Televised Presidential Debates and Public Policy

Televised Presidential Debates and Public Policy

Televised Presidential Debates and Public Policy

Televised Presidential Debates and Public Policy


As an in-depth analysis of US Pres. debates, focusing on the past four decades, this volume offers insight into the practice & policies of political debate in a public forum. Of interest to scholars and researchers in pol. comm., journalism, & poli. sci.


It has been over 10 years since the first edition of this debate policy book was published. That edition included discussions of the 1960, 1976, 1980, and 1984 debates. Since that edition appeared, several important changes in the administration of the debates have influenced the practice, if not the policies, of presenting them. This second edition documents those changes, adds new research and data to the discussions of the earlier campaign years, and provides many entirely new discussions and analyses, including those of the 1988, 1992 and 1996 debates.

The major additions include the: transition from the League of Women Voters Education Fund as the sponsor of the debates to the Commission on Presidential Debates; various attempts to mandate participation in presidential debates; further consideration of the role played by public opinion polling; continuous mediating processes of media; power of candidate representatives; the problem of including/excluding minor party candidates; and the use of the Internet and WEB pages.

Since the publication of the first edition, a prominent earlier finding in debate history has been questioned. The first televised presidential debate was thought to bring about a differential effect on audiences' assessment of the winner, depending on the medium they used: John F. Kennedy was the winner to television viewers, whereas Richard M. Nixon was the winner to radio listeners. A discussion of a new study that questioned this finding and the controversy over the original methodology is incorporated in this edition. (An earlier version of that discussion was, S. Kraus, Winners of the First 1960 Televised Presidential Debate Between Kennedy and Nixon, Journal of Communication, Autumn, 1996, pp. 78-96.)

In 1960 and 1976, Herbert A. Seltz and Richard D. Yoakam detailed the way in which the debates were mounted for television. In the 3 debate years that followed, it was not necessary to reproduce this "production diary" because both the format and much of the technology (excepting cameras) re-

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