Dueling Presidential Town Halls
Overnight National research among 880 likely Voters
On October 15th, 2020, both presidential candidates attended Town Hall events in separate locations on competing networks.
Donald Trump attended an NBC News event that was held outdoors at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami and was moderated by the “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie
Joe Biden attended the ABC News forum held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and moderated by the ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Mercury Analytics conducted an overnight survey of likely voters who indicated that they had watched one or both of the Presidential Town Hall events, which took place on October 15th, 2020.
The events both started at 8:00 p.m. ET and ran for 60-90 minutes. Donald Trump attended an NBC News event that was held outdoors at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami and was moderated by the “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie, while Joe Biden attended the ABC News forum held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and was moderated by the ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Mercury’s study tested the candidates’ performance among a national sample of n=880 likely voters. Respondents were first asked a series of demographic questions followed by questions to help understand respondents’ current views on politics in America, the candidates’ Town Hall performances, and the current administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shift in Likely Vote
10/15/20 vs 10/07/20
Q: If the next Presidential election was held today, who would you most likely vote for?
Town Hall Insights
Joe Biden performed extremely well in the ABC Town Hall, receiving high ratings among Democrats (92% Excellent or Good versus 1% Not Good or Terrible), Independents (69% versus 10%) and even positive ratings among Republicans (48% versus 30%). Donald Trump’s overall ratings in the NBC Town Hall were very strong among Republicans (90% Excellent or Good versus 4% Not Good or Terrible) but much weaker than Joe Biden among Independents (46% versus 36%). His ratings among Democrats were very negative as well (33% versus 57%).
Among those who watched the Joe Biden Town Hall, when asked whether Joe Biden had answered questions completely, 70% of Republicans indicated that he did “Completely or Somewhat”, along with 97% of Democrats and 88% of Independents. Among those who watched the town hall featuring Donald Trump, when asked whether Donald Trump had answered questions completely, 94% of Republicans indicated that he had “Completely or Somewhat”, but a much lower percentage of Democrats (50%) and Independents (60%) felt that Donald Trump had answered the questions “Completely or Somewhat”.
For almost two years, Mercury has asked likely voters whether Republicans and Democrats should solve America’s problems by working together, or whether working together has caused the problems in America. Traditionally, greater than 70% have supported “working together” regardless of party. However, in the last 3 months, Republican support for the two parties working together had dropped to 61%, suggesting that Republicans were embracing a more combative style of politics, coinciding with Donald Trump’s confrontational manner. In last night’s study, Republican support for working together rose back to 72%, and among Republicans who watched Joe Biden’s town hall, that number had risen to 82%, indicating a desire for greater civility.
Finally, respondents were asked a series of “yes” or “no” questions related to Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Overall, 79% of respondents think that Donald Trump should “more aggressively call for the wearing of masks by all Americans”, including 67% of Republicans. A total of 82% of respondents think that Donald Trump should “wear a mask more frequently and visibly”, including 70% of Republicans. A total of 84% of respondents think that Donald Trump should “more aggressively call for everyone to social distance”, including 73% of Republicans. Yet when asked whether Donald Trump should “continue to hold rallies in which many supporters do not wear masks or social distance”, only 46% overall felt that such rallies should not be held. Among all respondents, the President’s handling of the pandemic received a positive rating of 40% versus a negative rating of 50%, with Republicans rating his handling 81% positive / 9% negative, Democrats rating him 17% positive / 75% negative, and the all important independents rating him 31% positive / 54% negative.
Donald Trump lost the night because his answers, which received lower ratings than those of Joe Biden, did not connect as strongly with America, compared to the answers provided by Joe Biden. Donald Trump did not answer questions as directly or completely, and, as importantly, his style is turning people off while Joe Biden’s more calm and comforting manner is more in sync with what America appears to want at this time. People expect Donald Trump to take more aggressive actions related to the pandemic and his handling of the crisis gets positive ratings among Republicans only.
Additional debates or town halls in which Donald Trump continues the pattern of avoiding tough questions and attacking and disrespecting the moderator, Joe Biden or others will only increase his negatives and strengthen / solidify Joe Biden’s lead as shown by the shifting support levels.
State of Politics in America
Q: Which of these statements best expresses your view of the state of politics in America? Which statement comes closest?
- The divisions that exist between Republicans and Democrats are bad for America. I want to see Democrats and Republicans working together again solving our problems.
- The divisions and fighting that exists between Democrats and Republicans is necessary to restore American greatness. Compromise between Democrats and Republicans has led to the problems we face.
- Neither statement is true for me at all.
How Americans View One Another
Q: As a supporter of Donald Trump / Joe Biden / an undecided voter, how do you feel about Joe Biden / Donald Trump / Donald Trump and Joe Biden supporters? Please select all of the phrases that represent your feelings today.
How Americans Feel After the Town Halls
Q: After watching the video segments, how do you feel? Please select all that apply.
Individual Town Hall Performance
Q: Overall, how would you rate Donald Trump’s / Joe Biden’s performance in the town hall event?
Answered OR Avoided
Q: Would you say that Donald Trump / Joe Biden answered the questions that were asked completely or that his answers did not address the questions that were actually asked?
Performance in a word
Q: What one word would you use to describe Donald Trump / Joe Biden’s performance in the town hall?
Before concluding the survey, respondents were asked a series of questions to assess how they feel about masks, social distancing, and President Trump’s overall handling of the pandemic.
Q: Overall, how would you rate President Trump’s response to the Covid-19 Pandemic?
Q: In the future, do you think that President Trump should more aggressively call for the wearing of masks by all Americans?
Q: In the future, do you think that President Trump should wear a mask more frequently and visibly?
Q: In the future, do you think that President Trump should more aggressively call for everyone to social distance?
Q: And finally, do you think that President Trump should continue to hold rallies in which many supporters do not wear masks or social distance?
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