Brief 37: Voter and Candidate Response to Political Debates

  • Exposure to debates increased voter knowledge substantially for policy questions, candidate recognition, and candidates’ positions.
  • Treated voters were more likely to share the policy preferences of the candidate they voted for.
  • Treated voters were more likely to vote for candidates who performed well in the debates, as measured by both audience reaction and an expert panel.
  • Exposure to debates enhanced voter openness to other parties.
  • Candidates featured in debates were more likely to spend campaign money in places that saw debates.
  • Compared to watching get-to-know-you questions only, watching debates had larger effects on voter knowledge. Debates outperformed both get-to-know you questions and radio summaries in changing policy views and vote choices
  • MPs who participated in the debates made more community visits after being elected.
  • MPs who participated in the debates spent more development money on development projects.