This is an unbiased comparison of the policies and positions of Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties respectively in the 2012 Presidential election in the United States.

Joe Biden was the incumbent vice president and was elected with President Barack Obama in January 2009 after several years in the U.S. Senate representing Delaware. Paul Ryan was the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 1st congressional district and is known as a leading policy wonk in the Republican party.

Comparison chart

Joe Biden versus Paul Ryan comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartJoe BidenPaul Ryan
Joe BidenPaul Ryan
Political Party Democratic Republican
Position on Healthcare Wants to insure all under age 21, allow families to buy into SCHIP, cover children in families up to 3 times the poverty level ($61,950 for family of 4), create a pool of private plans similar to that for federal workers. Has proposed replacing Medicare with a voucher-based system to allow seniors to buy health insurance from private companies.
Position on Abortion “Strongly” supports Roe v. Wade, but opposes public funding for abortion. Voted yes to a federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortions. Voted against parental notification for minors who get out-of-state abortions. Staunch conservative. Wants to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Position on Global Warming Wants to create a 5-year, $50 billion project for energy and climate change to finance research into discovering alternative energy sources and developing technologies. Opposes domestic drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Widlife Refuge. Against cap and trade for the regulation of greenhouse gases.
Date of birth November 20, 1942 (age 77) January 29, 1970
Position on Immigration Supports a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants that includes learning English and paying fines. Wants to toughen penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Would create a guest worker program. Opposes any form of amnesty for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. Supports better border security and a more robust and up-to-date employee verification system.
Place of Birth Scranton, Pennsylvania Janesville, Wisconsin
Books Authored Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics None
Position on Iraq Voted for the 2002 resolution authorizing the Iraq war, but now says that was a mistake.Opposed 2007 troop buildup in Iraq, and proposed withdrawing most forces from Iraq by the summer of 2008, while leaving a small force behind. Voted for the 2002 resolution authorizing the Iraq war.
Alma Mater University of Delaware, Syracuse University Miami University
Position on Iran Supported the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act. In 2007, Biden supported direct engagement with Iran “to exploit fissures within the government and between the government and the people.” Supported the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act.
Religion Roman Catholic Roman Catholicism
Children Beau Biden, Robert Hunter Biden, Naomi Christina Biden, Ashley Blazer Biden Elizabeth, Charles, Samuel
Position on the Economy Wants to repeal the Bush tax cuts for top 1 percent of earners, extend middle-class cuts and freeze estate taxes at 2009 levels. Supports overhauling alternative minimum tax for the middle class but has voted against full repeal. Tax cuts for all income levels; no income tax on capital gains, dividends and interest; no corporate income tax, estate tax or alternative minimum tax. Privatize Social Security, tax breaks for employer-sponsored health insurance; privatize Medicare.
Spouse(s) Neilia Hunter (deceased), Jill Tracy Jacobs Janna Little
Position on gay marriage Supports same-sex marriage. Opposes constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Says he supports the same federal employee benefits for same-sex couples as for married couples. Opposes same-sex marriage. Voted in favor of the Marriage protection act, twice in favor of an amendment to the Constitution to define marriage, and against the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Position on Social Security Opposes private savings accounts that substitute social security. Supports lifting the ceiling on Social Security payroll taxes, currently $102,000 a year. Proposed giving younger workers the option to invest over one-third of their payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts. These benefits will become the property of the individual, which can be passed onto their heirs.
Position on domestic wiretapping Has called the warrantless wiretapping program authorized by President George W. Bush “unconstitutional” and “an illegal expansion of presidential power.” However, has not taken any actions as Vice President to change Bush era policies and la No position specified.
Ryan vs Biden caricature by DonkeyHotey
Ryan vs Biden caricature by DonkeyHotey
Logo of Republican (L) and Democratic (R) parties
Logo of Republican (L) and Democratic (R) parties

Early Life and Career

Joe Biden was born on November 20 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of Delaware in Newark, where he played varsity football. He majored in history and political science and graduated in 1965. He earned his JD from Syracuse University’s College of Law in 1968. He became an attorney in 1969 and was elected to the county council in 1970. He was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and is the 15th-longest serving senator in history. He sought the Democrat presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008, but dropped out early in the race both times. He became Vice President in 2009.

Paul Ryan was born on January 29 1970 in Janesville, Wisconsin. He majored in economics and political science at Miami University in Ohio and graduated in 1992. He became a staff economist for Wisconsin Senator Bob Kasten in 1992 and then the speechwriter for Jack Kemp. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1998. He is the US Representative for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district.

