Poll: Most Voters Want Open GOP Debates

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A majority of likely voters want to see every Republican presidential candidate allowed access to the debate stage, according to a new poll.

Sixty percent of those surveyed by Rasmussen Reports said that all GOP contenders should be included, compared to just 33 percent who believe that debate sponsors can properly exclude those who fail to reach a minimum threshold in the public opinion polls.

The exact reading of the question was as follows:

“With Republicans finalizing plans for the party's presidential debates in a likely field of more than a dozen candidates, is it better to include all candidates in the debate or include only those candidates who are above a certain threshold in the polls?”

Perhaps relishing the chaos of an overcrowded GOP stage, Democrats were significantly more in favor of letting a thousand debaters bloom.  Two-thirds of Democrats said each candidate deserves a podium, with only 29 percent saying they do not. Among likely Republican voters, the split was much closer on the question of a threshold-based system: A majority favored an open system, but by only 53 percent-39 percent.

However, a plurality (46 percent) of likely voters do not think an effective debate can occur with more than eight candidates on stage. Thirty-six percent think the number of candidates does not affect the quality of the debate. Seventeen percent think the maximum number for an effective debate is nine-12 candidates.

Fox News and Facebook will present the first Republican primary debate Aug. 6, where the candidates who place in the top 10 of the five most recent national polls are scheduled to appear. Fox, acknowledging the large group of candidates, will host another debate earlier that day for those who did not make the cut.

The survey of 1,000 likely American voters, conducted June 14-15, has a margin error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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