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Do presidential debates matter? Polls show most voters say 'no'

Posted at 2:56 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 14:56:38-04

While millions of Americans tuned in to watch the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, data shows the event will likely not impact the final outcome of the election.

The first of three presidential debates was held Tuesday night in Cleveland, Ohio.

NewsChannel 5 Political Analyst Pat Nolan said the first debate always brings high stakes for the candidates and high interest from voters.

"This is probably the biggest opportunity for both candidates to get in front of voters and convince them they are the right person," said Nolan.

While people tuned in to hear what both candidates had to say, Nolan said polls show the debate ultimately won't sway voters.

"I think people have decided, I like Donald Trump and I will vote for him, or I like Joe Biden, I will vote for Joe Biden and they won’t change their minds," said Nolan.

The debate was held in Ohio, which is considered a swing state. Nolan said while the number of undecided voters may be smaller in the current polarizing political climate, winning those votes matters and can make a difference in swing states.

While both President Trump and Biden presented their plans for the country and tried to energize supporters, Nolan said many were watching for a viral moment that could make or break either candidate.

"It's like any big event, when you are up on the stage and the bright lights are out there, anyone can make a mistake."

There are still two more debates coming up in October. The second presidential debate will be Oct. 15 in Miami, and the final debate will be Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville.

This story was first reported by Emily Luxen at WTVF in Nashville, Tennessee.