Impact of Televised Election Debates

1.  Televised election debates have the potential to go down in history, as in the case of the Nixon-Kennedy clash in 1960

2.  In the UK in 2015, the debates have been game-changers for parties who may have been perceived to be on the margins, as the platform has raised their profile significantly. SNP and Plaid Cymru have been key beneficiaries in 2015.

3.  If we take lessons from professional public speaking, research suggests that the audience will be captured by the delivery more than the content. According to social psychologist Albert Mehrabian, words only count for 7% of overall message delivery.

4.  Yougov data from 2010 suggested that televised debates effectively reached out to voters between 18 and 24 years old. It also had particular impact in engaging first time voters.

5.  Some voice concerns of the danger that televised election debates reduce party politics to personality politics

6.  Analysis of the televised election debates should not just focus on viewing figures alone as that ignores the after burn effect of continuing comment on social media. Over a third of those aged 18-24 said their vote would be influenced by something they read on social media.

7.  In 2010 Tweetminster reported that the first leaders’ debate was the most tweeted event ever around UK politics

8.   Outside of the 18-24 year old age group, social media ranked fairly low in its potential to impact the election. In a recent study, a leaders debate was mentioned by 40 per cent of people as an influence while 20 per cent cited newspapers. Only 13 per cent of the population at large mentioned social media.

9.  A post televised debate may lead to a bounce in the polls, but this is difficult to sustain in the run up to polling day.

10.  Televised debates, while part of how the game is played, are rarely what decide the game itself.

About barora01

Dr Bela Arora is a Senior Lecturer in Global Governance with fifteen years experience in the sector and holds a PhD focusing on arms control. She is the course leader of the MSc in Global Governance at the University of South Wales, which focuses on practice, rather than theory alone. The course may be of interest to professionals from NGOs, government and business. She has worked in some of the UK’s top ranked universities such as Birmingham, Warwick and Cardiff, where she has engaged in lecturing, strategic planning and policy development. She has experience of research and consultancy at national and international level including high profile projects for the United Nations Global Compact, the British Standards Institute Sigma initiative and the International Business Leaders Forum on conflict diamonds. She has engaged with public and private sector organisations. Bela provides analysis on international security for BBC Wales and ITV Wales.
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