Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Most Say Presidential Debates Influence Their Vote

Two-thirds (67%) of those who voted in the 2008 election said the debates between Barack Obama and John McCain were very or somewhat helpful in deciding which candidate to vote for, according to the Pew Research Center’s quadrennial post-election survey. (About three-in-ten (28%) said they were “very helpful” and 39% said they were “somewhat helpful.”)

The number of those who gave positive marks to the debate as an aid to their decisions was the highest since the 1992 debates between Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ross Perot.

In contrast, voters found the candidates’ broadcast commercials to be significantly less helpful. Just a third (32%) described the ads as very or somewhat helpful compared to 66% who said they were not too or not at all helpful.

A pre-election day survey in 2008 found that 80% of Americans tuned in to at least some portion of that year’s debates — 41% watched all of them, 32% watched some and 7% watched a little.

Fully 77% of those who watched at least a little of the debate coverage say the debates were interesting. Nearly as many (70%) say they were informative.

By a more than three-to-one margin (66%-21%), those who watched the debates say Obama did a better job than McCain. Read More