Schedule of Presidential Debates

Christina Knight | September 19, 2016
Donald Trump (left) and Hillary Clinton (right) during the 2016 election campaign

Donald Trump (left) and Hillary Clinton (right) during the 2016 election campaign. Collage by Krassotkin (derivative); photos of Trump and Clinton by Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

The most protracted, wild ride of a presidential election cycle is nearing its penultimate main event—the presidential debates. While we’re all familiar with America’s two-party system, who could have ever imagined two politicians of such different backgrounds and styles in the same production, on the same stage? Studious policy wonk Hillary Clinton (Democrat nominee) and spontaneous businessman Donald Trump (Republican nominee) will face off during three debates this fall. Their vice president candidates will represent their platforms in one debate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, produces and sponsors each of the debates, which will be broadcast live on PBS (Thirteen in New York metropolitan region). The debates run from 9-10:30pm, and PBS NewsHour will provide analysis afterwards until 11pm. According to the CPD, Facebook and Google will be providing data to the moderators in the weeks leading up to the debates on what people are searching and saying about the election, the candidates, and the issues.

Monday, September 26, 2016

First Presidential Debate
Time: 9pm to 10:30pm ET. PBS NewsHour continues with analysis until 11pm.
Moderator: Lester Holt, Anchor, NBC Nightly News
Location: Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

The first debate will be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator and announced at least one week before the debate. The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

Hofstra University in Long Island is the only university to ever host three consecutive presidential debates. It hosted the 2008 presidential debates between then-Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain and the 2012 debates between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. The tickets allocated to the university by the Commission on Presidential Debates will be distributed to current students via a lottery system.

Hoftra’s Viewer’s Guide to Televised Debates offers tips for viewing the debate critically and provides a guide how to be media literate while watching the presidential debates.

The night after the debate, FRONTLINE’s acclaimed series The Choice returns on September 27 with a two-hour film investigating what has shaped Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, where they came from, how they lead and why they want to take on one of the most difficult jobs imaginable.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Vice Presidential Debate
Time: 9pm to 10:30pm ET. PBS NewsHour continues with analysis until 11pm.
Moderator: Elaine Quijano, Anchor, CBSN and Correspondent, CBS News
Location: Longwood University, Farmville, VA

The Vice Presidential debate between Tim Kaine (Democratic ticket) and Mike Pence (Republican ticket) will be divided into nine time segments of approximately 10 minutes each. After the moderator’s opening question, each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the rest of the time in the segment for more discussion on the same topic.

Longwood’s 2016 Student Citizenship Summit invites several hundred secondary school students from the region to learn how the democratic process has brought about meaningful change in American history.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Second Presidential Debate
Time: 9pm to 10:30pm ET. PBS NewsHour continues with analysis until 11pm.
Moderator: Martha Raddatz, Chief Global Affairs Correspondent and Co-Anchor of “This Week,” ABC
Moderator: Anderson Cooper, Anchor, CNN
Location: Washington University in St. Louis, MO

This event will be in the style of a town meeting, the same format used for the first-ever veterans town hall forum with the candidates on September 7, in New York City aboard the decommissioned USS Intrepid. In this second presidential debate, citizens (selected by the Gallup Organization) will ask half of the questions and the other half will be posed by the moderator, based on general topics. The candidates will have two minutes to respond and there will be an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate discussion. According to the CPD, Facebook will be working with the moderators to help source questions for the candidates.

Washington University and the Gephart Institute will offer students the opportunity to participate in a civic dialogue after each of the debates, encouraging them to engage in a respectful discussion relating to this election.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Third Presidential Debate
Time: 9pm to 10:30pm ET. PBS NewsHour continues with analysis until 11pm.
Moderator: Chris Wallace, Anchor, Fox News Sunday
Location: University of Nevada in Las Vegas, NV

The third debate is the same format as the first presidential debate, with only the moderator posting questions.

The University of Nevada will host a group of over 50 international delegates, in an International Debate Study Mission, to help them understand what goes into hosting a presidential debate in the U.S.

The History of Debates

PBS NewsHour has partnered with Microsoft to create WatchTheDebates.org, an interactive, civic education site that allows users to access every general election debate since 1960, screen entire debates or debate highlights and track how candidates have addressed specific issues in the debates over the years. Users can react to the debates and compare their responses with others through a unique interactive experience.

Also relevant is the on-going PBS series The Contenders—16 for ’16, which looks at the humanity, twists of fate and surprising mistakes in 16 compelling, tumultuous presidential campaigns. It airs Tuesdays at 8pm on THIRTEEN through November 20.