Back in the VP debate, the GOP mistakenly--and hilariously--declared Pence the winner before the debate even happened.
Reader Patrick sent this to me and said he thought that most people probably did this: they picked their winner long before they even watched the debate.
There's some evidence to support this. 57% of people polled by CNN said that Clinton won Sunday's presidential debate--but 58% of those same people say they supported Clinton before the debate.
Conversely, if you look at a conservative site like Briebart doing an online opt-in poll, over 92% of their respondents said Trump won.
I actually haven't watched the debates. This surprises many of my friends: isn't this politics stuff what I do? Personally, I didn't think I'd learn anything from the debates that would change how I'm voting, and it seems like most other people watching are also unlikely to change how they vote: who they support going in is likely to color who they think won coming out.
I can't imagine learning a whole lot about the candidates themselves: they've got websites, records in office (where applicable...), and other long histories that tell you about their positions, their character, their temperament, and their competence--far beyond what you can get in a live performance of this variety.
My current unfounded guess is that people watch the debate a bit like a sports game: they go in rooting for one side, hoping they'll perform well and score more points for the other. Is it primarily entertainment? Is it a form of dealing with anxiety over who will end up winning the election, with the idea that the debate will matter to how other people vote? Or perhaps more people than I think are undecided?
Looking forward to thoughts from people that are watching them.