The following is from the Jan. 5, 2008, edition of ABC News. Research by SMU Professors Rita Kirk and Dan Schill is the focus of this story.

Focus Groups Spin the Dial During Debates


In a studio at ABC affiliate WMUR, focus group participants of both parties recorded immediate reactions to the Saturday night debate performance of the 2008 presidential fray with the simple spin of a dial.

Split into two groups of undecided voters in the first, 32 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents recorded reactions to the Republican debate; in the second, 24 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents recorded reactions to the Democratic debate participants were chosen from a random list of registered voters across the state of New Hampshire. When they liked something a candidate said, they dialed up; when they didn't, they dialed down.

It's called Real Time Response and it does just that: It measures voter reactions to the positions, posturing and in-fighting of the presidential candidates almost as soon as the words leave their mouths. The study is part of a book being written by Southern Methodist University professors Rita Kirk and Dan Schill called "Consent of the Governed," which examines American voters trying to regain control of the political process in the technological age.

"The real purpose of this," Kirk explained, "is that instead of the journalist saying 'this is the most important part of the debate' the voter says 'this is the most important part of the debate.' " . . .

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