GOP pollster sees Trump-Biden debate as embarrassing, says it ‘inspired folks to not vote’

Longtime Republican pollster Frank Luntz told CNBC on Wednesday that participants in his focus group were let down by the first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. 

“I have never had a session blow up where the participants were disappointed on both sides, where everyone was embarrassed and everyone was upset about what had happened,” Luntz said on “Squawk Box,” while agreeing with the  participants’ assessment.

Trump and former vice president Biden held a bitter 90-minute debate Tuesday night, the first of three scheduled debates ahead of the Nov. 3 election. The candidates frequently interrupted the other, with Biden at one point saying to Trump, “Will you shut up, man?” 

“They felt like they didn’t get the policy they were looking for,” Luntz said, referring to the more than dozen participants in his debate focus group. He specifically called out the lack of attention to economic issues as the U.S. still faces major consequences from the coronavirus pandemic. 

“They felt like the candidates behaved as though they didn’t deserve to be president,” Luntz added. “It actually makes them less likely to vote for any candidate.” 

Luntz said the debate made him recalibrate some expectations about voter participation in the election. “I would have said to you, we’re going to have the biggest turnout ever. What happened last night absolutely encouraged people not to vote.” 

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