Commentary Magazine


The Myth of Biden’s Likability

Going into the debate tonight, there’s one major false assumption that needs to be cleared up: the myth of Joe Biden’s likability. A common theme in the pre-debate coverage is that Paul Ryan needs to come off as less wonky to balance out that folksy, blue-collar persona Joe Biden likes to adopt. It’s good advice, but it also shouldn’t give anyone the impression that Biden has some remarkable ability to connect with the average American, or that Ryan is a socially-awkward number-cruncher. Actually, the polls show the complete opposite.

And by “the polls,” I mean all of the polls. Ryan has scored higher favorability ratings than Biden in every national, non-partisan poll since he was chosen as Romney’s running mate, as The Hill reported last month:

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.

The most recent Pew Research poll this week found Biden underwater on likability (51 percent viewed him unfavorably, 39 percent favorably):

Vice President Biden heads into Thursday’s debate with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) with opinion stacked against him. According to a new Pew Research Center poll, more voters view the vice president unfavorably than favorably by a 51 percent to 39 percent margin.

Opinions on GOP vice presidential nominee Ryan are more evenly divided, with 44 percent of voters viewing him favorably and 40 percent viewing him unfavorably.

I’m not sure where the myth of Biden’s likability comes from, but it’s not backed up by the numbers.