If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What America Thinks: Will This Year's Debates Make A Difference?

The first debate of the 2016 presidential election is now behind us, but how much do voters care about debates? We decided to find out what America thinks.

First of all, 85% of voters planned on tuning in to last night’s debate. Sixty-three percent (63%) say the presidential debates are important in determining their vote.

For half of voters, the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was more important than the presidential candidate debates in most previous elections. But the level of interest in the debate was consistent with what we saw for the first debates of both the 2008 and 2012 election cycles. Sixty-seven percent (67%) said debates were important to their vote in the 2008 election when Barack Obama was a first-time candidate running against Republican Senator John McCain. Only 50% felt that way, though, by 2012 when Obama was seeking a second term against Republican Mitt Romney.

Debates in the end may not do much to sway voters. In past years, most of those who have watched said at the end that they still favored the candidate they liked before the debates began. This year, however, with 18% of voters still saying they are undecided or planning to vote third party, maybe this is the election where the debates make a difference.

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