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Debate Watching 101

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The debate watching resources from the League of Women Voters are designed to help viewers understand the elements and nuances of debates, in addition to learning how to watch them with a scrutinizing eye.

Your students don’t have to be voters to get something out of these engaging materials. No matter, they will learn about candidates and issues that affect their future.


:: Debate Watching 101
:: How to Judge A Candidate
:: Debate Discussion Guide
:: Debate Calendar
:: Related Links



hands, photo courtesy Darren Miller, Sustainable Living Roadshow
Photo by Darren Miller, Sustainable Living Roadshow

Debate Watching 101

:: GO TO Introduction

Debate Watching 101 lays out the fundamentals for preparing, analyzing, and discussing debates. “Before, during, and after” tips are given in an easy-to-follow format. Does the candidate answer questions directly or do they evade them? What are your impressions of the candidate’s delivery? Was the moderator fair? Walking through these guidelines with your students will be valuable before watching or conducting a debate.



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Barack Obama and John McCain. Press Photos

How to Judge a Candidate

:: DOWNLOAD How to Judge a Candidate
:: DOWNLOAD Candidate Report Card

Campaign slogans, commercials, and media messages can make it confusing for voters. What is the candidate really all about? In How to Judge A Candidate, you’ll walk through seven steps to help you search for a candidate you can support (or not). From deciding what you’re looking for (issues you care about and qualities you want in a leader), to learning other people’s views, this list will guide you through a thorough examination.



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Debate Discussion Guide

:: DOWNLOAD Debate Discussion Guide
:: DOWNLOAD 2008 Debate Watcher's Notebook

The Debate Discussion Guide and Debate Notebook are intended to assist you in making the most of your debate watching experience. Use these materials as guides, but be open to adapting them to your group’s dynamics and interests. The discussion guide offers questions for subsequent debates, so your students can compare and contrast candidate responses and performances.



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Inspired by a student debate, or frustrated with a presidential debate? Start your own conversation group. This review of two books about salons and conversation groups is a great place to start.
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Debate Calendar

Friday, September 26: Presidential debate on foreign policy and national security, University of Mississippi
Thursday, October 2: Vice presidential debate on domestic policy and foreign policy, Washington University, St. Louis
Tuesday, October 7: Presidential debate in a town hall format, Belmont University, Nashville
Wednesday, October 15: Presidential debate on domestic policy, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

All four debates will begin at 9pm ET, and last for 90 minutes. They will be broadcast on the major broadcast networks, including CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX. They will also be aired on cable news channels such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and C-SPAN.



Related Links

Electing the President
A guide to the Election process from the League of Women Voters.

Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD)
The Commission’s primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the U.S. presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities related to debates.



Logo of League of Women Voters
Since 1920, the League of Women Voters has been devoted to improving our systems of government and impacting public policies through citizen education and advocacy. Known for its passionate hands-on work and ability to mobilize instantaneously, the nonpartisan grassroots organization is 150,000 members strong with over 900 leagues at the local and state levels. Though local and national issues and needs may change over time, the League's basic mission remains the same: to make democracy work for all citizens.

Sign up to receive the League-Voice newsletter: "personalized information, updates, and voting alerts that matter to you!"



snapshot of September 2008 Newsletter

The above resources accompany the September 2008 YES! Education Connection Newsletter

READ NEWSLETTER: Debate Watching 101


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