Can you recall a presidential primary debate – held 14 months before Election Day – that ever got so much attention? Fueled by more than just the 24-hour news cycle and a diverse candidate pool, people also care about the content of the debate. Look no further than the poll numbers following the August debate for evidence.

Resonate routinely asks a voters which sources of information are most important as they form their opinions of a candidate. Debates always come out on top.

Going into this evening’s debate, which candidates have the most at stake? Some candidate’s supporters are more likely to credit debates as influential than others. The voters who do are:

  • 43% more likely to support Scott Walker
  • 42% more likely to support Marco Rubio
  • 22% more likely to support Ben Carson

Beyond the debates themselves, these voters are a self-reliant group, and they are 28% more likely to be influenced by their Gut Instinct. So it’s not just what the candidates say, but how they say it.  They also turn to outlets like broadcast/cable news programs and newspapers to gather information.

In keeping with that independent-thinking, voters who say their vote is influenced by debates are:

  • 17% less likely to look to social media to make their voting decision
  • 16% less likely to be influenced by their family and friends

And what issues are they listening for tonight?  What are the issue positions that are most likely to drive their support?

  • 47% more likely to be motivated by Bipartisanship
  • 36% more likely to be motivated by Foreign Policy
  • 19% more likely to be motivated by a Balanced Budget

Data Source: Resonate, July 2015, n=8681