Washington

GOP Voters Think Presidential Debates Are Important, and They’re Divided Over the RNC’s Move to Ban Candidates From Participating

80% of GOP voters say it’s important for presidential candidates to participate in debates; 37% support withdrawal from debate commission

Donald Trump and Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., in October 2020. (Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)

The Republican National Committee’s efforts to end decades of bipartisan cooperation on the organization of presidential debates has meager support from the general electorate and Republican base, which both see the head-to-head events between White House contenders as very important, according to a new Morning Consult/Politico survey

Voters of All Stripes Say Debates Are Important

Voters were asked to what extent they think it is important for presidential candidates to participate in debates

Survey conducted April 15-17, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.
How voters feel about debates
  • According to the survey, 83% of voters say it’s at least somewhat important for presidential candidates to participate in presidential debates, including 57% who believe it’s very important.
  • At 80%, Republican and independent voters are nearly as likely as Democrats (86%) to say it’s important for the presidential contenders to face off against each other.
  • 86% of baby boomers, America’s most reliable voting bloc, say debate participation is important.
The context

The survey was conducted after the RNC on April 14 voted unanimously to withdraw from the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which has run presidential debates since 1988. Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the RNC, acknowledged in a statement that “debates are an important part of the democratic process” and said the party was committed to them and would look to find “newer, better debate platforms.” 

While the debate commission negotiates directly with presidential candidates, not their party organizations, McDaniel echoed former President Donald Trump’s claims that the bipartisan panel is biased against Republicans and announced a rule that would effectively bar the party’s candidates from participating. But that message against the commission does not appear to have filtered down to her party’s rank and file.

Republicans Divided Over RNC’s Move to Ban Presidential Contenders from Official Debates

Voters were asked whether they support the Republican National Committee’s vote to ban Republican presidential candidates from participating in debates sanctioned by the Commission on Presidential Debates

Survey conducted April 15-17, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.
How voters feel about the RNC’s decision 
  • Half of voters (49%) say they oppose the RNC’s move to ban Republican presidential candidates from participating in debates sanctioned by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, while 22% support it.
  • Republican voters are split on the question, with 37% supporting the RNC’s decision, 34% opposing it and 29% expressing no opinion.
  • Roughly a third of GOP voters (32%) and Democrats (35%) said they had seen, read or heard “a lot” or “some” about the RNC’s debate decision. 

The latest Morning Consult/Politico survey was conducted April 15-17, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered U.S. voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult