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.
View 2020 presidential election polling
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%).
Visit CNN’s Election Center for full coverage of the 2020 race
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.