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On Friday, seven candidates faced off in a Manchester, New Hampshire, debate hosted by ABC News. (Note: ABC News owns FiveThirtyEight.) This could be voters’ last look at the candidates before the state casts its votes for a Democratic nominee on Tuesday, and we once again partnered with Ipsos to track how the debate affected likely primary voters’ feelings about the candidates on the stage. The FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, conducted using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, interviews the same group of voters twice, once on either side of the debate, to capture both the “before” and “after” picture.
Who won the debate?
The over- (and under-) performers
How favorably all likely primary voters felt about each candidate before the debate vs. how well respondents who watched the debate thought each candidate did
To better understand which candidates did well or poorly, we plotted how favorably respondents rated the candidates before the debate vs. how debate-watchers rated candidates’ performances afterward — and three candidates stood out according to this metric: Sen. Bernie Sanders, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. In fact, Sanders received the highest marks of any candidate for his debate performance. But Buttigieg and Klobuchar weren’t too far off, and Klobuchar in particular did well, as her debate grade was high relative to her pre-debate favorability rating.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, got a middle-of-the-pack performance score, but because of her relatively high pre-debate favorability ratings, we expected a lot of voters to be predisposed to viewing her debate performance in a positive light, and her score doesn’t look as impressive in comparison. Former Vice President Joe Biden and businessman Andrew Yang, on the other hand, received somewhat subpar debate grades that looked even worse compared to their pre-debate favorability ratings.
The numbers behind the chart
|Candidate||Pre-debate favorability||Debate performance|
In terms of raw debate grades — respondents graded candidates on a four-point scale (higher scores are better) — Sanders got the highest average score, closely followed by Buttigeg and Klobuchar.
How the race changed
Who gained (and lost) support
Share of respondents who are considering voting for each candidate
Before debateAfter debate
Respondents could pick multiple candidates or ‘someone else.’
Friday’s debate also triggered some fairly big moves in who respondents said they were considering supporting. The most notable shifts: First, the share of people considering voting for Biden dropped by 5 points. He led the pack on this metric going into the debate, but now trails Sanders. Second, Buttigieg, though still a ways behind Sanders in terms of the overall share of people considering him, picked up nearly 6 points in potential support — the largest gain of any candidate on Friday. Finally, Klobuchar also grew her potential support by 3 points. Of course, even with Klobuchar’s gain, there’s still a big gap between the top four candidates on this metric and everyone else. Klobuchar is up to 16 percent in potential support, but nearly 35 percent of respondents said they were still considering Warren after the debate (she didn’t see much of an uptick). Billionaire Tom Steyer is even farther behind the top tier, with only 8 percent considering him, and Yang isn’t faring much better, with 11 percent.
The popularity contest
Candidates' favorable and unfavorable ratings among likely primary voters
We also asked likely Democratic primary voters how favorably they felt about each candidate both before and after the debate. And both Klobuchar and Buttigieg did well on this metric, too, with the largest jumps in net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) — 3.5 points and 2.1 points, respectively. Biden’s net favorability, on the other hand, actually fell the most of any candidate — he dropped by 5.5 points.
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Who voters think can beat Trump
Respondents’ estimates of the likelihood, from 0 percent (impossible) to 100 percent (certain), that each candidate would beat Trump if they were the Democratic nominee
Finally, we asked respondents to estimate each Democrat’s chances of defeating Trump, from 0 percent (no chance) to 100 percent (certain to win). Going into the debate, as in other general-election polls, Biden was the candidate voters thought was most likely to beat Trump, on average. But for the first time in our polling with Ipsos, Biden no longer led on this question after Friday’s debate. He lost nearly 5 points off his average rating — more than anyone else. And Sanders gained a little under 1 point, edging his average chances of beating Trump, according to respondents, past Biden’s. But it was Buttigieg who gained the most on this metric — 2.5 points.
Respondents’ average rating of candidates’ chances vs. Trump
|Candidate||Pre-debate average||Post-debate average||Diff.|