Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Televised presidential debates help moderates choose candidates

Date:
November 7, 2013
Source:
University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary:
Televised presidential debates have been a staple of the political landscape for more than 50 years. Recent political commentary has focused on the release of a tell-all book outlining the painstaking presidential debate preparation both sides experienced during the 2012 electoral cycle. Now, researchers have determined that televised presidential debates do have important consequences on the attitudes of those who view them -- specifically among apathetic or ambivalent voters.

Televised presidential debates have been a staple of the political landscape for more than 50 years. Starting in 1960 with John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, debates have influenced popular opinion and have swayed voters in every election cycle since. Recent political commentary has focused on the release of a tell-all book outlining the painstaking presidential debate preparation both sides experienced during the 2012 electoral cycle and how those debates helped sway potential votes. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that televised presidential debates do have important consequences on the attitudes of those who view them -- specifically among apathetic or ambivalent voters.

Related Articles


"Viewing debates significantly increased polarization among those who go into the debate with very little candidate preference or attitude and have no strong opinions either way," said Ben Warner, assistant professor of communication who studies political conversation at MU. "The good thing is we feel that moderates make up the group of voters that needs to shift toward one candidate or another."

Data for this study were compiled from potential voters who viewed 12 presidential debates in the 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 presidential elections as well as the vice-presidential debates in 2008 and 2012. Those surveyed were asked their political attitudes pre- and post-debate. Most of those surveyed who had already chosen a candidate tended to stay the same; however, researchers found that after viewing presidential debates apathetic or ambivalent voters tended to have the highest shift in opinion leading them to gravitate toward one candidate. Additionally, these trends held no matter the outside influence, including the changing media landscape, personal social networks and even individual personality traits.

"Despite the white noise of social networks and media, debates truly do make a difference because they are the single biggest electoral event with the largest audience. Because both sides have equal time to make their cases, debates are the most balanced message voters receive over the course of a campaign," Warner said. "If debates move more moderates into the conversation and help get them more engaged in the political process that's a positive thing because it dilutes the vitriol usually associated with the electoral conversation."

Warner co-authored the study, "To unite and divide: the polarizing effect of presidential debates," with Mitchell McKinney, associate professor in the Department of Communication in the College of Arts and Science at MU. The article appeared in the journal Communications Studies in October 2013.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Benjamin R. Warner, Mitchell S. McKinney. To Unite and Divide: The Polarizing Effect of Presidential Debates. Communication Studies, 2013; 64 (5): 508 DOI: 10.1080/10510974.2013.832341

Cite This Page:

University of Missouri-Columbia. "Televised presidential debates help moderates choose candidates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107094702.htm>.
University of Missouri-Columbia. (2013, November 7). Televised presidential debates help moderates choose candidates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107094702.htm
University of Missouri-Columbia. "Televised presidential debates help moderates choose candidates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107094702.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

After Sony Hack, What's Next?

After Sony Hack, What's Next?

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 19, 2014) The hacking attack on Sony Pictures has U.S. government officials weighing their response to the cyber-attack. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins