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New Voting Methods

This Ranked Choice Voting Survey Predicted Kamala Harris' VP Nomination

It’s official: Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s VP pick. She had been high on the list of speculated names going into the announcement, yet one poll showed she had the breadth of support that may have influenced Biden’s decision, and it did so by using ranked choice voting.

FairVote, the nation’s largest group supporting the use of ranked choice voting, partnered with SurveyUSA to poll over 1,200 Democratic and independent voters about 7 potential candidates for Biden’s VP. Along with Harris, the poll included:

  • Elizabeth Warren;
  • Susan Rice;
  • Stacey Abrams;
  • Tammy Duckworth;
  • Val Demings; and
  • Karen Bass

Kamala Harris was not only the top pick for a plurality of survey takers, she had the widest breadth of support across all demographics when respondents ranked their top 3 choices. 


Here are some key findings reported by FairVote:

  • Harris and Warren were the two most popular candidates for the first and second choices among voters;
  • Democrats preferred Harris as a first choice (36%) followed by Warren (26%);
  • Independents actually preferred Warren as a first choice (28%), followed by Harris (23%);
  • There was lots of crossover support between Harris supporters and Warren.Harris voters tend to select Warren as a second choice. Warren supporters tend to select Harris as a second choice;
  • Harris and Warren were the only candidates to be ranked by at least half of respondents; 
  • Harris’ first choice advantage gave her the edge over Warren; and
  • Harris won a majority of head-to-head matchups against Warren, and the rest of the field (in most cases, it wasn’t even close).

Survey takers were also asked why they selected their first choice. FairVote reports that the most common response was that the candidate they chose "Best Reflects My Values And Policy Views.”

See FairVote's report here.

Respondents had an opportunity to express their opinion in a different way than they are used to, ranking their preferences rather than just choosing a single candidate. An overwhelming majority took advantage of ranked choice voting, as 87% ranked at least two candidates and 69% had a first, second, and third choice.

As a result, the survey includes data that a choose-one voting method would not have been able to provide; namely, the depth of support each candidate had among survey takers -- an important variable to consider when picking a VP. 

Asked about their opinion on ranked choice voting, 56% of survey takers said they would support its use in elections where they lived. 

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About the Author

Shawn Griffiths

Shawn is an election reform expert an editor of IVN.us. He studied history and philosophy at the University of North Texas. He joined the IVN team in 2012.

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