Lower expectations for the vice-presidential debate

October 04, 2016, 1:36 PM GMT+0

While attitudes towards Clinton and Trump are highly polarized, a significant number of Americans have no opinion on Kaine or Pence

Vice Presidential debates – with some exceptions, of course (think Sarah Palin-Joe Biden in 2008) – don’t usually create the kind of interest that presidential debates do. And this year, vice presidential nominees Democrat Tim Kaine and the Republican Mike Pence have created nowhere near the level of public excitement achieved by their running mates, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll.

This is despite the fact that Pence and Kaine remain relatively unknown to voters, and the debate may serve as their introduction to many in the public. About one in four voters don’t have either a favorable or unfavorable view of each of them. In contrast, just 5% express no opinion of the Democratic Presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, and only 3% have no opinion about her GOP counterpart, Donald Trump.

The lower interest in the vice presidential debate is clear in several comparisons:

  • Just 30% of registered voters will definitely watch the Tuesday event. Nearly half said they would definitely watch the first presidential debate beforehand, and interest in the presidential debate is still high: two in three want more and say they are looking forward to future presidential debates.
  • Only a third believe the VP debate will be more interesting than usual, about half the percentage who said that about the presidential debate.
  • Just 13% think the vice presidential debate will affect the outcome. 40% believed the presidential debate would.
  • Nearly half of voters have no idea which candidate might do better Tuesday; 32% think Pence will, 23% think Kaine will. Donald Trump’s voters are more sure of Pence’s likely success than Clinton supporters are about the likelihood of Kaine’s success.

But interest in what is taking place – even for the presidential debate – doesn’t necessarily matter when people vote. Despite the enormous audience and the high interest in the Clinton-Trump debate, only one in ten claimed it changed their mind about how they would vote – and most of those voters supported the same candidate before and after the debate, making the amount of actual change even less.

See the rest of this week's YouGov/Economist Poll

YouGov/Economist Poll archives