The favorability of Joe Biden’s potential running mates

Linley SandersData Journalist
April 28, 2020, 4:00 PM GMT+0

Choosing a Vice President is one of the most significant choices a presidential nominee makes during a campaign. Joe Biden—who once filled that role for President Barack Obama—is now in a position to make his own pick.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has pledged to choose a female running mate and serve as a bridge to a new generation of political leaders. But who will it be? Many high-profile politicians have already said they would accept the job. Here are the favorability ratings and name identification of potential VPs among Democratic primary voters, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll:

The most popular choices

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (77%) stands out in terms of favorability. In fact, she’s just about equal to Biden’s (76%). About two in five (22%) view Biden in a negative light, but as a career politician who worked in the White House during Obama’s two terms, he benefits from near-ubiquitous name identification (98%).

While Warren’s name recognition is not as strong as Biden’s among Democratic primary voters (93%), she has slightly less outright unfavorability (16%). Warren could be a popular VP pick—a late-March poll found that she drew the most mentions when Democratic voters were asked to suggest a vice president, and she was at the top of the list when Democratic voters were asked to choose from pre-selected names.

Two other potential options who are viewed quite favorably by Democratic primary voters are Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris.

Abrams was the Democratic nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, who ultimately lost her bid but gained national recognition as a voting activist. Abrams delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address— a slot often granted to rising stars within the party—and she recently told Elle Magazine that if selected to be Biden’s running mate, she is “prepared and excited to serve.”

Abrams has not held a position in the federal government, and she is unknown to about one-third (35%) of Democratic primary voters. But those who know her like her. A majority (55%) of Democratic voters view her favorably, while just one in 10 does not. Abrams has signaled not only her own interest in the job but also her belief that Biden should choose a woman of color to be his counterpart.

Harris, a California Senator who ran against Biden for the nomination, would be another high-profile choice. About two-thirds (65%) of Democratic primary voters like her, while one in five (20%) do not. She is unknown by just 14 percent of Democratic voters and was a popular VP pick in earlier Economist/YouGov Polls.

Another former rival, Amy Klobuchar, is slightly less likely than other options to be viewed as “very favorable,” but she nets a 63 percent overall favorability with Democratic voters. One in 10 Democratic voters in earlier polls wanted to see her selected as the Democratic Party’s VP.

The unknown potential VPs

While Abrams is still relatively unknown by Democratic voters, there are two often-discussed options who are even less recognizable: Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

About two in five Democratic voters (41%) are unfamiliar with Whitmer. She’s a relative newcomer on the national stage, only securing Michigan’s gubernatorial seat in the 2018 midterm elections. Whitmer beat her Republican opponent by a 10-point margin, garnering hope from Democrats that the swing state could be within reach in 2020 after narrowly supporting President Donald Trump in 2016.

YouGov data finds that Democratic voters who are familiar with Whitmer have a positive impression of her. She is rated favorably by 47 percent, and only seen in a negative light by 11 percent.

In February, she gave the Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union Address. As she’s led her state through the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitmer has emerged as a Twitter target for President Trump. In late-March, he tweeted at the state “Your Governor, Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer is way in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude.” It was his least-popular tweet of the day, according to YouGov’s TweetIndex data. About one-third of Americans (36%) categorized the tweet as “terrible.”

Even more unknown than Whitmer is Baldwin: Three in five (61%) Democratic voters say they don’t know who she is. That makes it hard to gauge her potential popularity as a VP nominee, but as of April, 31 percent of those who are familiar with her view her favorably.

The unlikely (but popular) choice

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is among the most popular figures for Democrats, and many have wishfully said that Biden should name her as Vice President. Obama was named the “most admired woman” in a global YouGov survey, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie.

About three-quarters of Democratic primary voters (73%) view her “very favorably” and another 16 percent view her “somewhat” favorably. That puts her net favorability at a staggering 89 percent, well above Biden’s numbers, and in-line with her husband’s favorably (90%). Despite this, Obama’s inner circle has made it clear she is not interested in serving as Vice President.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll

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Image: Getty