Who won the debate? Snap poll results following first Trump-Biden presidential square off

Joe Biden’s stumbling performance in the first US presidential debate of 2024 left a large majority of American viewers believing that Donald Trump came out on top, according to a snap poll by CNN.

According to the news network’s survey on Thursday night immediately after the broadcast had concluded, 67 per cent of viewers felt that the Republican presidential contender, 78, put in a better performance than the president, 81, who scored just 33 per cent.

Before the head-to-head in Atlanta, Georgia, the same voters said that they expected Trump to turn in a better performance than Biden, backing the GOP candidate 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Biden – whose campaign subsequently said had been suffering from a cold – struggled in the debate, stumbling over his answers, rambling at times or losing his thread entirely while speaking in a hoarse and raspy voice.

The president mistakenly declared at one stage: “We finally beat Medicare.” At another, his Republican opponent was left to respond: “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don’t think he knows what he said either.”

Biden did later rally to rebuke Trump over his sordid personal history, saying he had “the morals of an alley cat”, and over his alleged “suckers and losers” remark regarding America’s military dead.

But he otherwise missed opportunities to hold his predecessor to account over his recent criminal conviction and chaotic record in office from 2017 to 2021, which ended with the failed assault on the US Capitol by a violent mob of his supporters.

The businessman, meanwhile repeated lies and falsehoods throughout, often failing to answer questions and having to be pressed three times on whether he would accept the election results, ultimately saying he would only do so if he was satisfied they were “fair and legal”.

CNN said that the results of its poll marked a shift away from equivalent surveys in 2020 that revealed debate-watchers felt Biden got the better of Trump during their two encounters that year at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But on Thursday, 57 per cent of those watching said they were left with no real confidence in Biden’s ability to lead the US, while 44 per cent said they had no confidence in Trump to do likewise.

The network said that its text message poll was conducted with 565 registered voters in the US who watched the debate.

Following the broadcast, there were immediate reports of “deep panic” among Democrats concerning Biden’s performance, with some calling for the president to be replaced as their party’s nominee before November.

The likes of US vice president Kamala Harris, Biden’s transport secrerary Pete Buttigieg and state governors Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer and Wes Moore have already been named as possible successors.

California governor Newsom was asked after the debate about the possibility of his taking over as the candidate to go against Trump.

“I will never turn my back on President Biden,” he answered. “I don’t know a Democrat in my party that would do so. And especially after tonight.

“We have his back. We run not the 90-yard dash. We’re all in, we’re going to double down in the next few months. We’re gonna win this election.”