This article examines the effect of primary season presidential debates on voters' attitudes toward presidential candidates. Employing a pretest-posttest quasi-experimental design, we examine the 1996 Arizona Republican primary debate. We find that the debate led respondents to change their viability and electability assessments of the candidates and produced significant changes in respondents' vote preferences. In addition, we demonstrate that changes in viability, changes in electability, as well as differences between expected and actual debate performance influenced the vote preferences of audience members. We conclude by speculating about the debate's effect on the Arizona Republican primary, and by noting the potentially important differences between the impact of general election and primary debates.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 7, 2004
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