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Biden’s Pledge To Choose A Woman For VP Was Popular — And So Is Harris

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Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

Before Joe Biden announced Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday, criticism of his VP search was heating up. For some, the announcement back in March that he would pick a woman started to ring hollow the longer the search dragged on. For others, it felt like an off-key consolation prize, especially after Biden had defeated a number of high-profile women for the Democratic nomination. And, of course, an added complication was that while he was conducting his vice presidential search, protests against police brutality rippled across the country, leading some to demand that Biden pick not just a woman, but a Black woman.

Yet these criticisms don’t seem to carry much weight with the public. Polls over the past few months show that Americans, especially Democrats, overwhelmingly support Biden’s decision to choose a woman as his running mate.

For instance, after Biden initially made the announcement during a Democratic primary debate, a late-March Fox News poll found that 63 percent of voters approved of it, including 86 percent of Democrats. Fast forward to late July, and these numbers haven’t really changed. A Yahoo News/YouGov survey found that 62 percent of voters — including 90 percent of Democrats — thought Biden had made the right decision by pledging to choose a woman.

Support for Biden picking a Black woman was pretty high among Democrats, too, when they were asked whether they thought this was important. A USA Today/Suffolk University survey from late June found that 72 percent of Democrats thought it was important to pick a woman of color. And a Yahoo News/YouGov poll from late July found that 60 percent of Democrats felt it was important to pick a Black woman. A New York Times/Siena College survey from late June found much lower levels of support (just 25 percent of Democrats said Biden should choose a Black running mate), but that may have more to do on how the question was phrased — respondents weren’t asked if this was important. Instead, they were asked if Biden should choose a white person, choose a Black person, or not factor race into the decision.

One other thing that’s clear from the polls? Harris was the leading contender. A late-July SurveyUSA/FairVote poll of Democrats and independents found that Harris had the strongest favorability rating among potential VP picks, for instance. And using ranked-choice voting, the poll also found Harris was the preferred option, beating Sen. Elizabeth Warren 55 percent to 45 percent after second- and third-choice votes were allocated. (Harris also led 26 percent to 22 percent over Warren in first-choice votes.)

Other favorability polling echoes the SurveyUSA/FairVote findings. Both an early-August survey from The Economist/YouGov and a late-July Politico/Morning Consult poll found Harris had better marks among Democrats than any other VP contender save Warren, although they ran about even in the YouGov survey. Each poll also found Harris with a slightly better net favorability rating (favorable percentage minus unfavorable percentage) than Warren among all respondents.

Two early polls suggest that the public has had a reasonably positive reaction to Harris’s selection, too. A snap poll by YouGov after the pick found that 51 percent of voters approved of the choice while 36 percent disapproved. And 47 percent told ABC News/Ipsos that Harris was an excellent or good choice — including 83 percent of Democrats. Only 29 percent said the choice was not so good or poor.

Bottom line: Biden’s decision to pick a woman as his VP has remained widely popular, and in Harris, he’s found a solid No. 2. As a former presidential contender, she’s already been through public scrutiny of her record and background, and, as a U.S. senator, she has high-level political experience. She’s also a relatively popular choice according to the polls, so her history-making nomination should please many Democrats.

Other polling bites

  • We already knew that Americans’ faith in elections was flagging, but another poll from NBC News/SurveyMonkey found the situation isn’t getting any better. A majority of Americans said they were not at all or not too confident that the November election would be conducted in a fair and equal way. Republicans were the most likely to express a lack of faith in the process (65 percent), while a majority of independents (56 percent) said the same.1 Only 46 percent of Democrats said they lacked confidence in the process.
  • According to Morning Consult polling, Biden isn’t as disliked as Hillary Clinton was four years ago. In its latest survey, 35 percent of voters held very unfavorable views of Biden, compared with 43 percent who felt the same about Clinton in early August 2016. Broken down by party, the largest difference, by far, was among independents: Just 31 percent viewed Biden very unfavorably, compared with 51 percent who viewed Clinton very unfavorably.
  • New polling from Gallup found that Americans, particularly women, do not think women have achieved gender equality in the workplace or in politics. Overall, a whopping 69 percent of Americans said women had not achieved equality with men in the workplace, while 66 percent said the same of the political sphere. Among women, the share was much higher — 79 percent said gender equality hadn’t happened in the workplace, and 75 percent said the same of politics. By comparison, a slimmer majority of men didn’t think women had achieved gender equality in the workplace (58 percent) or in politics (57 percent).
  • According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of Americans think houses of worship should be required to follow the same rules about social distancing and large gatherings as other organizations and businesses. But there was a staggering partisan split on this question: 93 percent of Democrats thought houses of worship should follow the same rules, compared with 65 percent of Republicans.2 A third of Republicans said places of worship should be allowed more flexibility with the rules, while only 7 percent of Democrats agreed.
  • Gallup measured Americans’ level of confidence in 16 U.S. institutions and found that white and Black adults differed the most in their feelings toward the police. Whereas 56 percent of white respondents had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police, only 19 percent of Black respondents said the same. Among the other institutions Gallup asked about, Black and white adults’ attitudes differed little except in one other area: the presidency. Nearly half (47 percent) of white respondents had confidence in the presidency, compared with just 13 percent of Black respondents.
  • YouGov asked Americans how they felt about the National Rifle Association’s political power after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the organization. Nearly half (48 percent) said that the NRA wielded too much influence, while 23 percent said it had the right amount. Only 9 percent said it held too little sway, while 20 percent said they didn’t know. Unsurprisingly, most Democrats (73 percent) thought the NRA had too much influence, although about half of independents (46 percent) said they felt the same way. Conversely, 49 percent of Republicans believed the group had the right amount of power, and 20 percent said it held too little sway.
  • Morning Consult found that star players in the National Football League and National Basketball Association may have more national appeal than those in Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League. When asked to name their favorite player in each league, respondents were more likely to name big-name athletes in the NFL, such as Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, and in the NBA, such as LeBron James and Steph Curry. By comparison, the answers for favorite players in the MLB and NHL were more diffuse, possibly reflecting a more regional appeal.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 41.6 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 54.6 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -13.0 points). At this time last week, 41.3 percent approved and 54.7 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -13.5 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 40.4 percent and a disapproval rating of 55.2 percent, for a net approval rating of -14.7 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.6 percentage points (48.5 percent to 40.9 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.8 points (48.2 percent to 40.5 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 9.0 points (49.4 percent to 40.4 percent).

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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