Americans Hold Stronger Feelings About Ryan Than About Biden

October 08, 2012, 10:07 PM GMT+0

(Week of 10/6/2012) Previously considered an afterthought amidst other major events on the October campaign calendar, Thursday's vice-presidential debate has taken on a heightened significance now that the presidential race has been upended by Mitt Romney's resounding victory over President Obama last week. While the country is fairly evenly divided in its overall views of the vice presidential candidates, results from the weekly Economist/YouGov polls suggest that Americans have stronger feelings (both positive and negative) about challenger Paul Ryan than they do about Vice President Joe Biden.

The chart below plots favorability toward Paul Ryan in weekly polls taken since June of this year. It shows that, before early August (when Mitt Romney announced that Ryan would be his running mate), over 40% of respondents consistently had no opinion about Paul Ryan. But beginning in early August, the percentage of respondents who registered an opinion about Ryan shot up dramatically...and almost all of the increase in respondents who registered an opinion about Ryan occurred in the more fervent answer choices ("very favorable" or "Very unfavorable") rather than the more lukewarm ones ("Somewhat favorable" or "Somewhat unfavorable"). Stated simply, America's reaction to the Ryan pick was highly polarized. Judging by the latest results, which show much higher percentages of Americans continuing to give the more extreme answer choice when asked about Paul Ryan, it is clear that Ryan remains a highly polarizing figure.

Unlike Paul Ryan (or Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, for that matter), Joe Biden appears not to be an exceptionally polarizing figure. The chart below shows Biden favorability ratings since June 2012, by which time most Americans had long made up their mind about him. It shows that higher percentages of respondents currently give Biden more lukewarm favorability/unfavorability ratings than they do to Ryan, and this is a despite a small recent increase in the percentage of respondents who have a "very favorable" view of Biden.