What Gets Asked at Debates–and Who Gets Asked It?: A FAIR study of presidential primary debate questions

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Moderators at the presidential primary debates. First row: Bret Baier (Fox), Megyn Kelly (Fox), Chris Wallace (Fox); second row: Anderson Cooper (CNN), Jake Tapper (CNN), John Dickerson (CBS); third row: Nancy Cordes (CBS), Don Lemon (CNN), Gerard Baker (WSJ)

Originally published at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. Reposted at Common Dreams.

It’s not 2016 yet, but the 2016 presidential election cycle has already seen two Democratic primary debates, four Republican primary debates and four Republican “undercard” debates (for the GOP candidates who weren’t considered ready for primetime). A fifth pair of Republican debates will be held tonight, December 15.

With all this debating, you might think voters were getting a broad view of the policies that the major-party candidates were offering. But as in past elections (FAIR Media Advisory, 10/26/12), the establishment media figures who have moderated the debates have thus far focused the discussion on a narrow range of topics, a FAIR analysis of debate questions finds.

The 536 questions asked in the first four Republican debates, four Republican undercard debates and two Democratic debates were divided into six categories: economic, social, international, immigration, environment and non-policy questions. If the same question was asked to multiple candidates, it was counted each time, but clarifying and follow-up questions to the same candidate were not counted.

FAIR also studied the percentage of questions each candidate was asked. While moderators clearly took candidates’ positions in opinion polls into account when distributing questions, some seemed to get asked more—or less—based on media assumptions about who was and was not a serious contender.

 

Read the rest here.

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