More Americans said Sen. Kamala Harris did the best job in the vice presidential debate Wednesday night, according to a CNN Instant Poll of registered voters who watched. About 6 in 10 (59%) said Harris won, while 38% said Vice President Mike Pence had the better night.
Those results roughly matched voters’ expectations heading into the debate. In interviews conducted before the debate, 61% of those same voters said they expected Harris to win, 36% thought Pence would.
There was a stark gender gap in the results, with women saying Harris did the best job in the debate by a 69% to 30% margin. Men, meanwhile, split about evenly between Harris (48%) and Pence (46%).
Harris did improve her favorability rating among those who watched, according to the poll, while for Pence, the debate was a wash. In pre-debate interviews, 56% said they had a positive view of Harris – that rose to 63% after the debate. For Pence, his favorability stood at 41% in both pre- and post-debate interviews.
Harris’ numbers went up among men (from 49% favorable before to 56% afterward) and women (from 63% favorable before to 70% post-debate), and she even boosted her favorability rating among Trump supporters (from 4% favorable pre-debate to 12% after). Pence’s numbers held steady among men and women (50% of men had a favorable view in both pre- and post-debate interviews, among women it was 33% pre-debate and 32% after).
As after the first presidential debate, though, most voters who watched said Wednesday’s event hasn’t changed their minds about whom to support. Overall, 55% say it had no effect on how they are likely to vote, while those who did choose a side tilted narrowly toward Joe Biden.
Both vice presidential candidates are broadly seen as qualified to be president: 65% said Pence is qualified to serve as commander in chief should that become necessary, 63% said the same of Harris.
Most debate watchers said Harris did the better job defending her running mate (64% Harris to 34% Pence), that she seemed more focused on uniting the country (62% to 34%), was more in touch with the needs and problems of people like you (61% to 38%) and that she expressed her views more clearly (57% to 39%). Most said Pence spent more time attacking his opponent (56%) than thought the same of Harris (36%).
There was no clear consensus among Wednesday night’s debate watchers on how to handle the next presidential debate, which is scheduled for October 15, a date roughly two weeks after Trump tested positive for coronavirus. Just under half (47%) said the debate should be held on the date with the two candidates participating remotely, while 32% say it should be held that day, in-person, as scheduled. Another 20% said that it should not be held on October 15 at all.
Partisans are sharply split on the matter, with about two-thirds of Democrats saying the contest should be held remotely (64%) and two-thirds of Republicans saying it should go forward in-person as scheduled (67%).
The CNN post-debate poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone and includes interviews with 609 registered voters who watched the October 7 vice presidential debate. Results among debate-watchers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points. Respondents were originally interviewed September 30 to October 4 either by telephone or online, and indicated they planned to watch the debate and would be willing to be re-interviewed when it was over. Respondents initially reached online are members of the SSRS Opinion Panel, a nationally representative probability-based panel.
This story has been updated with additional details from CNN’s poll.