Differences in Economic Policy

Tax Policy

Joe Biden supports tax cuts for the U.S. middle class. He thinks that tax cuts given to the top 1% of earners should be reduced. He voted for increasing the tax rate for people earning over $1 million in 2008. [1]

Paul Ryan supports a simplified two-level flat tax. He voted to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and to eliminate the Estate tax. [2]


Joe Biden believes that competition with China leads to better products and policies. He opposes tariffs and believes that environmental and labor standards should be built into trade agreements. [3]

Paul Ryan supports a 8.5% tax on imports from foreign countries. He supports membership in the World Trade Organization and supports free trade agreements with Central America, Australia and Singapore. [4]


Joe Biden supported a balanced-budget constitutional amendment in 1997. However, he voted against reducing federal spending in 2005. [5]

Paul Ryan supports a spending cap as a percentage of GDP. He believes that spending should be frozen now. [6]

Social Security

Joe Biden voted to raise the $97,500 cap on social security but not to raise the retirement age. [7]

Paul Ryan voted to reduce tax payments on Social Security benefits. [8]

Healthcare Policy

Joe Biden believes healthcare should be modified, simplified and expanded. He wants to focus on prevention and supports Obama’s healthcare policy. [9]

Paul Ryan argues that Obama’s healthcare plan is a government takeover of healthcare. He opposes Medicare and believes it should be replaced with a voucher system. [10]

Social Issues


Joe Biden supports legal abortion, but opposes federal funding for abortion. He supports banning partial birth abortions. [11]

Paul Ryan opposes legal abortion. He voted to ban federal health coverage that includes abortion. He wants to grant the “pre-born” equal protection under the 14th amendment and to prevent federal funding to groups like Planned Parenthood. He believes that congress should protect life beginning at fertilization. [12]


Joe Biden believes work visas should only be available for jobs that Americans cannot do. He opposes granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants and supports both a border fence and a path to citizenship. He believes it is impractical to deport 14 million illegal immigrants, but supports comprehensive immigration reform. [13]

Paul Ryan supports building a fence along the Mexican border. He voted against reporting illegal aliens who receive hospital treatment. He supports comprehensive immigration reform without amnesty. [14]

Gay Rights

Joe Biden supports same-sex marriage [15].

Paul Ryan supports constitutionally defining marriage as between one man and one woman. He opposes gay adoption. [16] He voted against enforcing anti-gay hate crimes. [17]

Women's Rights

Joe Biden authored the 1990 Violence Against Women Act. [18]

Paul Ryan voted against providing four weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees. [19]

Gun Control

Joe Biden supports the assault weapons ban. He voted against prohibiting lawsuits against manufacturers and supported background checks at gun shows. [20]

Paul Ryan supported prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers and supports reducing the gun waiting period from 3 days to 1. He believes gun registration should be banned in DC and is an avid hunter. [21]

Education Policy

Joe Biden believes that schools should hire more teachers and reduce class sizes. He supported a tax credit for college for anyone earning under $150k, supports performance-based pay for teachers, and believes that No Child Left Behind was a mistake. [22]

Paul Ryan voted against providing additional funding for federal education in 2007. He opposed grants for green public schools and for Black and Hispanic colleges. He supports mandatory state tests. [23]

Civil Liberties and Homeland Security

Joe Biden voted against a constitutional ban on flag desecration. He has a pro-affirmative-action stance, according to the NAACP. However, the ACLU suggest he has a mixed civil rights voted record. [24]

Paul Ryan supports banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. He supports making the Patriot Act permanent. The ACLU indicate he has an anti-civil rights voting record. [25]

Differences in Foreign Policy

Position on Iran

Joe Biden believes that the US should have discussions with Iran and declared the country one of the 3 biggest threats to the US, along with Russia and North Korea, in 2007. [26]

Paul Ryan supports enforcing sanctions against Iran to end their nuclear program. He also supports a no-contact policy with the nation. [27].

Position on Iraq

Joe Biden supported funding the Iraq War in 2007. He supports the withdrawal of troops by 2012. He voted for the Iraq War but regrets the decision. [28]

Paul Ryan voted against redeploying US troops out of Iraq in 2007. He voted for declaring Iraq part of the War on Terror with no exit date. [29]

Position on Afghanistan

Joe Biden supports the continuous withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan until 2014. [30]

Paul Ryan voted against removing US armed forces from Afghanistan in 2011. [31]

Energy Policy

Joe Biden supports clean coal energy and believes that global warming is a man-made catastrophe. He believes in investing in alternative energy sources and supports cap-and-trade for greenhouse gases. He supports energy independence. [32]

Paul Ryan supports opening the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling. He believes the EPA should be prevented from regulating greenhouse gases and opposes limits on CO2 pollution. He voted against tax credits or incentives for renewable energy production. [33]

Environmental Policy

Joe Biden scored 80% on the Human Society Scorecard for animal protection. He voted for oil and gas smokestacks to be included in mercury regulations and is rated as having “pro-environment votes” by the LCV. [34]

Paul Ryan voted against protecting free-roaming horses and burros. He voted against funding for Amtrak improvements and voted for deauthorizing “critical habitat” for endangered species. He supports speeding up approval of forest thinning projects. [35]


There was only one debate for vice presidential candidates. It was held on October 11, 2012 and the full video is presented below:

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