With polls showing an increasingly narrow race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it’s possible that the first presidential debate could have outsized significance, rallying one candidate’s flagging supporters or swaying the unusually high percentage of undecided voters.
It’s not that there won’t be plenty of data available more immediately ― whether that means panels of voters convened on cable news, reader polls splashed across the internet, or numbers gleaned from social media.
Initial reactions to the first Democratic debate also proved to be dissimilar from the results of later polling on the race.
Other focus groups and instant online polls told a similar story, as did a surge of web searches and Facebook follows for Sanders.
Waiting to quantify the debate’s effects until long after the closing statements means that the conclusions will necessarily be affected by the way the debate is covered in the media.