Televised Presidential Debates: Advocacy in Contemporary America

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

Candidates are conditioned to give answers that meet the requirements of the medium of television and that will provide good coverage in the post-event media barrage. Thus, presidential debates in the mass media age do not live up to their promise of an open exchange between candidates. They instead offer voters more of the same mass-mediated material packaged differently.

-- Political Scientist Diana Owen

( 1991, p. 139)

Contemporary presidential debates are televised events, a fact which shapes their form, content, and impact in campaigns. All parties (candidates, academics, interested citizens) must adjust to the debates as televised communication. Debates still serve the democratic process, but certainly not in the tradition of the Lincoln-Douglas model. On the basis of our analysis of the history of past presidential debates, their formats, the verbal and visual content, and their perceived effects, we offer the following conclusions.
1. Presidential campaigns have witnessed a dramatic proliferation of primary debates, with twice as many in the 1984 campaign as in the 1980 campaign, and nearly three times as many in the 1988 campaign as in the 1984 campaign.
2. Intraparty primary debates have varied widely in their formats and have been almost without exception more informal and less rigid than their bipartisan counterparts.

-125-

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