Presidential Debates: Changing the Way We Vote

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  • Topic: Election, United States presidential election, Mass media
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  • Published : April 15, 2013
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Presidential Debates: How they change the way we vote

Wright State University

To the Durr Foundation for its Instrument Development and Research Proposal Writing Workshop on Voter Perceptions of Presidential Elections 2008 and 2012 in Buenos Aires, Argentina from January 7- April 19, 2013. H1: Campaign parties and mass media tailor Presidential Debates based on voters’ socioeconomic status, age, race, and gender. R1: How much do voters’ party affiliation influence how they perceived the outcome of a Presidential debate? H2: Voter Perceptions about the Presidential Debates are predisposed based on their party affiliation. R2: During Presidential Debate coverage, does the media inflict biases that can change voter perceptions of the issues and outcomes of the debate?

Voters’ Perception of the 2008 and 2012 elections based on the debates
Presidential debates have been an exceedingly popular topic among the media, voters, and politicians since the first televised debate in 1960 (Benoit and Stephenson 2004). However, with technology on an exponential climb more than ever before, presidential debates have the potential to reach an unprecedented amount of people. In a study completed by Kenski and Jamieson (2006:250-251), they concluded that in the 2004 election, voter knowledge of the actual issues played a dynamic role. They found that the more a voter knew the correct answer to where the candidates stood regarding an issue, the less likely they were to vote for Bush. Kenski and Jamieson (2006:251) then express that voters obtain about as much information about their candidates positions on issues from the debates as the press. Benoit, Mckinney, Holbert (2001:259) state that research on debates has suggested that they may have become the single most important influence on vote decisions.

The first debate since the original debate in 1960 occurred in 1976 (Benoit, Hansen, and Verser 2003:335). Abramowitz (1978:682)...
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