Joe Biden gets a Kamala bounce
The polls suggest people are happy with her, especially voters of color
Kamala Harris delivered her acceptance speech for the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential nomination on Wednesday night. It was a straightforward big-tent speech delivered by the first black female nominee for a major American political party. She referenced her blackness, her Indian heritage, her glass-ceiling-smashing record as California's first female attorney general.
It was also a passionate, warm speech. I got the sense that Kamala really does serve at the pleasure of the people. There were big platitudes like how the party is "for everyone, no matter where you come from” and how every human being has “dignity” and “infinite worth,” but also specific policy enumeration for health care and income inequality that have become key planks of the Democratic Party’s platform in 2020 and an age of covid.
There are more important questions to ponder, but many are still asking whether her selection will reflect well on Joe Biden and increase the chance that Democrats win the presidency. It is too early to tell for sure, but the data indicate that may be the case.
Consider first that Harris is a rather popular public figure. In fact, according to several polls released last weekend, she is one of the most popular politicians in the country.
The most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll gives her a 39% favorability rating, compared to 35% who view her negatively. CNN’s Harry Enten notes that this makes her “the only candidate on either of the major tickets who have more voters saying they have a positive than negative view in this particular survey.”
The NBC findings are not alone. They join a chorus of other data that reflect well on her selection. A Fox News poll also gave her a net-positive favorability rating. Numbers from ABC News and the Washington Post poll show that 54% of Americans approve of Biden picking Harris while only 29% disapprove. That includes both Democrats and Independent. Another poll from CBS News/YouGov found that a good chunk of those would even describe themselves as “enthusiastic” about her selection.
Enten says “If Biden was looking to satisfy the Democratic base as well as not alienate the center of the electorate, he seems to have done so for now.”
One would infer, based on that warm reception, that Biden’s pick might also elevate his status in the polls. According to one survey from Latino Decisions, a Latino political opinion research firm, that just might be the case.
Latino Decisions conducted a survey in the midst of Biden’s announcement last week that he had selected Harris, which provides a unique case to see whether individual respondents in the poll became more likely to support Biden after the announcement. This is an effective (if not foolproof) way to capture movement among a population as it controls for any noise caused by changing poll modes or populations that you might get if you just compared two separate polls.
According to their survey, Harris's selection gave Biden a nearly 15-point net boost for Biden. Before the announcement, 59% of Hispanics said they would vote or were leaning toward Biden, compared with 26% who said the same of Trump. After, 65% said they supported Biden and only 17% said they supported Trump. Biden also received an 11 percentage point boost among Black voters.
Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions writes about why those shifts are real and meaningful:
"Looking at the sample, it is balanced before and after the Harris announcement — there are not more Democrats interviewed after, there are not more young people. The data are similar before and after," Barreto told The Hill. "The only change is that Sen. Harris was named to the ticket, and the data finds large movement towards Biden, well outside the margin of error, among both Blacks and Latinos.
This is real movement, this is not a statistical anomaly.”
It will be several days before we get enough additional polling to tell if the Latino Decisions findings are outliers. But the tentative conclusion does make a lot of sense; A black, female vice-presidential candidate should act as a strong and effective signal to the marginalized members of American politics that the Democratic Party stands with them. It looks like Biden will get a slight bounce from that.