Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates in 2008: A Profile of Audience Composition

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Abstract:

In this study, the authors examine the composition of the audiences for the presidential and vice presidential debates in 2008. Results from the 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey show that the size of the vice presidential debate-viewing audience in 2008 exceeded the sizes of the presidential debate-viewing audiences, which is atypical from prior campaign seasons. The same general demographic and political characteristics that have driven political debate viewing in the past were operative during the 2008 presidential and vice presidential debate season, with debate viewing by Blacks being a notable exception. Contrary to our predictions, females were not more likely than males to watch the vice presidential debate. Debate watching was significantly associated with the favorability ratings of the candidates on the Democratic ticket, but it was not associated with the ratings of the Republican nominees.

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