Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Port of San Diego in 2016. Photo by Chris Stone

The University of Southern California’s unique Daybreak Poll, which correctly predicted Donald Trump’s presidential victory in 2016, now shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a 12-point lead following the raucous debate.

The poll has consistently shown Biden ahead, but since the debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29, the Democratic challenger’s lead has grown substantially.

“Few presidential debates make that much difference. This one apparently did,” said Bob Shrum, director of the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future, in a report on Wednesday. “In the eyes of voters, Donald Trump belly-flopped into an empty swimming pool.”

“The first, and perhaps only, 2020 debate may in the end do more to shape the ultimate outcome of the race than any debate since the first Kennedy-Nixon face off in 1960,” Shrum added.

An analysis of the poll results since the debate showed that “voters of every political ideology thought Trump significantly underperformed, but particularly independents who lean Republican,” according to the Dornsife team.

On another issue — voting during the pandemic– the survey found that more than two-thirds of voters who have not yet cast a ballot say they plan to vote before election day, either by mail, in person at an early voting location, or by dropping off their ballot at an early voting location.

“A majority of voters agree that voting by mail increases voter safety during the pandemic and provides greater opportunities for everyone to vote,” said Jill Darling, survey director of the Daybreak Poll. “Yet concerns about mail voting and precinct fraud — instances of which are very rare, according to multiple studies — are now top-of-mind for some voters, particularly Trump supporters.”

The poll uses a unique methodology and a giant sample — 6,000 people across the country who are surveyed every other week.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.