How will debates affect upcoming elections? Expert examines Walker-Warnock Senate matchupOctober 4, 20222 min read
Mid-term elections are nearly here and it is debate season for candidates. In Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock is set to debate Herschel Walker in Savannah on Oct. 14. This may be the only time the two candidates face off in a debate. But can these events sway a voter one way or another?
Augusta University’s Mary-Kate Lizotte is an expert in political and voter behavior and said research shows debates do not have a substantial influence on election outcomes.
“Most individuals who watch debates are well informed and therefore very likely to already have a party identification,” Lizotte said. “Sometimes debates do lead to a bump in the polls for a candidate if various news outlets agree that the candidate won. Most of the times, such bumps do not last that long.”
But when it comes to a particular issue, she said there is some research that shows if it’s a newer topic, then it can influence public opinion.
There has been a lot of attention on this particular debate since Warnock has unsuccessfully tried to engage Walker in other debates. Walker has said he’s not the polished speaker Warnock is and has downplayed the debate during recent speeches.
“Walker is probably doing what others have done against a candidate with established oratory skills," adds Lizotte. "George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, or their people, worked to lower expectations by conceding that their opponent was a fantastic debater/speaker; then the news media positively covered their debate performance when they performed moderately well or when their opponent does not trounce them.”
“This could work in Walker’s favor if they only have one debate. If he gets positive coverage for doing better than expected, then he likely won’t agree to another debate.”
With the mid-term elections inching closer and each Senate race crucial to determining the balance of power in Washington, these campaigns will get attention from state and national media.
And if you're a reporter looking to cover the race in Georgia, then let us help.
Dr. Mary-Kate Lizotte is an expert in political and voter behavior. She is available to talk about the upcoming midterm and gubernatorial elections in Georgia. Click on her name to schedule an interview.
Mary-Kate Lizotte, PhD Professor of Political Science
Lizotte is an expert in public opinion and is an expert in gender in politics and voting.