President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney will answer to a pool of about 100 undecided voters in Wednesday’s town-hall style presidential debate in Hempstead, N.Y.The voters were selected by the Gallup organisation, which has been tracking the Obama-Romney matchup on a daily basis throughout the general election.
This is the 20th anniversary of Gallup’s partnering with the Commission on Presidential Debates for a town-hall style debate. In 1992, Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport said, no one had any idea what questions would be asked, and moderator Carole Simpson moved through the crowd of voters at random.
“It’s a format that works very well, and it’s a format that fits with my personal views, because I have a lot of faith in the average citizens of the country,” Newport said.
This year, though, will be a little bit different. Newport walked through the steps the organisation goes through to select the pool. All of these voters will come from Nassau County:
- Gallup calls voters and repeats its normal questionnaire. For undecided voters, it probes further and asks if they lean more toward Obama or Romney.
- If voters identify as truly undecided, Gallup invites them to participate in the debate.
- Newport stressed that the voters have to identify as truly undecided — not even leaners or voters who say their choice could change are considered.
Of the 100, only a select few will be chosen to ask questions by debate moderator Candy Crowley.
Newport said that Gallup has no say in what questions each voter will ask. But he said that the voters will meet with Crowley, who will discuss their questions with them ahead of the debate.
“She will know what the questions are, and she will take that into account when she calls on various people,” Newport said.
Wednesday’s debate serves as a huge challenge for Obama to reverse a slide from the last presidential debate, when an overwhelming majority of voters and pundits gave a clear victory to Romney. Gallup found that Romney was the biggest debate-winner in history.
In 2008, voters deemed Obama the winner over Republican John McCain in the town hall debate by an overwhelming, 56-23 margin, according to Gallup. The debate produced a big swing in immediate favorability for both candidates.
It’s that type of split that could prove crucial for Obama, as he seeks to connect with voters who are on the fence about his re-election.
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