Televised Presidential Debates: Advocacy in Contemporary America

By Susan A. Hellweg; Michael Pfau et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter One
History of Television Involvement in Presidential Debates

We should see debates for what they are, the only chance voters have to get a close-up look at those who might be President, unfiltered by the media or advertising agencies.

-- Political Commentator Edward J. Rollins ( 1988, p. 1)

Debates offer an imperfect but valuable chance for a mass audience to try to distinguish image from reality.

-- Political Commentator George J. Church ( 1984b, p. 31)

The role of the broadcasting industry in presidential debates has been vital to their initial development and institutionalization, ensuring that candidates have participated in them and making candidates accessible to voters through them. This role has changed substantially as debates have evolved, primarily through regulatory effects. The first broadcast debate occurred on radio on May 17, 1948, from Portland, Oregon, between Republicans Thomas Dewey and Harold Stassen in connection with the state primary. This one-hour encounter featured 20-minute opening statements and 81/2-minute rebuttals from the candidates. It focused on a single issue, the question of outlawing communism in the United States, with Stassen taking the affirmative and Dewey the negative ( Ray, 1961). This nationally broadcast debate drew an audience estimated between forty and eighty million listeners ( Jamieson & Birdsell, 1988, p. 90).

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Televised Presidential Debates: Advocacy in Contemporary America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • About the Series xi
  • Notes xiii
  • Series Foreword xv
  • Note xix
  • References xix
  • Preface xxi
  • Chapter One - History of Television Involvement in Presidential Debates 1
  • Note 19
  • Chapter Two - The Structure of Presidential Debate Formats 21
  • Chapter Three - The Verbal Dimension of Presidential Debates 37
  • Chapter Four - The Visual Dimension of Presidential Debates 71
  • Chapter Five - The Impacts of Presidential Debates 101
  • Conclusions 125
  • Appendix 129
  • References 133
  • Author Index 155
  • About the Authors 167
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