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Voters Influenced by Flashy Debates

Republican candidates -- 11 of them -- debated in front of the Air Force One airplane used by President Ronald Reagan, Republican.
Candidates Influence What's Important to Voters
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Much attention has been paid to the U.S. presidential elections that are still 14 months away.

The Republican party has held two televised debates that were watched by millions of people. They have been loud, colorful and intense. In the most recent debate last week, 11 candidates crowded a stage in California. When they weren’t critical of the Democrats, they insulted each other.

Republican presidential candidate, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, makes a point during the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Sept. 16, 2015.
Republican presidential candidate, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, makes a point during the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Sept. 16, 2015.

The race on the Democratic Party side has been calmer. Leading candidate Hillary Clinton has been holding small, private events to meet with citizens and donors. Her closest competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has been drawing large crowds across the country. But, so far, the Democrats have not held any debates.

While Mr. Sanders talks with his audiences about issues, he has not attracted as much media coverage as Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton. Some critics say it is because he is not as charismatic as the other candidates.

Much of the election discussion has been centered around the personalities of the candidates. Headlines focus on businessman Donald Trump, who is described as brash and incendiary. Those stories are often paired with news about how Ms. Clinton is considered cold and aloof.

How much do those personalities impact what Americans think and how they vote? What issues are most important to Americans?

According to the latest research from longtime polling company, Gallup, “no one issue dominates Americans’ perception,” at the moment. Unlike elections in the past, “the 2016 presidential campaign may be fought over a variety of issues,” Gallup says.

However, the top issues for American voters are immigration, economy and government, the pollster says.


Gallup notes that recent political talk may influence what voters name as important to them at the time. The high number of Americans who say immigration is a top problem “may reflect the emphasis it has received in Donald Trump's presidential campaign.”

GOP 2016 Debate
GOP 2016 Debate

Events like the migrant crisis in Europe, and young immigrants coming from Latin America to the U.S., may also influence those who answered the poll.

However, in June, before immigration became a campaign theme, the Pew Research Center asked Americans about immigration. Pew found that 72 percent of Americans said undocumented immigrants in the U.S. should be allowed to stay under conditions.

Pew said that response was the same as over the past two years.


Americans are most concerned about the economy and jobs, according to other polling and research companies, as well.

Pew reports that 56 percent of those polled say they cannot keep up with family expenses. Nearly half say they have lost a job, cannot pay for health care, or have been unable to pay bills. Many say that their families have had at least one “serious financial problem” and local jobs were “difficult” to find.

“The public’s views of the national economy … remains bleak,” Pew says in a September 4 report.


Voters say their unhappiness with government is at the top of "most important" issues, too, according to Gallup.

Seventeen percent of those polled – that’s four percent higher than last month -- reported dissatisfaction about “Congress, politicians, poor leadership, corruption and abuse of power.”

Candidates like Mr. Trump and brain surgeon Ben Carson may be doing better in the polls because they do not have government experience. That might appeal to voters who are dissatisfied with government, Gallup says.

As summer comes to an end, polls also find that Mr. Trump’s popularity numbers have dipped. According to Rasmussen Reports, another research organization, Republicans they surveyed “lowered Donald Trump’s chances for the … presidential nomination for the second week in a row.”

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Kathleen Struck wrote this story. Anne Ball was the editor.


Words in This Story

televised -- v. aired or broadcast over the airwaves on television or the Internet

donors -- n. people who give money to a cause, person or event

competitors -- n. people or situations that are reaching for the same goal

charismatic -- adj. very likeable and atrractive

brash -- adj. bold to the point of insulting

incendiary -- adj. starting a fire, conflict or argument

aloof -- adj. distant, not connecting with others

dominates -- v. uses force to control others

emphasis -- noun special attention paid to something

expenses -- n. the cost to do or make something

financial -- n. relating to finance and money

dissatisfaction -- v. unhappiness, disappointment, not pleased

surgeon -- n. -- a medical doctor who operates, or uses a surgical knife to explore the body