Political Behavior

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 155–181 | Cite as

How a Presidential Primary Debate Changed Attitudes of Audience Members

  • Mike Yawn
  • Kevin Ellsworth
  • Bob Beatty
  • Kim Fridkin Kahn


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.


General Election Audience Member Presidential Candidate Vote Preference Actual Debate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mike Yawn
    • 1
  • Kevin Ellsworth
  • Bob Beatty
  • Kim Fridkin Kahn
  1. 1.Political Science DepartmentArizona State UniversityTempe

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