Commission on Presidential Debates Announces Social Media, Technology and Voter Education Initiatives

Sep 14, 2016

The CPD has collaborated with technology, academic and media organizations to engage the American public in substantive conversations before, during and after the debates.

Before the Debate:

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. For the town hall debate, Facebook will be working with the moderators to help source questions for the candidates. Other technology platforms will be engaged in this effort as well including Google, #CollegeDebate16, and many other social media grassroots organizations.

PBS NewsHour together with technology partner Microsoft have created 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. (

During the Debate:

Facebook, the exclusive social media sponsor for the first and third presidential debates, will be on site at the debate host universities. Members of the media, students, and the campus community will be using Facebook Live to broadcast and show what is happening at the debate site. People on Facebook in the U.S. and around the world will be able to watch these videos live, ask questions and comment with their reactions. Facebook will also have an interactive touch screen to show the conversation on Facebook about the candidates and the issues. (

Snapchat will be covering each debate on-site via a “Live Story.” These Live Stories will allow users on Snapchat to experience the debates from the many different perspectives of students from the debate host universities, volunteers, media and many others. These compilations of Snaps are designed to encourage the conversation long after each debate is over. (

Viewers will also be able to watch live streams of the debates. Some of the websites and platforms that will feature debate live streams are: ABC News, Buzzfeed News, CBS News, CNN, C-SPAN, The Daily Caller, Facebook, Fox News, Hulu, Huffington Post, NBC, PBS, Politico, Telemundo, The Wall Street Journal, Twitter, Univision, Yahoo, YouTube.

Between/After the Debates:

MIT Media Lab’s Electome Project will be analyzing Twitter conversations about the election and will be offering a web-based dashboard in the debate site media filing centers that journalists can use to track and visualize how these conversations are changing before, during and after each debate. (

The Social Media Analytic Command Center at Illinois State University will be examining the debates through public conversations from social media outlets, popular websites, and major blogs from eight different states. On their website and social media accounts, SMACC researchers will be displaying these social media conversations in dynamic charts, graphs, and other visualizations. (

Voter Education Partners:

AARP is hosting expert panel discussions at all four host sites on the future of Social Security. Also through their “Take A Stand” initiative, AARP is engaging thousands of volunteers across the nation and using social media, advertising and outreach to national and local media to urge the candidates to discuss Social Security. (

CSPAN’s Campaign 2016 Bus will be on each campus to engage students, educators, and the community on their resources through on-board multimedia technology. Using interactive exhibits, visitors will learn about the public affairs network’s in-depth coverage of the U.S. Congress, White House, federal courts, and its signature political program, “Road to the White House,” which provides access to all of CSPAN’s Campaign 2016 programming. Additionally, C-SPAN will be gathering visitor’s responses to this year’s election to share via social media as part of #cspanvoices and “Voices from the Road.”(

Dominican University of California is leading #CollegeDebate16, a national nonpartisan campaign to empower young voters to identify issues and engage peers in the presidential election. In June and September 2016, over 150 student delegates from all fifty states and DC gathered at Dominican University and developed a platform of issues they would like the presidential candidates to address in the upcoming debates. (

Join the Debates (JTD) is an initiative designed and led by Explo in partnership with PBS Education and the National Governors Association. This fall, middle, high school, and college students are engaging their peers in substantive and civil conversation on issues important to the U.S. presidential debates and election. Learning to engage with others who think differently is a skill that requires practice to master. Join the Debates provides curriculum, guidance, and discussion topics. JTD highlights that listening, participation, and respect are key elements for responsible citizenship. (

In addition to Join the Debates, the National Governors Association’s States and the Debates program will help governors deliver civics and voter education initiatives, focusing on issues that are important to states in the 2016 election. (

Debate Host Universities:

The four debate host universities play an important role by not only hosting the debates, but also engaging the students and the surrounding community in substantive conversations. This cycle there will be more than 75 courses on the four debate site campuses incorporating the presidential debates into the curriculum; more than 100 speakers will come to the campuses; and over 200 debate-related events will be hosted, for both students and the public. More information about these events are available on the debate host university’s websites, sample events include:

  • