About a quarter of the public (27%) says they have watched one or more of the Republican presidential debates so far this year. Most debate watchers say the televised sessions have been helpful in learning about the candidates (61%) and a third (34%) say the debates have led them to change their minds about which candidate they might support.
Four years ago, in July 2007, 40% said they had watched any presidential debate – whether Democratic or Republican – at that early point in the campaign. In that cycle both parties had wide open races and a number of debates took place early on. Looking back to 2004, when only the Democrats had a primary contest, only 20% said they had watched any of the Democratic debates as of January 2004.
According to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 13-16 among 1,007 adults, about a third (36%) of Republicans say they have watched a debate this year, which is comparable to the number that said this in July 2007 (38%). Interest among Democrats and independents is understandably much lower, with only a quarter of Democrats (25%) and independents (24%) reporting that they have watched any of the debates. This compares to significantly broader viewership in 2007 (45% of Democrats and 38% of independents) in July 2007, when there were contested primaries in both parties.
Read the full analysis, A Third in GOP Have Seen a Presidential Debate, on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.