Up for debate: a look at the potential impact of the first presidential debate

Local News

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) — With the first presidential debate set to take place Tuesday night, Local 5 decided to weigh-in with a local expert on the impact debates can have on the election.

“In terms of seeing big movements in the polls, usually you don’t see them after debates,” UW-Green Bay Political Science Professor Aaron Weinschenk said.

According to Weinschenk, part of that is due to timing.

“They’re happening so late in the process, lots of campaign stuff has happened already and most people have made up their minds,” he explained. “There are a small number of people who are undecided, something like 4,5 percent in this election, so there is a possibility for those people to be influenced, but since it’s such a small slice of the electorate, you’re not going to expect huge swings in the polls.”

One place where small numbers can make a big difference is in swing states, like Wisconsin.

Weinschenk explained that in the 2016 presidential election, they mattered.

“In like the Midwest battleground states, the election came down to less thank a point in some places,” he said. “If they expect that to happen again, it makes sense to see if they can mobilize supporters, if there’s anybody left out there that they can persuade.”

To persuade from the debate stage, Weinschenck says the focus should be on policy.

“I mean, that’s what presidents are elected to do, is make policy,” he said, “and so what are their policy ideas on different issues that come up?”

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