Do political debates have a purpose and can voters learn anything about the candidates?

The 2024 campaign season is heating up, which means it’s time to start paying attention to the upcoming debates.

A political debate is a public forum that takes place before and during the election season.

During the exchange, political candidates express their views and debate their opponents in an attempt to appeal to voters.

Whether voters attend in person, listen to the debate on the radio, or catch it on TV, a question always remains.
Does a political debate provide voters with anysubstantial takeaways?

Common Debate Topics

Today’s political climate is full of controversial debate topics.

Essentially, anything the right or left doesn’t agree on is considered a controversial subject.

It means there are a lot of hot-button topics that often result in lively and occasionally entertaining debates.

Some common topics causing controversy include transgender and LGBTQ+ rights.

School curriculum is also on the list. With subjects like sex education, race, and climate change are starting arguments between the various political parties and candidates.

The headlines on these and other subjects are constantly grabbing readers’ attention, so it’s not surprising controversial debate topics are something moderators typically include in their questioning.

Including headline-generating topics often serves multiple purposes.

It helps increase ratings for the debate, while also allowing candidates to state their position.

While it should be a takeaway for voters, often the debates turn into lively arguments with candidates going for the others’ perceived weaknesses.

With the arguments and personal insults, it can be difficult for voters to get a clear idea of where each candidate stands on the issues.

What Topics Matter to Voters

The topics that matter to voters typically change with each election cycle.
However, some remain the same.

The social security debate in the United States is an example.

Beginning in 1935, the social security program and the associated benefits are a lifeline for many Americans over the age of 62. It also provides support for Americans with disabilities preventing them from finding and keeping meaningful employment.

While the monetary benefits from social security are capped, the program rarely sees an increase in the amount provided for beneficiaries, it is still a vital source of income for the majority of older Americans.

Unfortunately, this vital service program is often included in debate topics with each governing party having separate views on its viability and who should qualify.

Debates in previous years have seen candidates call for sunlighting the popular program. Others want to revisit social security funding every six years or so.

It is one takeaway from a debate voters paid attention to and made their displeasure known loud and clearly at the polls. The candidates who supported the gradual end of social security did not make it to the general elections.

While the social security debate in the United States is still ongoing, most candidates publicly agree to leave the program alone. It’s an example of how a debate can decide a candidate’s political fate.

Candidates’ Personalities are on the Center Stage

A candidate’s personality has always been part of the debate process, especially over the last few election cycles.

Dating back to the Ancient Greeks, founders of the modern democratic governing system, debates are a way for candidates to introduce themselves to the voting public.

In previous years, candidates' position on policy was just as important as their personalities. Sometimes, a candidate without a winning personality could still win the election, as long as voters like what they hear.

It’s a little different in today’s political scene. Now, personality can matter more than a candidate’s stance on hot-button issues.

An example is the recent GOP debate. Headlines are focusing on whether debating candidates smiled enough or connected with the viewing audience.

It is a takeaway for voters. Do they want a candidate with little experience but who has a winning personality? Or do they want someone who has difficulty connecting with people but shares their political views?

Key Takeaways From Debates

What voters get from debates is changing.

Instead of focusing on important issues, candidates are putting more effort into insulting each other.
For voters, it can confuse the issue of who is the best qualified candidate for the job.

Do they vote on personality alone or try to find a candidate who understands the issues?
As the political season heats up, get ready for more debates that seem like a personality contest with less focus on the issues that affect voters.

It often means you are taking away less from the debate.

This article has been created and published on behalf of the Real Clear Marketing Team

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