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Why Presidential Campaign Debates Are Nearly Worthless January 10, 2008

Posted by Daniel Downs in Democrats, news, political campaigns, political primary, politics, polls, presidential election, Republicans.

According to a Rasmussen survey conducted in July, 59% of Americans said the debates were not informative and useless. In September, only 29% of Americans told Rasmussen that the debates were informative and 56% regarded them as a waste of time. Pew Research conducted a survey in which 55% of Americans said campaign news was dull and only 34% found it interesting. The October New Interest Index reports about 80% of American wanted more coverage of candidate positions on the issues and more background information.

Are Americans getting the desired information? If recent polls are any indication, they are not.

One News Now recently conducted an ad hoc poll on American interest in the presidential primary debates. Of the 5,130 reader respondents, only 19% said the debates were of great interest. For 28% of Americans, the debates were of moderate interest. The debates were of minimal interest to about 21% and a whopping 31% yawned at the thought of the presidential debates.

Why are American voters still not getting the kind of information they want? I can think of at least two reasons:

(1) A whole lot of repetition, and
(2) Too little substance about important issues.

The big political and controversial issues have been repeatedly covered in the debates. With some depth, candidates are presenting their positions on the war in Iraq, the economy, health care, and immigration in most debates, but they have given little time or depth to most other issues. The problem is moderators allow candidates very little time to give substantive responses on the supposedly less important issues. If also noticed that some moderators ask candidates individual questions allowing them to merely promote their strengths and counter general criticism. All of which means, the debates can be boringly repetitive and merely unsubstantial promotional spots rather than meaningful debate.

In an early December poll conducted by Gallup, Americans said the most important issue was the war in Iraq followed by the economy, health care, and immigration. Any family values related issues like abortion and education were at the bottom of list. In a November 2007 USA Today/Gallup poll, 75% of Americans said, “the positions of the presidential candidates on family values will be an important factor in determining their vote for president in November 2008.” At the top of the list of important issues was maintaining strong families. The apparent contradiction is likely the result of different types of questions asked. The first poll asked respondent to rank political and controversial issues in order of importance while the second poll focused directly on family values.

How do Americans define family value issues? In the context of political campaigns, 25% said family values mean strong families. Another 24% said family values are about moral issues including abortion, honesty, religion, and morality. Both traditional and gay marriage defines family values issues for about 6% of respondents. Other issues like education, taxes, and health care are regarded as family value issues by nearly 16% of Americans. Interestingly, a little over 9% of Americans see family value issues as a phony issue–a way to win votes, according to the November USA/Gallup poll.

Candidates of both parties are stating their positions on family values in the campaign debates. Most Democrats support same-sex unions, adoptions by gays, non-discrimination laws like ENDA, and abortion. Most Republicans says they support strong families. According to the Campaign for Children and Families, only Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul consistently and fully support the natural family. (See my previous post Candidates on the Family-A Report Card.)

Primary debates are valueless except for party members. They are worthless for in-depth information on candidate positions and plans. For example, how many Democrat and Independent voters know ex-Muslim Barak Obama’s pastor is regarded as a racist and anti-Semitic, or that Hilary Clinton comeback in New Hampshire more hype than teary reality? And because of her Muslim aide, some have voiced suspicion about Hilary’s Islamic views and practices. How many Republicans know John McCain supported same-sex legislation, or that Ron Paul is the only candidate who has consistently performed the president’s job of defending the Constitution in Washington for about 20 years?

To substantiate the above accusations, read the following:

Barak Obama’s racist and anti-semitic church.

[Hillary Clinton’s] Come Back That Never Was.

McCain: Same-sex marriage ban is unrepublican.

The Constitution According to Ron Paul or visit his online library.

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