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Biden’s Pledge To Choose A Woman For VP Was Popular — And So Is Harris

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

Before Joe Biden announced Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday, criticism of his VP search was heating up. For some, the announcement back in March that he would pick a woman started to ring hollow the longer the search dragged on. For others, it felt like an off-key consolation prize, especially after Biden had defeated a number of high-profile women for the Democratic nomination. And, of course, an added complication was that while he was conducting his vice presidential search, protests against police brutality rippled across the country, leading some to demand that Biden pick not just a woman, but a Black woman.

Yet these criticisms don’t seem to carry much weight with the public. Polls over the past few months show that Americans, especially Democrats, overwhelmingly support Biden’s decision to choose a woman as his running mate.

For instance, after Biden initially made the announcement during a Democratic primary debate, a late-March Fox News poll found that 63 percent of voters approved of it, including 86 percent of Democrats. Fast forward to late July, and these numbers haven’t really changed. A Yahoo News/YouGov survey found that 62 percent of voters — including 90 percent of Democrats — thought Biden had made the right decision by pledging to choose a woman.

Support for Biden picking a Black woman was pretty high among Democrats, too, when they were asked whether they thought this was important. A USA Today/Suffolk University survey from late June found that 72 percent of Democrats thought it was important to pick a woman of color. And a Yahoo News/YouGov poll from late July found that 60 percent of Democrats felt it was important to pick a Black woman. A New York Times/Siena College survey from late June found much lower levels of support (just 25 percent of Democrats said Biden should choose a Black running mate), but that may have more to do on how the question was phrased — respondents weren’t asked if this was important. Instead, they were asked if Biden should choose a white person, choose a Black person, or not factor race into the decision.

One other thing that’s clear from the polls? Harris was the leading contender. A late-July SurveyUSA/FairVote poll of Democrats and independents found that Harris had the strongest favorability rating among potential VP picks, for instance. And using ranked-choice voting, the poll also found Harris was the preferred option, beating Sen. Elizabeth Warren 55 percent to 45 percent after second- and third-choice votes were allocated. (Harris also led 26 percent to 22 percent over Warren in first-choice votes.)

Other favorability polling echoes the SurveyUSA/FairVote findings. Both an early-August survey from The Economist/YouGov and a late-July Politico/Morning Consult poll found Harris had better marks among Democrats than any other VP contender save Warren, although they ran about even in the YouGov survey. Each poll also found Harris with a slightly better net favorability rating (favorable percentage minus unfavorable percentage) than Warren among all respondents.

Two early polls suggest that the public has had a reasonably positive reaction to Harris’s selection, too. A snap poll by YouGov after the pick found that 51 percent of voters approved of the choice while 36 percent disapproved. And 47 percent told ABC News/Ipsos that Harris was an excellent or good choice — including 83 percent of Democrats. Only 29 percent said the choice was not so good or poor.

Bottom line: Biden’s decision to pick a woman as his VP has remained widely popular, and in Harris, he’s found a solid No. 2. As a former presidential contender, she’s already been through public scrutiny of her record and background, and, as a U.S. senator, she has high-level political experience. She’s also a relatively popular choice according to the polls, so her history-making nomination should please many Democrats.

Other polling bites

  • We already knew that Americans’ faith in elections was flagging, but another poll from NBC News/SurveyMonkey found the situation isn’t getting any better. A majority of Americans said they were not at all or not too confident that the November election would be conducted in a fair and equal way. Republicans were the most likely to express a lack of faith in the process (65 percent), while a majority of independents (56 percent) said the same.1 Only 46 percent of Democrats said they lacked confidence in the process.
  • According to Morning Consult polling, Biden isn’t as disliked as Hillary Clinton was four years ago. In its latest survey, 35 percent of voters held very unfavorable views of Biden, compared with 43 percent who felt the same about Clinton in early August 2016. Broken down by party, the largest difference, by far, was among independents: Just 31 percent viewed Biden very unfavorably, compared with 51 percent who viewed Clinton very unfavorably.
  • New polling from Gallup found that Americans, particularly women, do not think women have achieved gender equality in the workplace or in politics. Overall, a whopping 69 percent of Americans said women had not achieved equality with men in the workplace, while 66 percent said the same of the political sphere. Among women, the share was much higher — 79 percent said gender equality hadn’t happened in the workplace, and 75 percent said the same of politics. By comparison, a slimmer majority of men didn’t think women had achieved gender equality in the workplace (58 percent) or in politics (57 percent).
  • According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of Americans think houses of worship should be required to follow the same rules about social distancing and large gatherings as other organizations and businesses. But there was a staggering partisan split on this question: 93 percent of Democrats thought houses of worship should follow the same rules, compared with 65 percent of Republicans.2 A third of Republicans said places of worship should be allowed more flexibility with the rules, while only 7 percent of Democrats agreed.
  • Gallup measured Americans’ level of confidence in 16 U.S. institutions and found that white and Black adults differed the most in their feelings toward the police. Whereas 56 percent of white respondents had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police, only 19 percent of Black respondents said the same. Among the other institutions Gallup asked about, Black and white adults’ attitudes differed little except in one other area: the presidency. Nearly half (47 percent) of white respondents had confidence in the presidency, compared with just 13 percent of Black respondents.
  • YouGov asked Americans how they felt about the National Rifle Association’s political power after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the organization. Nearly half (48 percent) said that the NRA wielded too much influence, while 23 percent said it had the right amount. Only 9 percent said it held too little sway, while 20 percent said they didn’t know. Unsurprisingly, most Democrats (73 percent) thought the NRA had too much influence, although about half of independents (46 percent) said they felt the same way. Conversely, 49 percent of Republicans believed the group had the right amount of power, and 20 percent said it held too little sway.
  • Morning Consult found that star players in the National Football League and National Basketball Association may have more national appeal than those in Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League. When asked to name their favorite player in each league, respondents were more likely to name big-name athletes in the NFL, such as Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, and in the NBA, such as LeBron James and Steph Curry. By comparison, the answers for favorite players in the MLB and NHL were more diffuse, possibly reflecting a more regional appeal.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 41.6 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 54.6 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -13.0 points). At this time last week, 41.3 percent approved and 54.7 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -13.5 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 40.4 percent and a disapproval rating of 55.2 percent, for a net approval rating of -14.7 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.6 percentage points (48.5 percent to 40.9 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.8 points (48.2 percent to 40.5 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 9.0 points (49.4 percent to 40.4 percent).

Footnotes

  1. All figures include independents who lean toward one party.

  2. All figures include independents who lean toward one party.

Geoffrey Skelley is an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

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