71 percent in poll want RFK Jr., third parties in debate

Seven in 10 voters in a new poll want to see third-party and independent candidates in presidential debates this cycle, as President Biden and former President Trump prepare to go head-to-head.

The latest Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found 79 percent of voters want Biden and Trump to debate, while 71 percent think those debates should include candidates from outside the major parties if they clear a viable threshold — with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. listed as an example of one such candidate.

“Americans always want to hear it all and test their candidates. Voters want to see debates and would welcome Kennedy to the debate as well,” said Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll.

After months of speculation about whether a debate would occur, Biden and Trump — who are headed toward a rematch of their 2020 race this fall — agreed last week to two presidential debates, slated for June on CNN and September on ABC.

Kennedy railed against being left out of the debate conversation, arguing Trump and Biden are “colluding to lock America into a head-to-head match-up.”

Seventy-three percent in the poll said Trump and Biden should stick to the three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate historically organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, rather than negotiate on their own terms.

But Biden last week informed the commission that his campaign would work directly with news outlets to arrange the two summer debates with Trump, calling into question the potency of the long-standing debate organizer. The commission had planned to kick things off with a September debate, followed by two more in October.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they think debates will provide “valuable information” to voters on who to pick on their 2024 ballots, while 37 percent said the debates are unlikely to do so.

A little more than half of voters, or 54 percent, think microphones at the debate should automatically cut off when a speaker’s time elapses, rather than be free-flowing and moderated by the members of the press. Back in 2020, the commission adopted new rules muting the microphones as Trump and Biden sparred.

Seven in 10 voters in the poll also say they’ve made up their mind about who they’ll vote for in the fall — but half of independents say they’re still undecided, which could have an impact in what’s gearing up to be a competitive race.

The survey was conducted from May 15-16 among 1,660 registered voters by The Harris Poll and HarrisX. The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Updated at 4:08 p.m.

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