More than half of likely voters nationwide - 55% - want Republican-turned-Libertarian Bob Barr to participate in presidential debates this fall, while nearly half - 46% - said they think Ralph Nader should be allowed into the on-stage fray, the latest Zogby Interactive polling shows.
Among political independents, 69% said Barr should be at a lectern with Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, and a majority of Republicans and Democrats agreed. Among Democrats, 52% said they think Barr should participate, while 50% of Republicans agreed.
Thirty-nine percent of Democrats and 41% of Republicans said they did not think Barr should be included in the debates.
The younger the respondent, the more likely they were to say that Barr should be included. Those at each end of the philosophical spectrum were more supportive of the idea of including Barr and Ralph Nader in the debates, while those in the middle were less supportive.
As for Nader, who has run unsuccessfully in the last two presidential elections, 45% overall said he should be included in the debates, including 59% of independents. Among Democrats, 41% said Nader should be included, while 42% of Republicans agreed.
Zogby asked in separate questions whether Barr and Nader should be included.
Pollster John Zogby: "This election will be won in the political middle, and independent voters are the major prize up for grabs. It looks like independents want a full debate this fall to get a wider range of views and voices out onto the table."
The interactive online survey was conducted Aug. 12-14, 2008, and included 3,339 likely voters nationwide. It carries a margin of error of +/- 1.7 percentage points.
Neither Barr nor Nader are currently qualified to participate, according to rules set out by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a private non-profit corporation that has organized debates in the last several presidential election cycles. The CPD requires that to be included in their debates, candidates must appear on enough state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority of Electoral College votes, and must be winning at least 15% support in national public opinion polls before the debates.
In this latest Zogby Interactive poll, Bob Barr won 6% support and Nader 2% nationally. Neither candidate has cracked the double-digit barrier in any national polling so far this cycle. This polling showed Obama with a 43% to 40% lead over McCain.
This year, there will be three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate. The first debate will be held Sept. 26, 2008, at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, and the last will be held Oct. 15, 2008, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
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