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These data suggest that the norm is for very little swing in candidate support following debates. Across all thirteen presidential debates the average absolute change in candidate support was 1 percentage point. There are a few notable exceptions, of course. Two that stand out are the second debate in 1992, following which George H.W. Bush lost 2 points, and first debate of 2004, after which George W. bush lost 2.26 points.But how about a series of debates?
The debate period generated a 2.42 point bump for George H. W. Bush in 1988, cost Al Gore 3.52 points in 2000, and cost George W. Bush almost 2 points in 2000. Of these, the 2000 debates stand out as the most important, especially in the context of the closeness of the election.So we could see a small shift. And even a shift of 2 points could mean the difference between a nail-biter and a 100 Electoral Vote Obama victory.