The affected German voter: Televized debates, follow-up communication and candidate evaluations
In the run-up to the last German federal election, "American style" televised debates were held for the very first time. Using a three-wave panel comprising citizens of Augsburg and Bamberg – two medium-sized cities in Bavaria – that was conducted to analyse the impact of the 2002 German debates, the present article deals with the following questions: First, how were the two contenders evaluated by viewers of the debates? Who "won" the debates? Secondly, do these perceptions and evaluations influence viewers’ attitudes towards Schröder and Stoiber? And if so, what is the magnitude of this effect? Thirdly, do these effects last – and for how long? How do the mass media as well as interpersonal communication influence the durability of debate effects? Our results show that Schröder won both debates. Based on a path model, we show that the debates considerably affected the images of both candidates. These effects are not very stable and thus quickly disappear. However, mass media as well as interpersonal communication have the potential to stabilize debate effects, depending on the extent and the (perceived) content of the follow-up communication.
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