How are questions picked for the presidential debates? It depends on a few things
As you’ve probably already heard, this Monday’s first presidential debate ahead of the general election will have three focuses: “securing America, America’s direction, and achieving prosperity,” Deadline reports. The debate moderator chooses debates’ themes, but how are presidential debate questions chosen? All debates have their own sets of themes upon which questions are based, and from the themes listed above, you could expect questions on terrorism, college affordability, or income inequality.
Traditionally, debate moderators choose the night’s themes and questions. Heavy reports that Lester Holt, NBC anchor and moderator of this Monday’s debate, solely chose the night’s topics and wrote its questions. The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has no knowledge of the questions moderators choose, neither does either political party.
But the advent of social media has made the process a bit more democratic. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter played a role in choosing questions for candidates to answer by collaborating with the CPD to allow users to pitch questions to be asked at debates. The next debate, which will be formatted like a town hall event and moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz, will take on selected questions submit by Facebook users in a victory for democracy and millennials.
Accepting submissions for questions via social media opens up debates more to the democratic process, and does a good job of making sure the issues real Americans are actually interested in are addressed at debates. Naturally, it’s a bit disappointing that it doesn’t appear this was the case in preparing questions for the first debate, especially given Holt’s ideological leanings as a known Republican.
The ultimate role of a moderator isn’t just to write questions — it’s to keep candidates in check and ensure facts and statistics are taken into consideration.
The process for Facebook users to submit questions for debates, most likely to take place the second debate on Sunday, Oct. 9, is reportedly still being finalized.