Debates' Influence a Matter of Debate; Voters Likely Know Who They'll Pick

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Kelli Palka, Times-Union staff writer

Jacksonville mayoral candidates John Peyton, a Republican, and Nat Glover, a Democrat, are getting one of their last chances to sway thousands of voters before the May 13 election.

The two will appear at 7 p.m. tonight on WTLV TV-12 for a one-hour debate. The last scheduled televised debate will be Tuesday from 8 to 9 p.m. on WJXT TV-4.

But Stephen Baker, a Jacksonville University professor of political science who studies campaigns, said he thinks most people have already picked their choice for mayor.

"It's only among the undecided that the debates will have the most influence," Baker said.

That doesn't mean debates aren't significant. If a candidate makes a mistake, avoids questions or appears uneasy or uncomfortable during debates, it could hurt their chances come election day, Baker said.

Still, he said voters mostly use debates this late in the election to make sure they've made the right choice.

"[Debates are] not the central issue, but most people will have made up their minds and use the debate to reinforce their decision," Baker said.

Matt Corrigan, a professor of political science at the University of North Florida who is also closely following the election, agreed with Baker that debates confirm perceptions. But in addition to helping the undecided voters, he said debates are important for the news coverage that follows. …


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