Biden started at 5 points and came on the border, common sense, getting higher wages and salaries, infrastructure, controlling inflation, being strong, and making me safer.

Access the full findings below:

This is an updated analysis of the dial groups. In addition to the original data from the first deck, we have added a comprehensive analysis of the dial meter testing.:

Comprehensive Dial Meter...

This is the original report:

Initial Findings Powerpo...

Dials Crosstabs Report

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