Who Will Win The Vice Presidential Debate?

Who Will Win The Vice Presidential Debate?

FiveThirtyEight

Who Will Win The Vice Presidential Debate?
We’re partnering with Ipsos to poll voters before and after the candidates take the stage.
By Laura Bronner, Aaron Bycoffe, Elena Mejía and Julia Wolfe

Illustrations by Anika Orrock, Candidate Portraits by Fabio Buonocore

Tomorrow evening, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris will meet in the only scheduled vice presidential debate. Normally, vice presidential debates are lower-stakes affairs than presidential debates, but with President Trump contracting the coronavirus, the VP debate has grabbed headlines as the two remaining presidential debates hang in limbo. We’re once again partnering with Ipsos, though, to see how the debate shapes people’s views of the vice presidential contenders — and the presidential ticket as a whole — using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel to interview the same people before and after the debate.

Most people lean towards a Biden-Harris ticket, but many still think Trump-Pence have a good chance of winning
How likely respondents are to vote for each candidate and how likely they think each candidate is to win, on a scale from 0 (no chance) to 10 (absolutely certain)
How likely are you to vote for each?
0
10

3.8

5.1
0
30
60%
0
30
60%
0
10
No
chance
Absolutely
certain
How likely do you think each is to win?
0
10

4.6

4.7
0
30
60%
0
30
60%
0
10
No
chance
Absolutely
certain
Respondents were also given the option of third-party candidates or ‘someone else.’ Additionally, they could indicate that they will not vote.

Similar to our poll for the first presidential debate, most respondents had strong feelings about the two presidential tickets, saying they were absolutely certain to vote for one or the other. And in line with our polling average, more people said they were likely to vote for Biden than Trump. Overall, 43 percent said they were “absolutely certain” to vote for Biden, while only 31 percent said the same for Trump.

But as was true in the first debate, Biden’s lead in voter intention didn’t translate to greater confidence in his chances of winning. Many respondents, regardless of who they planned to back, thought the race was more of a toss-up: When asked to rate the candidates’ chances of winning on a scale of 0 to 10, they gave Trump a score of 4.6 and Biden a score of 4.7, on average.

Supporters are more certain[a][b] than they are excited
How likely and how excited respondents are to vote in the 2020 presidential election, by preferred candidate

Trump
How likely are you to vote?
Absolutely certain
Very likely
Not too likely
Not likely at all
82%
11
6
1
How excited are you to vote?
Very excited
Somewhat excited
Not too excited
Not at all excited
45%
23
20
11

Biden
How likely are you to vote?
Absolutely certain
Very likely
Not too likely
Not likely at all
86%
7
5
2
How excited are you to vote?
Very excited
Somewhat excited
Not too excited
Not at all excited
44%
22
19
15
Respondents were asked to rate how likely they were to vote for each ticket on a scale of 0-10, and their preferred ticket is the one who received the higher score. Respondents who gave both candidates the same score are not included. Respondents who already voted are included in the “absolutely certain” bucket and respondents who gave themselves a 50-50 shot of voting are included in the “not too likely” bucket.

Overall, the vast majority of respondents say they are highly motivated to vote[c][d][e]. And those who know which candidate they’re backing are especially motivated: 86 percent of Biden backers say they are “absolutely certain” to vote and 82 percent of Trump backers. In fact, that includes ten percent of Biden’s supporters who say they have already voted; for Trump’s supporters, that number is five percent. Excitement about voting is also high — almost half of each candidate’s supporters said they were “very excited” to vote and another fifth said they were “somewhat excited.”

The popularity contest
How favorably respondents rated each candidate
37%
52%
45%
40%
favorable
unfavorable
favorable
unfavorable
favorable
unfavorable
favorable
unfavorable
We’re also tracking how favorably respondents view Pence and Harris. Pence is not quite as unpopular as Trump — his net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) is -14, while Trump’s is -24 in our poll. Harris, meanwhile, is almost as popular as Biden; her net favorability is +4, while Biden’s is +6. But for both vice presidential candidates, there’s a substantial group — around 11 percent in Pence’s case, and 15 percent in Harris’s — who say they have never heard of either candidate or don’t have an opinion about them. That’s, of course, more unknowns than for either of the presidential candidates, so there is a real opportunity for those favorability numbers to shift after the debate.

HarrisPence
Very unfavorable
Somewhat unfavorable
Very favorable
Somewhat favorable
All the data presented here comes from polling done by Ipsos for FiveThirtyEight, using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online panel that is recruited to be representative of the U.S. population. For this study, the same group of respondents is interviewed before and after the debate to track whether and how their answers changed. An initial wave of polling was conducted before the debate began, with a follow-up wave after the debate. The first wave of the poll was conducted from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6 among a general population sample of adults, with 2,994 respondents. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points.

All Wave 1 respondents were weighted according to general population benchmarks from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey March 2019 Supplement. Adults are the respondent base for all charts except where otherwise noted. The respondent pool is subject to some amount of attrition from Wave 1 to Wave 2, which our weights account for.

The second wave of the poll began after the debate ended and collected data from Sept. 29 to Sept. 30 among 1,827 adults who had previously responded to the first wave; it has a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points. Of those respondents, 1,337 watched some or all of the debate. All Wave 2 respondents were weighted to the same general population benchmarks as Wave 1.

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