The results of a focus group research project, sponsored by the Commission of Presidential Debates and conducted during the 1992 presidential and vice presidential debates, are reported. The study involved 625 participants from 17 states who met in 60 focus groups held during the period of the debates. Focus group participants answered questions regarding what they learned from the debates, how they assessed the formats, what improvements they wanted in future debates, and how information provided by the debates compared with that from other news sources. The 14 chapters of this volume include a summary of past research on presidential debates, an outline of the focus group methodology used here, and the results of the focus groups, including numerous quotations from focus group members. The results specifically address the questions of debate format, voter learning, reactions to the third candidate, male versus female response to the debates, opinions of student voters, analyses of disagreements among focus group members, and a set of recommendations for future debates.
DIANA B. CARLIN is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. MITCHELL S. McKINNEY is a doctoral candidate in Communication Studies at the University of Kansas.
About the Series by Robert F. Denton Foreword by Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr. and Paul G. Kirk, Jr. Acknowledgments Researching Presidential Debates A Rationale for a Focus Group Study by Diana B. Carlin Design & Implementation of the Focus Group Study by Mitchell S. McKinney The Focus Group as a Research Tool by Beverley Davenport Sypher Structuring the Debates Debating the Debates by Elizabeth R. Lamoureux, Heather S. Entrekin, and Mitchell S. McKinney The Impact of Formats on Voter Reactions by John Meyer and Diana B. Carlin Let the People Speak: The Emergence of Public Space in the Richmond Presidential Debate by Stephen P. Depoe and Cady Short-Thompson "Children in a Sandbox:" Reaction to the Vice Presidential Debate by Jack Kay and Timothy A. Borchers Flirting with Perot: Voter Ambivalence about the Third Candidate by Mari Boor Tonn The Impact of Debates Debates as a Voter Education Tool by Michael A. Mayer and Diana B. Carlin The Presidential Debate as a Source of Citizen Disagressment by Mark S. Kuhn Debates versus Other Communication Sources: The Pattern of Information and Influence by Michael Pfau and William P. Eveland, Jr. The Gender Gap? Male and Female Reactions to the 1992 Presidential Debates by Sally J. Perkins and Gerri L. Smith The Student Voter by Julie Apker and Cary R.W. Voss Conclusions Implications for Future Debates by Diana B. Carlin Appendixes Bibliography Index