Christian Heinze

Polls: Ryan beats Biden in popularity

Paul Ryan has had a higher favorability rating than Vice President Biden in every major nonpartisan national poll since the Wisconsin lawmaker was picked for the GOP vice presidential slot.

In these polls, Ryan averaged a likability factor of about 7.6 percentage points higher than Biden, and he even bested President Obama’s favorability rating four out of six times.

{mosads}The Wisconsin lawmaker gave a fiery, well-received speech to the GOP faithful — and a national television audience — at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. But, even before that moment in the spotlight, polls showed a positive reaction to his joining Mitt Romney on the ticket.

In CNN’s most recent poll, 49 percent of likely voters had a favorable opinion of Ryan while just 38 percent had an unfavorable view of him. Meanwhile, Biden earned favorable reviews from 46 percent of likely voters and unfavorable reviews from 47 percent. That means Ryan’s overall favorable rating was 12 points higher. 

Among independents, the gap was stunning, as Ryan’s favorability rating stood 33 points higher than Biden’s. Lest you think that’s an outlier, a Fox News survey showed a 30-point gap between Ryan and Biden with independents.

The gap is even more notable considering that Ryan’s standing actually improved dramatically since the days when he was first selected as Romney’s running mate, reversing a common pattern of a vice-presidential nominee getting less popular as voters dig deeper into his or her record.

For example, one week after being selected, a CNN poll found Ryan’s favorability rating just 7 points higher than Biden’s — and among independents, just 10 points higher; whereas a week and a half later, that gap stood at 12 points and 33 points higher, respectively. 

But CNN hasn’t been the only polling firm tracking Ryan’s popularity edge over Biden. In The Associated Press’s most recent survey of the race, Ryan’s favorability rating was 6 points higher than Biden’s; in NBC’s most recent survey, it was 4 points higher; in Fox News’s most recent survey, it was 8 points higher; and it was 9 points higher in Monmouth University’s poll of the race.

In other words, in a margin-of-error race between Romney and Obama, it’s not even close between their running mates.

But Ryan’s consistent advantage over Biden isn’t confined to national numbers. He also seems to be more popular in swing states.

In Purple Strategies’s latest poll of those states, Ryan had a favorability rating that was 13 points higher than Biden’s, and he scored 24 points better with independents in those states, including 14 points better in Colorado, 18 points better in Virginia and 15 points better in Florida.

As any good political watcher knows, though, the most important region of the country for the election’s final outcome is the Midwest, and Biden is commonly portrayed as keenly in touch with the working-class voters who live there.

But Ryan is even stronger in this region of the country. 

In CNN’s survey, 47 percent of Midwesterners had a positive view of Biden, while 48 percent had a negative view. Meanwhile, Ryan had a 54 percent positive rating in the Midwest and a 37 percent unfavorable rating. That’s a 18-point edge for Ryan in favorability.

Meanwhile, in the most important state in the region — Ohio — Purple Strategies gives Ryan a 6-point edge over Biden in favorability.

As for the practical effects of these numbers, it seems that Ryan does, indeed, sport the kind of working-class credibility and popularity with lower-income voters that’s eluded Romney.

In the most recent Fox News poll, Ryan was 12 points stronger than Romney among those making under $50,000, while the two sported nearly identical favorability ratings with those making over $50,000. In other words, as income rose, Ryan and Romney were equally popular, but as it fell, Ryan outperformed Romney.

But there are still two important caveats to these findings that you should keep in mind.

First, new vice presidential nominees are frequently wrapped in the glow of novelty and often get less popular as voters grow to view them as more ideological and partisan. Sarah Palin is a good example of a recent nominee who went through that political life cycle. Ryan is awfully new to the national scene and could also fall victim to that process.

Second, none of these polls was taken following the Democratic convention, and considering the Obama-Biden ticket’s overall bounce, it’s quite possible that Biden’s popularity could have bounced up as well. So keep your eyes on the next batch of polls to see whether Biden has closed the popularity gap with Ryan.

But for now, Ryan reigns supreme.

Heinze, the founder of, is a member of staff at The Hill.  Find his column, GOP Presidential Primary, on

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