Republican presidential debates have become contests of who can terrify viewers the most.”

David Brock, Author

Advantages & Disadvantages of Presidential Debates

advantages and disadvantages of presidential debates

Presidential debates have become quite popular over the past decades in many countries all over the world. Millions of people follow those debates in order to determine which candidate they should vote for.

Yet, apart from any advantages of presidential debates, there are also some problems related to this format. In this article, the pros and cons of presidential debates are examined.

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Advantages of Presidential Debates

  1. Candidates may be able to persuade voters
  2. The general public may become more interested in politics
  3. Higher voter turnout through presidential debates
  4. Candidates can answer questions which are really important to voters
  5. General public may get a better idea regarding whom to vote
  6. People may regain trust in politicians
  7. Underdogs may have a last chance to stand out
  8. May help to expose flawed ideas
  9. Can help to expose the true character of candidates
  10. Can be beneficial for the whole country

Candidates may be able to persuade voters

One important advantage of presidential debates is that candidates will have a final chance to persuade as many voters as possible. In fact, many people will still not know whom they want to vote before the presidential debate has taken place and therefore, it is a great opportunity for candidates to try to persuade those indecisive voters that they are the best candidate for them.

Hence, presidential debates can greatly help to win many voters that have not decided whom they want to vote for yet.

The general public may become more interested in politics

Presidential debates are always quite big events and are promoted on several different channels. In fact, for many people, those debates are a must-see and therefore, whole families will often sit in front of the TV together in order to watch those debates.

By doing so, not only adults, but also children will become much more interested in politics over time, which is quite important since politicians can significantly influence how the future looks like.

Hence, presidential debates can also help to increase the interest in politics of many people, which may lead to better political outcomes in the long run.

Higher voter turnout through presidential debates

Since people will become more interested in politics through watching presidential debates, they will also be more likely to vote and therefore, the overall voter turnout may increase significantly.

This is especially important when the raise between the candidates is quite close and every vote could potentially affect the outcome of an election.

Candidates can answer questions which are really important to voters

In presidential debates, moderators also try to focus on the questions which are most important to the general public. Hence, when politicians have to answer those questions, chances are that the general public will get a good impression regarding which candidate would be better in terms of representing the interests of those people.

General public may get a better idea regarding whom to vote

In general, many people would get a much better impression regarding whom they should vote in order to achieve the best possible outcome for themselves and also for the country as a whole. In fact, many people even don’t know what the candidates really stand for until they have watched the presidential debates.

Thus, those debates can be quite important in order to improve the understanding of the general public regarding what they really get if they vote for a certain candidate.

People may regain trust in politicians

Another upside of presidential debates is that people may regain trust in politicians. Quite often, people become quite frustrated over time with politics since they experienced too many unpleasant political outcomes in the past.

However, if they see a candidate they really like in a presidential debate, chances are that those people will vote for this candidate and the trust regarding political decision-makers that was lost many years ago could be restored.

Underdogs may have a last chance to stand out

Presidential debates also provide underdogs with a unique experience to really stand out and to perform much better than the other candidate. In some cases, even though those candidates had been far behind before those debates have taken place, they still won the election since they focused all their power on this event.

Hence, especially for political underdogs, those kinds of debates can be quite helpful to change tack.

May help to expose flawed ideas

In current presidential debates, many people behind the scenes try to expose flawed arguments almost in real-time and also share their thoughts on certain arguments over social media.

In turn, it will become harder for candidates to use those flawed ideas in order to convince the general public with arguments that are actually not true.

Can help to expose the true character of candidates

Through presidential debates, it is often also much easier to expose the true character of politicians. Since they have to answer in real-time in live shows, they are often not able to prepare for every question and sooner or later, their true character might become visible to the general public, which in turn may greatly facilitate the decision for many people.

Can be beneficial for the whole country

Politicians, especially presidents, have a huge influence on how a country will look like in the future and also significantly influence the long-term success of a country. If presidents act in a way that is quite harmful to a country, chances are that this country will lose its competitiveness in the fierce global market.

In turn, this can lead to several adverse issues for the local population. Hence, presidential debates are crucial in order to really make sure that the general public gets the best impression possible in order to make the best voting decision for their country.

