The presidential and vice-presidential debates are doing more to harden stances than change minds, according to the latest 1Q cellphone survey to residents of the communities served by Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta INtown.

Of 200 survey respondents, 52 percent said the debates have not changed their opinions of the candidates, and another 14 percent said they did not watch at all. Only 18 percent said the debates were “very” or “somewhat” significant to their opinions as the race heads into the final presidential debate on Oct. 19.

A chart of how significantly respondents’ opinions changed after the presidential and vice-presidential debates.

Most of those opinions express general dissatisfaction with both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump and the personal attacks both have made. But in respondents’ comments, “Trump” was the most frequently used word, mostly negatively, and he was the only nominee directly bashed by respondents of his own party.

“Bluntly, the debates simply reinforced what I already knew: that both candidates are reprehensible, but that Trump is certainly worse,” said a 30-year-old Buckhead woman. “And as a woman and Republican, I find his misogyny and self-admitted acts of sexual assault (and cavalier dismissal of those actions) repugnant and nauseating. There is nothing about this election that I like.”

Just over half of the respondents were affiliated with the major parties, skewing 30.5 percent Democrat to 23 percent Republican. Of the rest, 26.5 percent identified as “independent” and 20 percent as “other.”

None of the televised debates included the nominees of the Green or Libertarian parties. Some of the respondents said the debates with the major-party nominees confirmed their decision to vote for one of those third-party candidates.

“If anything, it made me want to vote for [Green Party nominee] Jill Stein or really anyone other than the participants of the debate,” said a 26-year-old Atlanta woman.

What some respondents had to say:

Trump is a smart businessman, but he does not know how to verbalize his thoughts. Clinton, on the other hand, can speak fluidly, albeit very scripted. She is slowly winning the voters over with her words, but empty actions.
–26-year-old unaffiliated Brookhaven man

I learned how Donald Trump withstands tough questions dealing with real-world issues. His temperament and lack of a true stance on policies are alarming and childish. I would rather a chimp run our country.
–28-year-old Democratic Atlanta woman

Donald Trump proved himself to be too much of a wild card to be taken seriously as a real candidate for the presidency.
–20-year-old Republican Buckhead woman

Clinton seemed more prepared in the first debate over Trump, but I feel Trump slightly outperformed Clinton in the second debate. Both debates exposed the candidates’ weaknesses more so than highlighting their strengths. Neither debate changed my opinion toward either candidate.
–32-year-old independent Sandy Springs man

I realized that Clinton is extremely knowledgeable and Trump seems to only answer questions on a surface level. He never provides specifics or in-depth responses, always repeats cliches and what’s wrong instead of how he will fix it [and] just tells us he will.
–32-year-old independent Atlanta man

There was an important line that was crossed when Trump argued he would have Sen. Clinton arrested. Regardless of which party you support, a candidate running for office in the U.S. should not threaten to jail his/her opponent. We are a nation of laws. Our country should fight against tyranny and support democracy everywhere, especially within our own borders.
–31-year-old Republican Sandy Springs man

Both candidates performed as expected [in the recent presidential debates]. Hillary continues to prove she thinks she’s above the law and Trump wastes opportunities to do her in by saying dumb things.
–31-year-old woman

“They honestly made me sick. I realized I can’t support either candidate. They are more interested in smearing the other person…than they are with actually helping America. They just keep hitting on points their political consultants tell them will most damage the other candidate. They both seem very fake to me.
–28-year-old man

1Q is an Atlanta-based startup that has developed a technology which sends questions and surveys to a cellphone via app or text message from businesses and organizations across the country. Respondents are paid 50 cents per answer, through PayPal, for sharing their opinions. Payments may also be donated directly to charity. Sign up to be included in our local community polls at or by texting REPORTER to 86312.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

3 replies on “Reporter Survey: Presidential debates are hardening opinions”

  1. Regardless of perception, we all know that Georgia will be one of the first states to report Red…The oldest person quoted in this article is 32. This being the demographic (18-34) with the lowest voter turnout percent, on average ~60%, compared to a turnout percent of ~80 for those 35-55. Just thought I’d share some knowledge.

  2. I agree with the Concerned Sandy Springs Citizen. The Age factor is huge and needs to be taken into consideration. All the participants in this survey are between 20-32 years-old. Age is a confounding variable that is preventing the ability to make a prediction based on the result of this survey. Surveys are supposed to help us make a prediction, bu in this case, we cannot use the results of the survey because of the Age factor.

  3. Concerned/Martha

    The last election here had a 16% voter turn out in Sandy Springs. I’d say 84% have no right saying a thing.

    Those youth you are talking about are the future. Perhaps someone as near death as Johnny Isakson should take the best retirement package in the world and step aside. His dreams of a future are a life already lived.

    Someone expects those in my zip code to vote in a church, of a religion they may not believe in or practice. Is a public school beyond comprehension? Happy to vote early but will never not vote. Want to keep voter roles low in a modern day world? Force people to vote in a church, treat voting like an option not a mandatory holiday and like here in Fulton County, screw it up so bad we wonder if our vote was ever counted.

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