UPDATED Oct. 8, 2020, at 1:00 PM

Who Won The Vice Presidential Debate?

We partnered with Ipsos to poll voters before and after the candidates took the stage.

On Wednesday evening, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris faced off in the first and only vice presidential debate. Though less tumultuous than last week’s presidential debate, it featured a lot of disagreement — and a lot of evasive answers. We once again partnered with Ipsos to see whether the debate changed Americans’ views of the candidates, using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel to track opinions among the same group of people before and after the debate. The verdict: While the debate didn’t really change how people are planning to vote, Harris did improve her favorability ratings.

The Biden-Harris ticket is still ahead, but many 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)

Respondents were also given the option of third-party candidates or ‘someone else.’ Additionally, they could indicate that they will not vote.

As with last week’s presidential debate, it doesn’t look like the vice presidential debate moved the needle much — somewhat unsurprising, given how baked in respondents’ opinions seem to be. In fact, Biden’s lead over Trump was exactly the same as his lead in our pre-debate poll.

The debate also didn’t really change who people think will win the presidency, although like last week, some people shifted from thinking it was a complete toss-up (50-50) to thinking Biden had closer to an 80-20 chance of winning, which is more in line with the odds our forecast gives him.

Harris got higher marks for her performance — and her policies

How respondents rated each candidate’s debate performance and their answers on policies


Only among respondents who said that they had watched some or all of the debate.

Debate watchers were more impressed with Harris’s performance than Pence’s, with 69 percent saying her performance was “very good” or “somewhat good,” compared to 60 percent who said the same for him. They were also more impressed with the policies she outlined. It’s noteworthy, though, that both vice presidential contenders got better marks for their performance than Trump did last week — just 33 percent thought the president performed well.

Most voters definitely still plan to vote, but they’re a little more excited to do so

How likely and how excited respondents are to vote in the 2020 presidential election, by preferred candidate

Lost supportGained support
Lost supportGained support
How likely are you to vote?
How excited are you to vote?
How likely are you to vote?
How excited are you to vote?

Respondents were asked to rate how likely they were to vote for each candidate on a scale of 0-10, and their preferred candidate 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.

Both candidates’ supporters were highly motivated to vote before last night’s debate, and that did not change: Excitement about voting seems to have even increased slightly. However, that may have more to do with excited voters being more likely to respond to the post-debate poll than less excited voters.


The popularity contest

How favorably respondents rated each candidate

Harris started out more popular than Pence before the debate, with a net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) of +4, compared to his rating of -14. But both Harris and Pence had a large share of people who either hadn’t heard of them or didn’t have an opinion of them going into the debate, so there was an opportunity for them both to shift their favorable numbers. It seems, though, that Harris made a more positive impression. Pence ended up at the same -14 net favorability rating he started with, while Harris’s net favorability rating increased to +10 — which is even better than where Biden ended up after the presidential debate (+8).