Almost one-fourth of Joe Biden’s voters abandoned him following two nights of Democratic debates this week, including Thursday night’s debate in which Biden absorbed a withering attack from California Senator Kamala Harris about his past stances on the issue of race, and specifically the issue of school integration by busing, as Politico reported.
In addition, Biden’s overall performance in the debate was rated poorly by political experts, according to a CNN report. But the new tracking poll showed that despite absorbing a blow from the debate, Biden remains the frontrunner in the Democratic field by a wide margin — and that his favorability numbers remain high, indicating that the voters who now say they will not vote for him could reverse course again and return to the candidate, for whom they continue to hold warm personal feelings.
The poll taken by the research firm Morning Consult in conjunction with the political date site Five Thirty Eight tracked responses of voters before the debates, as well as after each debate.
Among voters who responded to the poll both before and after the debates, Morning Consult found that Biden’s support plunged from 41.5 percent who said before the debates that they would vote for him “if the election were held tomorrow,” to 31.5 percent after both debates saying that they would vote for Biden.
Harris, according to the Morning Consult/Five Thirty Eight poll, gained more than any of the other 19 candidates who took part in the two nights of debates, adding 8.7 percentage points to her support from prior to the first debate, when she stood at 7.9 percent, to after her dramatic performance in the second debate when her support leaped to 16.6 percent among those who responded both before and after the debates.
The poll also measured how favorably the voters viewed each candidate, and found that even after the second debate, Biden’s popularity remains high, with very little decline. Before the debates, Biden was viewed in a positive light by 76.5 percent of the poll’s respondents. After the debates, 75.6 viewed him favorably — a drop of less than one percentage point.
Biden’s largely unchanged popularity “suggest(s) that he can still recover even if he hurt his cause on Thursday night,” wrote Five Thirty Eight analysts Aaron Bycoffe and Julia Wolfe.
But Biden continues to hold a commanding lead in any event. Harris moved into a statistical tie with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for second place behind Biden at 17 percent — still 15 points off of Biden’s pace, according to the poll. That lead is consistent with Biden’s lead in the average of all polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, which shows Biden with a 15.1 point lead over Sanders.