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Pence and Harris at the vice presidential debate. Photo: Eric Baradat, Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Wednesday's vice presidential candidate debate got far better reviews in early poll numbers than a similar poll taken after the first presidential debate, with respondents calling it "civil," "informative," and even "presidential."

Why it matters: The new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll suggested that Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris made better impressions with the public than President Trump and Joe Biden did in their debate last week — or, at least, didn't actively repel voters.

By the numbers: The dominant reaction to the debate was relief, with 36% of the respondents saying they felt relieved when it was over.

  • Some of the partisans were even excited, including 25% of Republicans and 21% of Democrats.
  • It didn't generate a lot of anger: just 15% of Republicans and 9% of Democrats walked away angry. But nearly half of independents (46%) said they were disappointed — a far higher share than Democrats and Republicans.
  • By contrast, the Axios-SurveyMonkey poll taken after the first presidential debate found a lot of disappointment and anger at the loud, chaotic showdown.
Graphic: SurveyMonkey

Between the lines: Both Pence and Harris did about as expected, according to the survey, with 58% saying that about Harris and 56% saying the same about Pence.

  • That means they both succeeded at an important task for running mates — don't blow it for the presidential candidate — although that probably works out better for Biden than Trump, given that he leads most national polls.
  • Some of the words respondents used to describe Pence: “professional,” “strong” and “excellent” (from Republicans), “liar,” “rude” and “evasive” (from Democrats).
  • Some of the words used to describe Harris: “strong,” “professional” and “confident” (from Democrats), “liar,” “lies” and “untruthful" (from Republicans).

The poll found that a majority of Americans would trust Harris rather than Pence (54%-44%) to handle the federal response to the coronavirus, even though Pence is the head of the coronavirus task force.

  • That sentiment was strongest among urban residents, who preferred Harris over Pence 70%-28%, while suburban residents gave Harris a smaller edge, 54%-45%.
  • Rural Americans preferred Pence, 57%-40%.

The bottom line: Will the debate change votes? Probably not. Just 14% of the respondents said there was any chance they'd change their minds on how to vote.

  • But at least it cleared the low bar of not generating the outright disgust of the Trump-Biden debate — and these days, clearing the low bar is not nothing.

Methodology: This SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted October 7-8, 2020 among a national sample of 2,708 adults in the U.S.

  • Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
  • Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to make it more clear that 57% of rural Americans trusted Pence over Harris on the coronavirus response.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden elected president, AP projects

Biden in Los Angeles in March. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Associated Press projects Joe Biden has been elected the 46th president of the United States, ousting President Trump after a single term marked by impeachment, constant battles, a disastrous response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic and an unexpectedly close election.

Kamala Harris will join him as the first woman and first female person of color to be elected vice president — a historic breakthrough largely overshadowed by the turmoil surrounding the election. The news drew cheering crowds to the White House, while Biden made plans to address the nation at 8 pm Eastern.

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.