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Presidential Debates: Political Interests Motivations and Opinions Presentation

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  • Presidential debates aim at presenting candidates in a competitive context;
  • The citizenry are free to evaluate candidates in presidential debates;
  • Debates affect people and promote attitude reinforcement;
  • Political interests and motivation are crucial for reinforcement during presidential debates;
  • Argumentation is used by candidates as a powerful weapon.

There is no other American office more powerful than the presidency (Campbell, 2008), and the political debates is one of the steps during the elections that determine, who can actually hold this office and use its powers. Debates are considered as the last opportunities for candidates to present themselves, introduce their positions and intentions, prove their necessity for society, explain why their opponents should not be supported in a vary polite (if possible) way, and make political reinforcement possible due to the demonstration of political interests and the use of motivation and argumentation.



  • Serious decisions should be made in regards to the catastrophic problems society has to face (Freeley & Steinberg, 2013).
  • The citizenry should understand that presidential debates and campaign advertisement are used to affect not to inform people (Huber & Arceneaux, 2007).
  • Debates usually draw respectable audience so that many people undergo a considerable impact of the discussions which take place between candidates (Schwartz, 2008).

Freeley & Steinberg (2013) admit that the fall of 2008 was turned out to be a problematic period for the American government. The debates had to enlightened the economic challenges as well as many other public issues (like women’s rights for reproductive health services, church freedoms, or health care reforms) and international relations that bother the citizens (Freeley & Steinberg , 2013). Unfortunately, candidates are usually motivated to gain some results and effects on the citizenry rather than think about the methods to achieve the desirable consensuses. This is why each person, who is engaged in presidential debates and elections, should consider personal political interests and rely on personal political opinions to make the elections fair and just.



Answers to the following questions should be given to realize a true worth of political debates:

  • How can debates influence the evaluation of the candidates?
  • Who can be affected by debates?
  • What limitations are possible while evaluating presidential debates?
  • What is attitude reinforcement and its effects?

To comprehend how political interests, motivations, and opinions are united, it is necessary to answer a list of questions and rely on the studies offered in Mullinix’s article. The author believes that “the heterogeneity in reinforcement effects has normative implications for the study of political communication and public opinion formation” (Mullinix, 2015, p. 270). It is also proved that more politically interested people may be affected by debates. And in spite of the fact that debates are considered to be an important contributing factor during the elections (Kraus, 2013), their impact do not touch upon each member of society. This is why opinion reinforcement becomes a significant aspects of all debates (Garrett, 2009).



  • The evaluation of past studies;
  • Research on past debates;
  • Analysis of such factors like argumentation, motivation, and reinforcement;
  • Personal evaluation of debates and the effects of such factors like motivation, opinion, and interest.

The article under analysis contains several ideas on how the concept of political interests and the peculiarities of presidential debates may be investigated and analyzed. First, the author offers to consider a number of past studies made in the chosen field. These studies usually provide people with the information on the past debates and their possible effects (Mullinix, 2015). The evaluation of argumentation as a means to persuade people (Kalemaj, 2014) and motivation with its effects on debates and attitude responses in particular (Federico, 2009) helps to identify strong and weak sides of presidential debates and the ways of how they can be actually organized. Finally, the articles provokes to develop personal opinions about the worth of debates and information offered within.


Main Issues

  • Presidential debate;
  • Partisan motivation;
  • Political interest;
  • Opinion reinforcement;
  • Heterogeneity of effects;
  • Presidential campaign;
  • Polarization.

Mullinix’s article contains a number of issues that have to be identified, explained, and analyzed with their particular worth in a particular process. Presidential debates are defined as the main process under analysis. It is necessary to comprehend its essence and possible effects on people. To achieve this goal, the role of partisan motivation should be mentioned. In addition, the citizenry should follow their own political interests to create fair polarization and opinion reinforcement avoiding a number of heterogeneous effects of presidential campaigns.

Main Issues


Presidential debates of 2008 (Obama-McCain) becomes an ideal case for analysis due to the following facts (Mullinix, 2015):

  1. No racial prejudices;
  2. General issues are chosen for discussion;
  3. Both candidates are perfectly motivated;
  4. Time of debates is perfectly chosen;
  5. Various media sources may be used to observe the debates.

The representatives of two races participated in the debates of 2008. Obama (Democrat) and McCain (Republican) were neither incumbent presidents nor vice presidents. So, people got a chance not only to evaluate their new policies and ideas. The citizens were able to learn better the nature of the candidates, their own political interests in regards to such general issues like foreign policy and national security, and their abilities to narrow down the topics and show their own positions. Opinion reinforcement turned out to be possible due to the candidates’ motivation not to define who was the best but to explain why each of them was worth attention. People were able to follow the debates through a variety of media sources and build their own attitudes to the event (Kirk & Schill, 2011).

