Fifty-one percent of respondents in a poll by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted October 4-7, view Biden unfavorably while 39 percent view him favorably.
Forty-four percent of respondents hold favorable views of Ryan, compared to 40 percent unfavorable. Among independents, Ryan gets 42 percent favorable ratings compared to Biden’s 35 percent.
Another Pew poll, conducted over the same four days, found 40 percent expect Ryan to do better in the debate while 34 percent say Biden will do better.
Republican respondents also seem more confident of their candidate than Democrats do of theirs – 78 percent of Republicans expect Ryan to do the better of the two, while 62 percent of Democrats hold the same view of Biden.
Among independents, 42 percent predict Ryan will do better while 25 percent expect that Biden will.
In the second survey, 54 percent of voters (64 percent Republican/55 percent Democrat/48 percent independent) told the pollsters they are “very likely” to watch the debate.
Pew said that suggests lower interest in the debate than the last one between vice presidential hopefuls – Biden and Sarah Palin in 2008 – when 69 percent of respondents said they were “very likely” to watch. Ahead of the 2004 debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic challenger John Edwards, on the other hand, Pew found only 41 percent say they were “very likely” to watch.
Thursday’s debate comes eight days after the first presidential debate, in which GOP candidate Mitt Romney was widely considered to have outperformed President Obama.
Biden, 69, represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009, chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987-1995, and served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2001-3 and 2007-8.
Ryan, 42, has represented Wisconsin in the U.S. House since 1999, and has chaired the House Budget Committee since 2011.