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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What America Thinks: Do Debates Make a Difference?

Two Republican debates and the first Democratic debate are behind us, but there are many more to come, including perhaps most importantly the ones during the general election campaign between the two major party nominees. But do debates ultimately make any difference? We decided to find out what America thinks.

Fifty-three percent (53%) of voters say they have changed their vote after watching a debate, but the polls suggest that change isn’t necessarily long-lasting. In the weeks following the second Republican debate, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s numbers fell but have rebounded since then. Similarly, following last week’s first Democratic debate, the potential Democratic primary numbers hardly shifted at all, with frontrunner Hillary Clinton receiving 50% of the vote both before and after the debate.

But debates are certainly good for name recognition which is critical at this still early stage of the campaign. After the most recent Republican debate, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina both saw big spikes in voter belief that one of them will end up as the likely GOP nominee. Time will tell if those findings will hold.

Come the general election, however, while lots of voters promise to watch the debates, few describe them as Very Important to their vote. Historically, that’s been the trend. It’s the issues over the long haul that really seem to count.

For Rasmussen Reports, I’m Alex Boyer. Remember, if it’s in the news, it’s in our polls.