Voices & Choices

Ranked choice Vice Presidential poll shows value of polling voters’ ranked preferences

Ranked choice Vice Presidential poll shows value of polling voters’ ranked preferences

Last week, FairVote partnered with SurveyUSA to conduct a poll asking Democratic and independent voters to rank their preferences among seven possible running mates for Biden. 1,296 voters gave their thoughts, and Vox reported the results in an exclusive article

In a nutshell: this ranked choice poll was prescient.

On August 11, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that California Senator Kamala Harris will be his running mate in the 2020 presidential election. In our poll conducted days earlier, Harris was a consensus pick among respondents, garnering 54.79 percent support by the final round of the “instant runoff” process. 

Moreover, when voters who took the poll were presented with the opportunity to rank their options, an overwhelming majority of respondents took advantage of it. 87 percent of respondents ranked at least two choices, and 69 percent ranked three. 56 percent of respondents said they would support using RCV where they live, including majorities in nearly every demographic group polled.  

Polls like this—which allow voters to rank candidates—are more useful than those that only ask for first choices. They provide candidates, campaigns, and pundits a nuanced view on voter preferences. While there were reasons to support any of the seven candidates - from appeal to younger voters, to appeal to voters in different geographic regions - the data helped provide a clearer picture of the preferences of the electorate.

infogram_0__/F7AoIXwZRaZbZgWzeUCJDemocratic VP Poll Aug 2020 -- Depth of Supporthttps://e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed.js?y8htext/javascript

In our poll, Harris led the first round with 31.85 percent of the vote. She expanded her share of the vote to 54.79 percent in the final round because she was a common second and third choice for voters. Harris was also the ‘Condorcet’ winner of the poll, meaning she would defeat any other single candidate in a one-on-one match up. 

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was the second most popular choice in the poll, getting 26.75 percent of first choice votes and 45.21 percent of the final round vote. Warren was also the most common first choice among independent voters, receiving 28 percent support from them in the first round. Harris came in second among independents in the first round, with 23 percent. 

Harris and Warren had strong crossover support. Harris was a common second choice among Warren supporters, and Warren was a common second choice among Harris supporters. 

The poll asked voters why they selected their favorite candidate. The most common reason cited by voters was that the candidate best reflects their values and policy views. However, the most common reason among Harris supporters was that she can be a strong presidential candidate in the future.

Every possible running mate received a net-positive favorability rating among respondents, with Harris’s the highest at +39 percent. 

Interactive results of the poll, including how the results break down among different demographic groups, can be found on FairVote’s website. Detailed results can also be found on SurveyUSA’s website

Previous ranked-choice polling has proven extremely accurate at revealing voter’s preferences in elections. A FairVote-SurveyUSA poll of Maine’s 2nd District Republican primary last month closely mirrored the true results of the race.  

Note: FairVote is a nonpartisan 501c3 organization and does not support or oppose any candidate or party. This poll was conducted for educational purposes only and does not represent an endorsement of any candidate or potential candidate.


Join Us Today to Help Create a More Perfect Union