Ahead of CNN Debate, 71% of Voters Are Not Happy

Photo by Rubaitul Azad on Unsplash
Created: 26 June, 2024
Updated: 27 June, 2024
3 min read

Photo by Rubaitul Azad on Unsplash


A Harvard CAPS / Harris poll in May found that 71% of Americans want an independent or third-party candidate on the presidential debate stage. Yet, the rules for CNN's June 27 debate were set up to never allow more than two.

This is not the first time nearly three-fourths of voters said they want more choice represented in presidential debates. In fact, it's been a consistent finding over the last 3 presidential election cycles. 

“Americans always want to hear it all and test their candidates," said Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris poll.

The numbers cut even deeper. The poll found that 79% of voters want to see Biden and Trump debate, which means nearly all of the people who said they want to see debates want more choice in those debates. 

Penn added that voters would welcome a candidate like Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who was specifically named in the poll.

But this is not going to happen. Voters are not going to get what they want for the same reason more than half of US House races have already been decided -- the US political system denies them choice and competition.

“The American people want leaders who trust them to make up their own minds,” said Kennedy“Instead, our last two presidents are restricting voters from choosing anyone other than themselves."

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This lack of choice extends to every facet of US elections and plays a major role in persistent government gridlock and hyper-polarization that has turned US politics into a zero-sum game between Republicans and Democrats. 

Voters are not only becoming increasingly frustrated with an unresponsive and unrepresentative government, but they understand that it all starts with how they elect public officials in the first place.

This is one reason why, in 2024, everyday citizens are leading nonpartisan initiatives in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and more to increase competition and accountability in elections.

This is also why public officials in states like Connecticut understand that if their stated goal to protect and strengthen democracy is sincere then they cannot get in the way of reforms that force legislators to speak to all voters -- not just their party base. 

Voters have long been denied choice in elections, especially in presidential cycles, but as Bloomberg editor and author Frank Barry says, a government designed for dysfunction and polarization can be redesigned for cooperation and competition.

Changing the way we elected public officials will change the political ecosystem in the US, which will affect more than just elections and how public officials govern. 

All players in a political ecosystem operate within the system established. This includes national news networks that frame the political narrative and sponsor high-profile debates.

If more choice and competition is added to the nation's politics, it would force media corporations to add more than two perspectives in their coverage and in debates.

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Voters may not get this choice in 2024, but that does not mean it is impossible in future elections -- especially with so much momentum behind efforts to give voters better elections across the board.

As for Thursday's debate, Kennedy's campaign will offer voters an opportunity to hear him answer the same questions live during the debate in what they are calling "The Real Debate."

"I am going to be on that debate stage, with or without their (Biden and Trump) permission," Kennedy said in a promotional ad. 

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