Joe Biden’s choice of a running mate is the talk of Washington, but a majority of American voters said Biden’s VP selection won’t affect their vote, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday.
Fifty-four percent of respondents said that Biden’s running mate will have no impact on how they’ll cast their ballot. Only 16 percent said that it would have a “major impact” on their vote. Another 20 percent said it would have a “minor impact.”
Biden said he’ll announce his vice presidential selection after August 1, and many of the options have already appeared alongside him at campaign events and fundraisers, generating further speculation. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Biden’s one-time Democratic primary rivals, are often mentioned as top contenders, as is Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Susan Rice, the former Obama administration national security adviser.
The poll did find sustained support among Democrats for Biden to select a person of color as his running mate, with 45 percent of Democrats saying that would be important. In June, after George Floyd’s death galvanized a national protest movement around racial justice, 46 percent of Democrats said they preferred a person of color on the ticket — a 10-point jump over early April, when just 36 percent of Democrats said that would be important.
“You cannot assume the activism we see on the streets is going to translate into voting. You cannot take anything for granted,” said Karen Finney, who served as Hillary Clinton’s communications adviser in 2016. “This would not be the first time we’d have a person of color on the ticket, and I hope it reminds [voters] that that’s part of how Democrats win.”
But several Democratic operatives said the overall polling results, showing that voters aren’t particularly locked in on Biden’s choice, is unsurprising. “I don’t see anyone going into a voting booth thinking about a VP candidate,” said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist.
Instead, Payne noted, the vice president must serve a “do no harm” function, as “they can be a threat that can hurt the ticket — look at John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008.”
Several contenders have leaned on their criminal justice credentials in this moment, including Demings, who served as the Orlando police chief, and Harris, a former district attorney and California state attorney general.
Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of Black PAC, said the convergence of demonstrations over police accountability and the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on Black people has “all influenced how people are looking at the VP choice,” she said.
She noted that Biden’s shortlist of Black women has “grown over the last few weeks,” a sign “that there are a lot of qualified women who can lead in this moment.” For example, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, has popped up as a new potential contender in recent weeks.
The survey also dove into favorability ratings for the dozen women who have named as potential running mates. Duckworth and Stacey Abrams, who lost a bid for Georgia governor in 2018, were the only two who more voters viewed favorably than unfavorably, though they are relatively unknown. For Duckworth, 18 percent of voters viewed her favorably and 14 percent viewed her unfavorably. Abrams’ numbers split at 22 percent favorable and 20 percent unfavorable.
Harris and Warren held the strongest name recognition after their 2020 presidential runs. Thirty-two percent viewed Harris favorably, compared to 34 percent who viewed her unfavorably, while Warren got a favorable rating from 36 percent of respondents and an unfavorable rating from 43 percent of respondents.
Meanwhile, rapper Kanye West, who tweeted earlier this month that he was going to run for president as a third party candidate, is not particularly popular with voters. More than 60 percent of respondents viewed him unfavorably, while 17 percent viewed West favorably.
The survey of 1,992 registered voters was conducted from July 10-12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. The subsamples have higher margins of error.
Morning Consult is a global data intelligence company, delivering insights on what people think in real time by surveying tens of thousands across the globe every single day.