Debates are affected by:

  1. Attachment to a party;
  2. Candidates’ motivation;
  3. Emotions;
  4. Reinforcement;
  5. The level of political interest.

Mullinix (2015) underlines that “one’s attachment to a party is a significant predictor of how people will alter their candidate evaluations after viewing the debate” (p. 283). Though people gain respect to the candidate of their own preferable party, the results of debate may influence the final attitude to a person. Emotions also become a kind of mediator in debates and political information seeking (Valentino, Hutchings, Banks, & Davis, 2008). Unfortunately, only people, who are more interested in politics and its possible effects on society, may comprehend a true worth of debate and know how to use information obtained in a result of debate. Other people need more definite instructions or hints on how to evaluate candidates and rely on their political interests.

Discussion Discussion


The answers to the questions identified earlier:

  1. The way people evaluate presidential debates is particular indeed. The issue of partisan perceptual screen has to be considered.
  2. People with strong political interests are more effected by debates.
  3. The level of political participation may be limited by political interests, rationality, political knowledge, stable attitudes.
  4. Reinforcement effects are crucial for presidential debates as they predetermined the way of how politicians use their abilities and introduce them to the citizenry.

The results of the investigations made by the author of the article prove that presidential debates may be affected by a number of facts as well as cause numerous changes during the elections. It is necessary to comprehend that political interests and opinions define the quality of debates, and people should demonstrate and use them in a proper way (Valentino et al., 2008).


Lessons Learned

  • Politics is the sphere that defines the quality of life considerably;
  • Presidency is the office that usually makes the most important decisions;
  • Presidential debates is a significant part of an election process;
  • Reinforcement and opinions define the way of how debates are developed;
  • People are free to rely on their own political interests to create an attitude to a particular candidate;
  • Motivation is an important factor in debates.

The lessons learned at the end of the study helps to understand how crucial presidential debates can be. People should never neglect their opportunity to listen to this kind of debate and make conclusions about candidates, their intentions, and knowledge. The citizenry themselves make decisions and choose the president, who will run the whole country. This is why this choice should be properly evaluated.

Lessons Learned


  1. Never neglect presidential debate;
  2. Use information discovered during the debate;
  3. Consider personal political interest and opinions;
  4. Remember about the importance of opinion reinforcement;
  5. Do not be afraid to change mind;
  6. Help the others to learn the worth of political debates and presidential debates in particular;
  7. Presidential debate is the sphere of life that is changing constantly and has to be studied and improved all the time.

The conclusions are made on the basis of the article by Mullinix and ten more sources that discuss presidential debate and the role of political opinions among ordinary citizens. People evaluate candidates using their own principles and knowledge, still, some of them may suffer from such concepts like reinforcement and polarization in case they are poorly understood. Presidential debates may be improved by a number of factors, still, all these improvements should have considerable grounds and explanations.



Campbell, J.E. (2008). The American campaign, second edition: U.S. presidential campaigns and the national vote. Texas: A&M University Press.

Federico, C.M. (2009). How people organize their political attitudes: The roles of ideology, expertise, and evaluative motivation. American Psychological Association. Web.

Freeley, A. & Steinberg, D. (2013). Argumentation and debate. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Garrett, R.K. (2009). Politically motivated reinforcement seeking: Reframing the selective exposure debate. Journal of Communication, 59(4), 676-699.

Huber, G.A. & Arceneaux, K. (2007). Identifying the persuasive effects of presidential advertising. American Journal of Political Science, 51(4), 957-977.

Kalemaj, S. (2014). Argumentation in contemporary persuasive discourse. European Scientific Journal, 10(11), 77-87.

Kirk, R. & Schill, D. (2011). A digital agora: Citizen participation in the 2008 presidential debates. American Behavioral Scientist, 55(3), 325-347.

Kraus, S. (2013). Televised presidential debates and public policy. Mahwah, NJ: Routledge.

Mullinix, K.J. (2015). Presidential debates, partisan motivations, and political interest. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 45(2), 270-289.

Schwartz, J. (2008). Whom to trust with a thumb on the buzzer. The New York Times. Web.

Valentino, N.A., Hutchings, V.L., Banks, A.J., Davis, A.K. (2008). Is a worried citizen a good citizen? Emotions, political information seeking, and learning via the Internet. Political Psychology, 29(2), 247-273

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