Vice Presidential Debate

Overnight National research among 1290 likely Voters

On October 7th, 2020, the vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris took place at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Election 2020: VP Debate

THE SETTING

Mercury Analytics conducted an overnight survey including dial-tests of the vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, which took place on October 7th, 2020 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The format for the vice presidential debate called for nine 10-minute segments, although the flow of the debate shifted to 8 defined segments.  Each segment was dedicated to topics chosen by the moderator, Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today. The moderator asked an opening question, after which each candidate had two minutes to respond and the balance of the time in the segment was used for a deeper discussion of the topic.

The debate started at 9:00 p.m. ET and ran for 90 minutes without commercial interruption.

Mercury’s study tested the candidates’ performance among a national sample of n=1290 likely voters. Respondents were first asked a series of demographic questions followed by questions to help understand respondents’ current views on politics in America, and specifically on the candidates.  Respondents were next shown one of nine video clips from the debate featuring one of the debate segments.

As participants watched the video, they moved a slider just below the video to the right the more strongly they agreed with what they were seeing and hearing, or to the left the more strongly they disagreed with the candidate. They also had the option to push a button that would identify a “GREAT MOMENT” or a moment when they felt “THAT’S NOT TRUE”.

Before the close of the survey, respondents were asked post-exposure questions to again assess their views on politics in the U.S.

For more information on Mercury’s dial-testing, click here, and for more technical information about the study, please contact Jordan Kraft or at 202-386-6322 x 322.

VP Debate Insights

The debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris took on much greater significance because of the age of both Presidential candidates as well as Donald Trump’s very recent infection with COVID-19. Unlike the first Presidential debate, both candidates generally adhered to the allotted time slots to speak and did not interrupt each other frequently, showing much greater respect for one another. And while neither candidate generally answered the question that was asked, America got to see Mike Pence unfiltered and on his own, and got to meet Kamala Harris, a first for many.

On nearly every metric, Kamala Harris won the debate (see charts below).

Kamala Harris’ ratings among Democrats were very strong and her ratings among independents were stronger than those for Mike Pence.  In fact, her ratings on certain issues among Republicans were more positive than negative, something not typically seen. Mike Pence did very well among Republicans but received weaker ratings among Independents versus the ratings for Kamala Harris.  Democrats provided Mike Pence consistently stronger ratings than Donald Trump received in his debate, meaning Democrats were not as passionately negative towards Mike Pence, although his ratings were lower than the ratings for Kamala Harris.

Click on any of the segments listed on the top of this page to see in detail the ratings of each segment of the debate to identify those that were the strongest for a candidate and those that were weakest.

Also critical, the survey asked several specific questions that measured whether Donald Trump should handle recommended safety procedures any differently because of the pandemic.

  • 71% of Republicans think that Donald Trump should “aggressively call for the wearing of masks by all Americans”, along with 90% of Democrats and 77% of Independents

  • 79% of Republicans think that Donald Trump should “wear a mask more frequently and visibly”, along with 92% of Democrats and 82% of Independents

  • 76% of Republicans think that Donald Trump should “more aggressively call for everyone to social distance”, along with 91% of Democrats and 81% of Independents

  • 40% of Republicans think that Donald Trump should not “continue to hold rallies in which many supporters do not wear masks or social distance”, along with 77% of Democrats and 69% of Independents

While a majority of Republicans feel that Donald Trump should continue to have rallies despite attendees not taking recommended safety precautions, the vast majority of all Americans think Donald Trump’s behavior towards the pandemic should change to embrace the basic safety guidelines provided by the CDC. Despite these views, when asked to rate Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic, 75% of Republicans give him “Excellent or Good” ratings, versus only 15% of Democrats and 29% of Independents.

With respect to the pandemic, Donald Trump faces a moment when Republicans, while supporting his actions until now, also feel that his behavior needs to change.  Whether it will remains to be seen.

Who Did Better Overall

Q: Overall, who would you say did better in this video?
(Average calculated across nine segments, ‘much’ or ‘somewhat’ better per candidate)

Election 2020 VP Debate: Who Did Better

Individual Debate Performance

Q: Overall, how would you rate Mike Pence’s / Kamala Harris’ performance in this video?
(Averages calculated across nine segments)

MIKE PENCE PERFORMANCE

Election 2020: VP Debate Pence Performance

KAMALA HARRIS PERFORMANCE

Election 2020: VP Debate Harris Performance

How Americans View One Another

Q: As a supporter of Donald Trump / Joe Biden / an undecided voter, how do you feel about Joe Biden / Donald Trump / Donald Trump and Joe Biden supporters? Please select all of the phrases that represent your feelings today.

How Americans Feel After the DEBATE

Q: After watching the video segments, how do you feel? Please select all that apply.

Election 2020: VP Debate Pre-Viewing Perception
Election 2020: VP Debate Post-Viewing Emotion

State of Politics in America

Q: Which of these statements best expresses your view of the state of politics in America? Which statement comes closest?

  • The divisions that exist between Republicans and Democrats are bad for America. I want to see Democrats and Republicans working together again solving our problems.
  • The divisions and fighting that exists between Democrats and Republicans is necessary to restore American greatness. Compromise between Democrats and Republicans has led to the problems we face.
  • Neither statement is true for me at all.
Election 2020: VP Debate Politics in America

SHIFT IN SUPPORT

Q: If the next Presidential election was held today, who would you most likely vote for?
(Asked pre- and post-exposure. Calculated on a per respondent basis per the below.)

Trump Positive: Biden Shift to Trump + Biden shift to Neutral + Neutral shift to Trump
Biden Positive: Trump Shift to Biden + Trump shift to Neutral + Neutral shift to Biden
Unchanged: Trump still + Biden still + Neutral still

Election 2020 VP Debate: Shift in Support

COVID-19 

Before concluding the survey, respondents were reminded that last Friday, October 2nd, it was announced that President Trump had contracted COVID-19 and was admitted to Walter Reed hospital for treatment. They were then asked a series of questions to assess how they feel about masks, social distancing, and President Trump’s overall handling of the pandemic.

Q: Overall, how would you rate President Trump’s response to the Covid-19 Pandemic?

Election 2020 VP Debate: Trump COVID-19 Response

Q: In the future, do you think that President Trump should more aggressively call for the wearing of masks by all Americans?

Q: In the future, do you think that President Trump should wear a mask more frequently and visibly?

Election 2020 VP Debate: Trump Encourage Masks
Election 2020 VP Debate: Trump Wear Mask

Q: In the future, do you think that President Trump should more aggressively call for everyone to social distance?

Q: And finally, do you think that President Trump should continue to hold rallies in which many supporters do not wear masks or social distance?

Election 2020 VP Debate: Trump Encourage Social Distancing
Election 2020 VP Debate: Trump Rallies

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