But according to UW Research, this wasn't the case. Bush looking confused and frustrated didn't hurt him. Kerry's confident demeanor, occasional note-taking, and smirks hurt him. Strange, isn't it?
"The split-screen debates hurt Kerry and not really Bush," he says. "It was largely a function of what people thought about the two candidates in the first place. Split-screen coverage made Bush supporters more extreme in their support for the president and their opposition to Kerry. Kerry voters, on the other hand, didn't like Bush in the first place, but the split-screen coverage also didn't change much about their support for Kerry."
For Bush, the split-screen format shored up his base and helped him with GOP-leaning undecided viewers.
"When they saw Kerry on split screen and saw his smirks or writing something down in reaction to what Bush said, that produced a much more negative view towards Kerry," he adds. "People who leaned toward Bush in the first place felt even worse about Kerry."
Note to self - appear smart in public and risk losing your job.