The Washington Post

Pew poll: Were the pundits wrong about the debates?

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Prior to last week’s face-off in Denver, everyone was talking about whether debates change elections. A Post piece said no:

The evidence for debate effects on election outcomes is thus weak at best, and at worst nonexistent.

A poll said yes. Everywhere you turned, someone was making a case one way or the other; most of the folks I heard claimed a negligible impact.

Now there’s more: A Pew poll released today bears this title: “Romney’s Strong Debate Performance Erases Obama’s Lead

Read the document; virtually every line punctures any notion that debates are somehow weaklings vis-a-vis the iron constitution of the American voter. There’s this: “Fully 66% of registered voters say Romney did the better job in last Wednesday’s debate, compared with just 20% who say Obama did better.” And this: “In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September.” Not to mention this: “The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters (1,112 likely voters), finds that 67% of Romney’s backers support him strongly, up from 56% last month.”

So maybe debates do influence voters. Especially debates in which one candidate obliterates the opposition, leading to a countrywide consensus, a “Saturday Night Live” skit affirming the consensus, an incumbent who jokes about the performance, a totally fired-up opponent and media that surely don’t mind returning to their talking points about how razor close the race has become.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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