Before the Debate Begins

Thinking about and preparing for the debate before it takes place enables you to get the most from watching it. It will also help familiarize you with the candidates and issues. The preparation will help you focus on what to look for in the debate so that you will get the information you need before deciding how you will vote.

It will help if you take some time before the debate to:

  • Follow the campaign to learn about the candidates and their backgrounds;
  • Find out what the important campaign issues are;
  • Decide what issues are most important to you
  • Think about the questions you may have and the information you want to get from the debate to help you in your decision making;
  • Open your mind to new opinions/impressions of the candidate regardless of party affiliation.

Starting the Discussion

It will be up to you as the host (or someone you designate) to get a discussion going after the debate. Use this discussion guide provided by the LWV as a tool or reference if that is helpful for you, but let your discussion be open.  You may also refer to Debate Watching 101 or How to Judge a Candidate for additional discussion questions.

  1. Are you familiar with the responsibilities the candidates would hold in the elected position for which they are running? Did this discussion help you to see how they would carry out their work?
  2.  Were you already familiar with the candidates? Were all the candidates for the office included in the debate? How might the discussion have changed if more or fewer candidates were invited to participate?
  3.  Was there a dominating theme to the debate? If yes, what was it? Was it a theme you feel is relevant to the current political climate in your community?
  4. How did the candidates respond to the questions that were posed? Were they straightforward, evasive or somewhere in between? Did this impact your opinion of the candidates?
  5. Did the candidates put forward specific remedies or speak more thematically?
  6. Did the candidates touch upon issues that are important to you? How did their responses compare with what you would like to hear from politicians?
  7. Were there any questions that you felt were especially useful? Are there important issues that were left out of the debate?
  8. Did you strongly agree or disagree with any candidate responses? Was there anything missing from the responses that you would like to have heard?
  9. How would you answer the questions that were posed tonight?

Questions for subsequent debates in a series:

In an election where candidates face off against one another over a period of several weeks or months, there is an opportunity for viewers to compare and contrast the content and performances of the participants throughout the series. Here are some discussion questions to help direct a conversation about a second, third or subsequent debate.

  1.  How did this debate differ from earlier debates this year?
  2.  Were the same candidates invited?
  3.  Was the format the same or different? Did this affect the quality of the debate?
  4.  How did the candidates perform in comparison with their previous debates?
  5. Have your opinions on the candidates or the issues changed in the time since the last debate was aired? What brought abut these changes?


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