A variety of research tools have been used to measure the impact of candidate debates. This section contains studies, polling data and other analysis related to debates.

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English Country: United States

Campaign 2004 has all the earmarks of an election that could turn on the presidential debates. John Kerry’s electoral fortunes depend heavily on his ability to ease concerns about his leadership. He must also convince voters that Bush has mishandled the situation in Iraq and has not done a good job with many domestic issues, including the economy. For his part, George Bush must successfully defend his policies at home and abroad, and cast Kerry as ill-equipped to lead a nation at war.

While the candidates emphasize these themes every day on the campaign trail, the debates guarantee them a vast and attentive audience. In the most recent Pew Research Center poll (Sept. 8-13), 61% said they are very likely to watch the debates, as compared with just 43% who said that prior to the presidential debates four years ago. Interest in the debates among independents, in particular, has increased dramatically from the 2000 campaign.

English Country: United States

Al Gore’s personality may be costing him votes. Although a plurality of voters believe he won the first presidential debate, he has lost his small September lead over George W. Bush. As the race has narrowed, an increasing number of voters who oppose the vice president say they dislike his personality. On the other hand, Bush has a slight edge over Gore on likabilty and honesty, but a larger percentage now think he is less qualified for the presidency than his rival.

Little wonder that voting intentions are more closely divided than they were in early September, when Al Gore led in a Pew Research Center survey and most other large national polls. Registered voters favor Gore 44%-43% in the current poll, which was conducted Oct. 4-8 among 1,009 respondents. When Pew’s sample is narrowed to those most likely to vote, Bush holds a 45%-44% edge. Neither lead is statistically significant.

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