World News – GB – US presidential debates rarely change election results


The revelations about the president’s tax returns will give his challenger ammunition But they are unlikely to change the campaign

MODERN PRESIDENTIAL breeds are a remarkably stable business Once one candidate establishes a lead, the other finds it difficult to narrow it down by much, especially once fall begins This year, extraordinary events have left their imprint on the contest: the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring and protests for racial justice in the summer Poll numbers from major parties have also changed a bit after their online conventions But since Labor Day, support neither President Donald Trump nor Joe Biden changed by more than a percentage point from the average: 54% of the bipartisan votes for the Democratic challenger and 46% for the incumbent Republican president, according to the issue of The Economist -crunch

The televised debates between the two candidates, the first of which takes place in Cleveland on September 29, offer Mr. Trump a chance to catch up But just two days before the confrontation, The New York Times published the results of a lengthy investigation into the president’s tax returns Among other things, the Times reports that he only paid $ 750 in federal income tax in 2017, the year he moved into the White House, and that in several years he did not. nothing paid at all The Times also says that Mr. Trump or his various holding companies owe hundreds of millions of dollars in debt on various properties, including a $ 100 million mortgage on Trump Tower retail space in New York City

The revelations, which the president generally describes as « fake news », are sure to give Mr. Biden a practical line of attack in the first debate But the very bad news for M Trump may be that even without the disclosures he was unlikely to use the debates to overthrow his campaign History suggests that they rarely alter voters’ intentions

According to The Economist’s analysis of poll data compiled by Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien, political scientists at Columbia University and the University of Texas at Austin, most past presidential debates have had only small temporary effects on the polls Since 1960, the date of the first national televised debates between presidential candidates, the share of the outgoing party’s votes in opinion polls has, on average, not changed at all between two weeks before the first debate and two weeks after the last The polls seldom moved quickly during debate season The most marked change came in 1976 when Jimmy Carter, the Democratic challenger, went from a solid 58% of the vote for the main parties to a much more precarious 51% (although that he always beat the incumbent, Gerald Ford)

The leader has only changed hands after the debates once in the 12 campaigns since 1960 that have featured televised matches It was in 2000, when George W Bush briefly took over as Al Gore – to lose him quickly, as well as the popular vote in November (That said, Mr. Bush still took the White House because he won a majority in the Electoral College) Even in 2016 – when there were many more undecided and third-party voters than today – the debates did not “dwell”. ‘Importance’ Much of this stasis can be attributed to the fact that the candidates are well known as the debate turns and that political polarization has forced most supporters to choose sides. We estimate, from past competitions, that the odds of an eight-point swing towards the incumbent after the debates were around one in 20. In other words, there is only a 5% chance that the debates will wipe out M’s lead. Biden

However, the presidential debates did not take place in a vacuum The day before the first debate in 1976, Playboy magazine published extracts from an interview with Mr. Carter This called into question his reputation as a pious Southern Baptist It helped Gerald Ford take his lead; it may have continued him for the rest of the campaign.This year, Mr. Trump faces a similar problem, in the form of the Times revelations

It’s hard to predict how they will shape the race On the one hand, most voters have already factored in M’s financial transactions Trump The president’s supporters have long accepted his flaws, while his critics have always viewed him unfit for office On the flip side, a report the president owes hundreds of millions of dollars that he may not be able to repay could hurt his position with the likely 6% of voters who are still undecided (and who generally grant little attention to the regular news cycle, but might take note of a torrent of great stories about the president’s taxes)

The main consequence of the Times bombshell could be forcing the president to defend himself against attacks by Mr. Biden and others, taking time that he doesn’t have with advance and postal voting underway and only five weeks before election day proper, each day the president’s poll numbers just hold – or, worse, fall – is a day that diminishes his chances of retaining the White House

To succeed on Tuesday night, Mr. Trump must not only ignore criticism of M Biden on his handling of the pandemic and racial strife in America, as well as his taxpayer record, but also starting to convince more voters that he deserves to keep his job Statistical evidence from previous debates suggests that it is unlikely And a performance that only reinforces the impressions voters have already formed will do nothing to dent M’s lead. Biden

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Published since September 1843 to participate in « a fierce struggle between intelligence, which pushes forward, and unworthy and timid ignorance which prevents us from progressing »

Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Debate, Democratic Party

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