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Joe Biden led Donald Trump 49% to 42% in a survey of Pennsylvania voters.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

Pennsylvania voters were overwhelmingly repelled by 1968 Wharton graduate and President Donald Trump’s conduct in the first election debate, according to a recent New York Times/Siena College survey, as former Penn Presidential Professor of Practice Joe Biden maintained his lead in the battleground state. 

Biden led Trump by seven points, 49% to 42%, according to the Times/Siena College survey of Pennsylvania voters.

Comparing the two surveys, one conducted just before and the second just after the presidential debate held Sept. 29, Pennsylvania voters’ ratings of Trump’s personal characteristics saw declines across multiple categories. Most notably, voters' net agreement that Trump is honest and trustworthy and that he has presidential temperament decreased by seven and 12 points, respectively. 

In follow-up interviews with six "mainly Republican respondents," the Times reported that while none said Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis affected their voting decision, the debate did. More than half of the survey respondents said they strongly disapproved of the President's debate conduct. 

Penn’s election experts and political student group leaders expressed similar sentiments after the debate, citing Trump's failure to condemn white supremacy and disapproval of the mail-in ballot system as major disappointments of the night. 

Pennsylvania voters maintained that Biden has mental sharpness, has good policies for America, and is honest and trustworthy according to the Times/Siena College survey. But after the debate, there was a decline in Pennsylvania survey respondents' perception of Biden as a strong leader. 

“Voters split roughly evenly between whether the debate made them more or less likely to support Mr. Biden, or whether the debate made no difference at all,” the Times reported. 

The Times/Siena poll indicates a close race with Trump leading among white voters without a college degree, representing approximately half of likely Pennsylvania voters, while Biden holds a significant lead among nonwhite voters and white college-educated voters.

As of Oct. 5, FiveThirtyEight reports that Biden is up 6.1 points in Pennsylvania — an increase from 5.4 points on Sept. 29, the day of the debate. Trump has been behind the former Vice President in the state since the start of the campaign.