One of the great unknowns, when it comes to Tuesday’s leaders’ debate, is how many people actually bother to watch. While polls may give some indication of that, most people I know in politics are highly skeptical of such numbers, because they think some respondents will just say they watched because it’s what they think they’re supposed to say.
Not that it’s much more scientific, but for what it’s worth, I asked a couple of GTA candidates (one Liberal, one PC) who were out canvassing during the debate if they got any sense whether they were interrupting debate viewership.
One of them said only about 10 per cent seemed to be watching; the other put it closer to 20 per cent. Either way, the basic consensus was that it wasn’t exactly must-see TV – and this is among people who (a) were home and (b) were willing to open their door and chat with a candidate.
Another question that’s even harder to answer, and neither of them really had much sense, is how many saw all of the debate and how many only saw some of it – and of the latter group, which part they tended to watch. Ordinarily, the likelihood would be that viewership was highest at the start, and then went down as some viewers got bored. But the early (6:30 p.m.) start-time of this one might have changed that since, particularly in commuter-heavy ridings, not everyone would have been home and settled at the beginning.
If viewership was less front-end-loaded than usual, that’s good news for Kathleen Wynne, since the first segment was by far her worst. But then, if most people just skipped the entire thing, the fact that the early exchange on ethics was what dominated the subsequent clips is all the more potentially problematic for her.