Study: Third Debate Was More Civil

October 24, 2012

Press Release
October 22, 2012
Contact: Katy Davis

Romney Again Interrupted More Often Than Obama

Schieffer’s GOP Problem

Participants in the third presidential debate interrupted each other 47% less frequently than in the contentious second debate, according to a new study by the George Mason University Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) and Chapman University. The study also found that Mitt Romney was interrupted more than twice as often as Barack Obama. And just as in 2008, moderator Bob Schieffer and the Republican candidate interrupted each other more than Schieffer and the Democrat did.

According to CMPA President Dr. Robert Lichter, “Both candidates were more civil than in their second debate, but Obama remained more aggressive than Romney.”

Major Findings:

The debaters and moderator of the third presidential debate interrupted each other 65 times, down 47% from the 122 interruptions that occurred during the second debate.

Mitt Romney was cut off while speaking over twice as often Barack Obama – 43 interruptions of Romney compared to 18 interruptions of Obama .But the candidates cut their collective interruptions of each other by 57%, from 64 times in the second debate to 36 times in the third.

President Obama cut off Mr. Romney in mid-sentence 23 times, while Romney cut off Obama 13 times. Moderator Bob Schieffer cut off Romney 18 times, compared to the 5 times he cut off Obama. In turn, Romney interrupted Schieffer 8 times, compared to only one interruption by Obama.

This was the second straight election in which the final presidential debate featured more contentious exchanges between Schieffer and the GOP candidate than the Democrat. In 2008 moderator Schieffer cut off John McCain 6 times and Obama twice. In turn, McCain interrupted Schieffer 8 times, while Obama never did.


The Center for Media and Public Affairs is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization, which is affiliated with George Mason University. It has monitored every presidential election and every new administration since 1988 using the same methodology. To find more information on the 2012 election, please visit:

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