Disadvantages of Presidential Debates

  1. Only one bad day can destroy all chances for a candidate
  2. Candidates may try to manipulate the general public
  3. Many promises that are made in presidential debates will not be kept
  4. Candidates often use flawed arguments
  5. Lack of focus of debates
  6. Candidates will often just state answers prepared from their election teams
  7. Candidates may just depict a one-sided picture of reality
  8. Hard to prove if arguments are indeed true in many cases
  9. Talk is cheap
  10. People may rely on presidential debates too much

Only one bad day can destroy all chances for a candidate

Even though presidential debates can really help people to make better voting decisions, they can also achieve the opposite. For instance, one problem of presidential debates is that only one bad day can ruin the chance of a candidate to win an election. We all have bad days from time to time and if a candidate is unlucky, chances are that he or she will lose the election due to this one bad debate.

Hence, people may get a flawed impression of a candidate, who might actually be quite good but just had one bad debate and yet lost all chances to become president.

Candidates may try to manipulate the general public

Political candidates are often also quite skilled in manipulating the general public with populist ideas which sound pretty good at first, but offer little to no value if you look at them in detail.

Thus, if politicians use those arguments, chances are that many people will believe those politicians since the ideas sound logical, even though the overall outcome might be quite bad.

Many promises that are made in presidential debates will not be kept

Candidates often also do everything to please as many voters as possible. Even though they often know that many of their promises will not be kept, they will still tell people what they want to hear in order to win an election.

Hence, presidential debates can also be quite harmful in case candidates use this platform to make promises that they will never be able to keep. The same is true for election campaigns.

Candidates often use flawed arguments

In general, in those presidential debates, political candidates also often use flawed arguments to convince the local population that they are indeed the best fit for them. Even though many people try to expose those flawed arguments, there might still be many people who will never get aware of those flawed arguments and vote for a candidate since they had been misled by those flawed ideas.

Lack of focus of debates

Even though some important topics are discussed in political debates, there is often also a significant lack of focus in those debates and although many different topics are touched, only few of them will be really discussed in detail. Therefore, people often don’t get the full picture of the problem and the proposed solutions will also often not work at all.

Candidates will often just state answers prepared from their election teams

In many cases, the answers of politicians will also be prepared way in advance of presidential debates from the respective election team. Hence, those answers that are given during debates will often be of a highly standardized nature and may often also leave room for significant levels of discretion.

Thus, many of those answers will in fact be useless since they don’t provide too much value for the general public.

Candidates may just depict a one-sided picture of reality

Many presidential candidates will also try to use statistics that favor them instead of presenting a comprehensive picture of reality. Statistics can be interpreted quite differently and many candidates use this fact to misuse those statistics or studies for their goal to win an election.

Hard to prove if arguments are indeed true in many cases

Since many answers and arguments in those debates are quite vague, it will also be quite hard for the general public to evaluate those arguments regarding whether they make sense or not.

Moreover, in order to expose some arguments as flawed, real expert knowledge would be required and most people simply don’t have this knowledge and can therefore be trapped with fake news and flawed claims.

Talk is cheap

In general, we all know that talk is cheap and politicians are masters in order to promise things they will not be able to keep when they finally win the election.

Consequently, instead of just relying on arguments of political debates, you should also take into account how many promises those candidates have actually kept in the past.

This will give you a better impression regarding what to expect from each candidate instead of just listening to his or her words.

People may rely on presidential debates too much

In general, presidential debates can have a significant impact on the outcome of an election. However, if you think about it, this should not be the case in order to make rational decisions.

In fact, if you inform yourself enough about the goals of different parties and politicians, you should be able to make your decision without the need for presidential debates which could potentially lead you to make flawed voting decisions.

Thus, political debates often have much more influence on political outcomes than would be senseful if people informed themselves better in advance.

Top 10 Presidential Debate Pros & Cons – Summary List

Presidential Debate ProsPresidential Debate Cons
Good for candidates to persuade votersOne bad day can ruin everything
Can give the general public a better impressionDebates may lead to the spread of fake news
People may become more interested in politicsMay be used to manipulate the general public
People may regain trust in politiciansPresidential debates may lack focus
Debates may lead to higher voter turnoutPresidential debate hosts may be biased
Presidential debates can raise awarenessOften just standard answers of candidates
Political debates may expose flawed ideasCandidates may depict one-sided arguments
May expose the true character of candidatesStatistics are used to make flawed points
May be beneficial for the whole countryTalk is always cheap
You can learn about politicsShould not be decisive for voting decisions

Do We Need Presidential Debates?

As we have seen before, there are many pros and cons of presidential debates. While they can really help people to make their voting decisions, they may also help politicians to manipulate the general public with flawed arguments.

Consequently, in my opinion, instead of just relying on presidential debates, you should rather inform yourself way in advance so that you can make a profound voting decision.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_debates

https://www.debates.org/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/its-time-to-rethink-the-presidential-debates/2020/06/25/d763e3e6-b6f7-11ea-a510-55bf26485c93_story.html

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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