'I feel terrible for him and America': Voters worry about Biden

BBC graphic of four voters

President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump squared off on Thursday night in the first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle.

Voters across the country have expressed concerned about the candidates' ages - Mr Biden is 81 and Trump is 78 - and the debate supercharged that anxiety.

Still, with weeks left until the conventions when each party will formalise their choice of candidate, supporters of both major parties feel they are left with few options.

The BBC spoke to Democratic, Republican and independent voters who told us they are concerned about Mr Biden's fitness for the ticket.

After Thursday's debate, we asked them if his widely criticised performance will sway how they vote. We start with a voter who feels that she has no choice but to support the president.

Graphic showing Lori Gregory California voter

This long-time Democrat found the debate so hard to watch, she could barely keep the broadcast on. But regardless of the candidates' performances, she plans to vote blue in November.

I didn’t watch the whole thing.

I could not handle it, this is the best our country can do? If Hillary would have walked out in her pantsuit I would have been happy as hell.

I absolutely despise Trump and everything he stands for - his lying, cheating and lack of morals.

Biden is a much better human being, but I felt so bad for him (at the debate) and it was such a disappointment.

I was thinking State of the Union "Jacked up Joe". No, what we got was everything that everyone saying was wrong with him just showed up on stage.

I feel terrible for him and America, but we just have to ride it out.

Honestly, the debate really kind of disengaged me. I feel like there’s nothing I can do but vote blue, whoever it is.

Graphic showing Dominic Bashford Florida voter

Dominic identifies as a Libertarian and voted third-party in 2016 and 2020, but this time around he's fully backing the former president.

I'm a fan of Trump and I'm enthusiastically going to be voting for him.

Going into this debate, I thought the Republicans were setting themselves up for failure. I actually am surprised Biden did as poorly as he did, I thought he’d do better.

I was moderately happy with Trump. I thought he seemed much more presidential, especially compared to the debates last time around.

He was really negative last time. I think he struck the perfect tone (at the debate).

The Trump you saw on stage was much different than the one you saw in 2016. The 2016 Trump would have taken a lot more cheap shots at Biden’s age.

Biden seemed very defeated in his body language. I think Trump seemed very presidential with how he dealt with Biden's age.

I'm enthusiastically going to vote for Trump at this point and I didn’t vote for him in either 2016 and 2020.

[Dominic texted a few minutes later]

In 2016, you almost could've considered me a Never Trumper. My opinion on him has completely changed.

Graphic showing Connor Callahan Florida voter

Connor is Democrat who voted for Biden in 2020. He plans to do the same in 2024, but is concerned about the president's age.

I am nervous about a second Biden term.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the people surrounding Biden are competent and have the ability to carry out the necessities of the executive branch. There’s also no doubt in my mind that Biden has the best interest of this country at heart.

That being said, I am less confident in the ability of Biden to lead this country today than I ever have been.

The Biden administration's efforts on infrastructure, rallying our allies, pardoning of those with marijuana offences, investing in clean energy and forward looking technologies, and reducing prescription drug prices are all monumental actions. I think this first term has been fairly successful, which is why it pains me to say Biden may not be the best figurehead for these policies or moment.

I don’t think any of this could convince me to vote for Trump.

I simply could not get behind a candidate who has reduced faith in our election system dramatically while all his own advisers told him he was wrong.

Or a candidate who is clearly lacking in any moral character based on his extramarital affairs that have now been accepted as fact in a court of law and a myriad of other scandals. Or a candidate that enables the worst sort of hatred and politicisation in every facet of our society and government. Or a candidate who I have never heard speak intelligently or in depth about any topic ever.

Graphic showing Crystal Myers-Barber California voter

Crystal is an ardent supporter of Trump who voted for the former president twice before and will again in November.

Trump came across very level-headed and presidential and Biden came across very weak.

I really did not think it was a good idea for Biden to even do this debate. He actually did not look mentally sound to me. He came across really weak and feeble.

It was painful to watch 90 minutes of this debate between Biden and Trump.

The fentanyl crisis, border security and of course the economy are my top three concerns, and I did not feel like Biden addressed those issues at all.

I'm against abortion and against the abortion pill like Trump. I like that he is pro-life and I like that he sides with Christian conservative values.

I think this country respects him and after this debate, I really think he’ll win.

This debate solidified that he can win and will win.

Graphic showing Shana Ziolko Missouri voter

Shana plans to back Biden in the upcoming election but is not happy with the country's current state of affairs.

I was very frustrated watching the debate. I feel that the answers that they were giving weren’t really answers to any of the questions. It was exhausting to watch.

I don’t think either of them performed better than the other. Mr Biden looked tired, he looked weak. Even if he did have a cold and he had good things to say, he wasn't getting it out and he wasn’t understandable. That reminds me of how Kennedy beat Nixon in the first televised debate by looking healthier.

Trump was being aggressive, going off on tangents. Although he appeared stronger in physicality, I don’t think he did well in content.

I believe I'm still going to vote for Mr Biden because I don’t want Mr Trump in office. I would love it if both parties would reconsider their candidates. I know that idea is being thrown around right now, it would do us better.

Before Biden announced running for re-election, I was hoping he would step aside for someone else to come forward. But I would rather a Democrat be in office than Mr Trump.

Graphic showing Eric Kaiser Indiana voter

Eric is an Independent voter who voted third-party in 2020, but hasn't yet decided what he'll do come November.

Trump is old psychopathic liar who is running solely to keep himself out of jail and will say literally anything he can to protect himself.

Biden is old, feeble and out of touch with his constituency.

Personally, I think President Biden does a better job at listening to different viewpoints. It was telling to me when the moderators would ask questions, Trump would talk about what topics he wanted to.

I'm undecided at this point, I'm going to wait and see what happens. A lot of things could change between now and November.

Personally, I don't see a compelling reason to vote for either person up there, but I do see compelling reasons to vote against people up there.

I would like to see a candidate that I can get behind a vote for, rather than vote against somebody. I want someone who is more interested in doing the job than getting re-elected again.

Neither Trump nor Biden are young. I don't know whether one of them can hold up to four years of being president.

The fact that both of them were up there arguing about their golf game tells me they're more interested in other things than running a country.