(CN) — Voters aren’t so hot on their options for vice president, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted ahead of Wednesday night’s debate between the incumbent Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris.
All 11,929 panelists — 10,543 registered voters and 1,386 unregistered U.S. adults — were asked to rate Harris and Pence on a “feeling thermometer” scale, where a rating of 0 indicates “as cold and negative as possible” a feeling toward the candidate and a 100-degree rating “means you feel as warm and positive as possible.” The researchers interpreted an answer of 50 as neutral.
The survey suggests that registered voters are about equally split on the vice-presidential candidates. Just about half of voters said they were very or somewhat cold on both Pence and Harris.
Forty-five percent rated Pence between 0 and 24 and 6% rated the Republican incumbent between 25 and 49. Harris barely fared better, as 42% of registered voters gave her a very-cold rating and 7% gave her a somewhat-cold one. Twelve percent of the panelists gave Pence a 50, while 13% gave Harris the same neutral rating.
Just 37% of registered voters gave Pence a rating indicating any amount of warmth, including 30% of respondents who rated him between 76 and 100 and only 7% who gave him a 51-to-75, “somewhat warm” rating.
Though Harris enjoyed a smidge more warmth, her rating was overall more lukewarm than Pence’s. Thirty-nine percent of respondents expressed some level of warmth toward her, including 13% who rated her somewhat warm and 26% who gave her a glowingly high rating on the feeling thermometer.
Pew researchers asked respondents to identify themselves as leaning or staunchly Republican or Democrat, and unsurprisingly found that voters in either camp were more likely to express warmth to their own candidate and say they felt colder to the opposite party’s pick for veep.
Of Democrats and voters leaning Democrat, for instance, 71% felt warmly to Harris, while even more — 86% — gave Pence a cold rating. Among Republicans and their allied voters, a mirror picture emerged: 71% gave Pence a warm rating, while 85% rated Harris coolly.
Regardless of party preference, women voters were significantly less likely than men to give Pence warm ratings: only 32% of women gave him a rating over 50, while 49% of men polled did the same.
The data suggests that racial dynamics are at play as well. At 58%, Black voters are more likely than the 35% of registered white voters to feel warmly toward Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Tamil Indian immigrants.
Additionally, hardly more than one-fifth of Black voters rated Harris coldly, compared to the 55% of registered white voters who did the same. The Black respondents registered to vote also overwhelmingly gave Pence cold ratings (73%) rather than warm (7%) or neutral (18%) ones.
This is the first time that Pew asked survey respondents how they felt about Harris, as she was only announced as Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden’s running mate in August. But the researchers have asked voters how they felt about Pence since 2018.
As with issues such as racial justice, the survey scientists found a growing divide between the parties when it comes to Pence’s ratings. More Republicans have, for the most part, felt warm toward the vice president as his first term alongside Donald Trump comes to a close, while a growing number of Democrats felt somewhat or very cold on Pence since Pew began asking in a survey that concluded in March 2018.
The nonpartisan research organization’s findings reflect answers collected via an online survey conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 5. The question posed, and the results from the full sample of respondents including nonregistered voters, can be viewed online.
Results based on the registered voters’ replies have a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points, according to the Pew study’s methodology disclosure.