America Speaks: Who do they think is a better debater – Pence or Harris?
October 7th, 2020, Candice Jaimungal

America Speaks: Who do they think is a better debater – Pence or Harris?

In an August 2020 YouGov Poll, half (51%) of Americans told us that they consider Joe Biden’s VP pick, Kamala Harris, a better debater than current vice president Mike Pence.

Related: About half of Americans believe Kamala Harris is a better debater than Mike Pence

With the first vice presidential debate of the 2020 election approaching, we asked our YouGov Chat users to go deeper and tell us what they really think about Harris and Pence’s debating skills. You can share your views on who you think is a better debater here.

Kamala Harris

Why do YouGov Chat users think Kamala Harris is a better debater than Mike Pence? Many Chat users were impressed by what they had seen from her previously, including in the Senate hearings.

  • “Any time I’ve seen her speak, she has been direct and to the point. When she has questioned people, she has done her homework and knows the answer, before she asks the question! She will be well prepared with facts!”
  • “Her prosecutorial skills and her brilliant handling of Barr in senate hearings.. [c]alm, smart and strong!”
  • “I’ve watched Ms. Harris during many Senate hearings and believe her to be extremely articulate and will take command of the debate with Mr. Pence.”

  • “I have heard her speak and watched her debate. She is well spoken, knows her stuff, tells the truth and is afraid of no one.”
  • “Did you see her interview Brett Kavanaugh? She has a brilliant, quick mind, with an excellent memory. She is very organized and cool under pressure!”

Other Chat users wrote that Harris’ experience as a District Attorney and legal knowledge serves as an asset.

  • “She is extremely knowledgeable, intelligent and has excellent speaking skills. As a DA, she is well versed in critical thinking and quick thinking. He thinks on her feet so to speak, so I feel she will not only hold her own but do better than Pence.”
  • “She is a natural debater. As a lawyer, Attorney General and as a Senator, she is precise with her language and direction. She can stay on point, return to previous points to ensure her positions.”

  • “She’s smart. She remembers facts, she can see ideas logically and explain ideas, concepts and policies. Also as a lawyer and DA, she has lots of public speaking experience.”

In contrast, for those who said Mike Pence is a better debater than Harris, many cited Kamala Harris’ performance at the Democratic primary debate.

  • “Tulsi Gabbard called her out during the primaries and Harris provided very weak responses.”
  • “She didn't come across during the primary as believable.”

Mike Pence

For those who said Mike Pence is a better debater than Kamala Harris, most cited his demeanor, stating that the current vice president is calm and articulate.

  • “He is steady, calm and mature”
  • “I think he is very articulate and combined with his calm demeanor will allow to out debate Harris.”
  • “Because you can never rattle Mike. He is always serious to the point and very calm.”
  • “He’s very knowledgeable and is a smooth talker. He’s a very good speaker.”

  • “He is calm and controlled and educated on the material.”

Other Chat users cited Pence’s performance during his 2016 debate against Hillary Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine.

  • “He debated Tim Kaine in 2016 and did a great job.”
  • “He did a great job against Kaine in 2016. He kept his cool and was respectful.”

  • “His debate in 2016 was good. His command presence is very good. He relies on facts.”
  • “I’ve seen him debate before. He debated Tim Kaine and he was very elegant and presidential.”

For those who say Kamala Harris is a better debater than Pence, many say they have been unimpressed by Pence’s public speaking in the past.

  • “During his vice presidential debate against Tim Kaine, he really avoided the topics presented in order to present unrelated talking points.”
  • “I have not been impressed with his ability to answer questions from reporters.”

  • “After watching Mr. Pence during his many VP announcements/speeches, I find him to be very meek and mild in his statements and frankly not very knowledgeable.”

Related: What voters think about Kamala Harris and Mike Pence ahead of the VP debate

The debate must go on: Most voters plan to watch the VP debate and say it should not be canceled


Everyday, members of YouGov Chat are asked to share their opinion on a topic in the news. We allow anyone to take part in these chats, and do not display or weight results in real-time. Instead, to make the experience informative but still interactive, the chat displays weighted data from YouGov Direct to show them how the rest of the country voted. This enables us to pose the question to all, while retaining data accuracy and validity when communicating results.

YouGov chat seeks to add to the ‘what?’ (the quantitative poll result) by finding the ‘why?” (qualitative open ends) in a member’s own words. Learn more about YouGov Chat here.

Image: Getty