Thursday, September 24, 2015
Byron York makes a good observation
regarding the televised Republican debates so far: They aren't focused
on the issues of greatest concern to voters, and the problem goes well
beyond the inordinate attention being lavished on Donald
Pollsters have for many years asked Americans what they believe the most important issue facing the country today is. To look at some recent results, a Gallup survey this month found that 37 percent named economic problems as the most important issue, with other concerns in single digits. A Quinnipiac survey in July found that 37 percent named the economy as the most important issue, followed by healthcare at 13 percent and terrorism at 12 percent. A CNN poll at the same time found 40 percent named the economy, while 20 percent named healthcare and 12 named terrorism.Having very young kids -- and a wife who frequently comes home on the late side -- I haven't been watching debates, but this is a shame and sounds like business as usual, if I recall past elections correctly. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but I don't recall ever seeing a debate premised on the candidates fielding questions based on polls of what the electorate is actually concerned about. (This is not to say that all debates should limit themselves to doing this, since things that actually are important can be on the backburner for most.) The closest I (possibly falsely) recall is a sort of "town hall" format debate, where audience members could ask questions. (I am no fan of this format, as it seems ripe for manipulation. Also, I suspect the format is prone to a similar problem to the one York discusses, namely being monopolized by cranks.) That said, it would be interesting to see what such a debate would be like.
[Republican pollster David] Winston found similar numbers [to a later televised debate] after the first Republican debate, televised by Fox News in August. According to Winston's analysis of that two-hour debate, 10.4 percent of questions focused on jobs and the economy, while 25.0 percent focused on foreign policy and national security, 20.8 percent focused on electability, and 16.7 percent focused on social issues. Just 4.2 percent of the questions in the Fox News debate involved asking one candidate about another candidate.