The Past and Future of Presidential Debates

By Austin Ranney | Go to book overview

Discussion

EVRON KIRKPATRICK, American Political Science Association: To what extent do your data help us in deciding between the point of view that Philip Converse [ Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan] has developed in information flow and stability of partisan attitudes and the opposing position that Edward Dreyer [ University of Tulsa] has taken using the same data? Converse says, "The influence of shortrun factors has less impact on those who are well informed and strongly partisan and on those who have virtually no information and no commitments than on those who have some information and weak loyalties." And he later says, "Throughout these debate materials in 1960, we found that the more remote the individual's flow of information represented by the debates the more stable was his vote intention.1

If I understood rightly, you are saying something similar in your paper -- that people with much information and high involvement and those with no information and little involvement have a high degree of stability. The floating voter is likely to have some information, and new information is likely to influence his intentions.

Dreyer takes the same data that Converse used, although a little more extensively, and comes to a different conclusion. It is on that conflict that I would like you to comment. Dreyer says:

With the growing availability of mass media (primarily
television since 1952), and the increased utilization of the
media by candidates and parties, the flow of short-term
political stimuli -- both during campaigns and in the lengthy
lulls between them -- has effectively penetrated all segments
of the electorate. These data also suggest that the more or
less immediate circumstances that surround any given elec
tion have eroded and probably will continue to erode the
stabilizing influences normally associated with the elec

____________________
1
The reference is to Philip E. Converse, "Information Flow and the Stability of Partisan Attitudes", in Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes, Elections and the Political Order ( New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1966), chapter 8.

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