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The Impact of a Presidential Debate on Voter Rationality

Alan I. Abramowitz
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 22, No. 3 (Aug., 1978), pp. 680-690
DOI: 10.2307/2110467
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110467
Page Count: 11
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The Impact of a Presidential Debate on Voter Rationality
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Abstract

This study evaluates the impact of the first presidential debate of 1976 on the rationality of voting decisions. Using data from a panel of eligible voters in Williamsburg-James City County, Virginia, three models of attitude consistency are tested: rational voting, selective perception, and persuasion. Rational voting is defined as choosing a candidate on the basis of issue positions. The debate increased voter awareness of Ford's and Carter's positions on the issue of unemployment, one of the key issues in the debate. However, there is no evidence of changes in candidate preference based on this issue. There is strong evidence of persuasion: voters adopted the position taken by their preferred candidate.

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