Paul Ryan: Base hero? Swing voter magnet? Both?

Welcome mats are still out for Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in marquee swing states, according to a trio of Washington Post polls. But the polls in Florida, Ohio and Virginia find Ryan is better positioned than Biden to energize activists and woo persuadable voters. 

Biden’s jocular image has earned the vice president a net positive reaction: About half of voters in Florida, Ohio and Virginia have favorable views of him, while negative ratings sit in the low 40s. Ryan is less well known, but his ratings in these states also tilt positive with slightly more offering favorable than unfavorable reviews. Ryan's lack of familiarity signals an opportunity to make a good first impression, and one that is less open to Biden after four years in office.

Ryan and Biden have placed a clear emphasis on these states, according to The Post’s fantastic graphic tracking presidential campaign stops. Fully 21 of Ryan’s 61 campaign events have taken place in Ohio, Virginia or Florida, including the announcement in August that he would be Mitt Romney’s running mate in Norfolk, Va. Biden has been no swing state slouch, matching Ryan’s 21 campaign stops in these three battlegrounds.

Their roles in swing states have been two-fold: inject excitement into campaign rallies attended by partisan activists and serve as a convincing advocate to those who are still making up their minds. Ryan appears to have the upper hand on both.  

Roughly nine in 10 conservative Republicans in all three states have a favorable view of Ryan, and upwards of six in 10 are “strongly favorable.” Intensity peaks in Florida, where 71 percent of conservative Republicans have strong positive feelings towards Ryan.

Biden also receives near universal positive ratings from his party’s base – liberal Democrats – but he trails Ryan on intensity. Only about half of liberal Democrats hold “strongly favorable” views of Biden across the three swing states – 53 percent in Florida, 48 percent in Ohio and 50 percent in Virginia.

Persuadable voters are neither as positive nor knowledgeable about Biden and Ryan, but Ryan seems to have made the better impression. Among voters who are undecided or say they could still change their mind, Ryan’s favorable ratings tilt positive in all three states, peaking at 46 percent favorable to 33 percent unfavorable in Virginia.

Biden earns a net positive review in Ohio (46 percent favorable vs. 37 percent unfavorable), but voters in Florida and Virginia are about evenly split.

Popular or not, the impact of Biden and Ryan’s campaign stops on the election outcome is unclear, and may pale in comparison to their Oct. 11 face-off in the vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky. (notably, not a swing state). 

Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.



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Scott Clement · September 26, 2012

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