What’s the Purpose Behind Presidential Debates?

Do America’s presidential debates have any substance or are they around for pure entertainment?

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What’s the purpose behind presidential debates?

Somehow, two presidential candidates in a screaming match over who is more qualified to run the country is supposed to sway Americans into choosing their next president. Monday’s presidential debate was one unlike many, for both obvious reasons being COVID-19 and the other element where Donald Trump wasn’t going to let anyone accuse him of his wrongdoings. There were no handshakes, a lack of manners, and plenty of denial as Joe Biden and Donald Trump went head-to-head in the fight that would seal the fate of America’s future. 

Meanwhile, here in Australia where we hear more from our premiers than our prime minister, many are left to wonder what more could these debates be than a PR stunt? I wouldn’t be interested in any Prime Minister who’s found themself caught in a verbal fistfight nor would I enjoy watching two hours of men trying to out-do each other, thus posing the question: What is the sole purpose behind presidential debates?

The purpose of the presidential debate.

Presidential debates are nothing more than a test to see how quick and candidly a presidential candidate can respond to questions that are complex and sometimes personal in nature. It’s not about answering the question logically, rather correctly, and at a fast pace that won’t see your opponent beat you down. 

In Monday’s debate – which some are calling an argument – both presidential candidates overlooked the event’s sole purpose, as they fought over finishing each other’s sentences. Even the moderator lost his cool with the current president over his lack of respect for Biden. The presidential debate commission is now considering cutting microphones in order to give the moderator more control in the next two debates to avoid a repeat of Monday’s horseplay. 

Do these debates actually help Americans decide who to vote for?

In the past, statistics show that presidential debates have helped voters finalise their decision on who to nominate as their next president. Two-thirds of voters in the 2008 election said the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain helped inform their decision on who to vote for, but 12 years on, that number has very much changed. Polling data signifies that the majority of Americans have already made up their minds over who they’re going to vote for in this election, so there is little doubt over whether this year’s debates will change the minds of Americans. Rather, many perceive these debates as pure entertainment.

What will be in store for the next two debates?

The only answer to that is we’ll just have to wait and see. When you have Trump and Biden butting heads the outcome is pretty much unpredictable. But just in case you were interested, the next two debates are within this month, with the second scheduled for October 15 and the third on October 22. Get ready to see both presidential candidates use each other as verbal boxing bags.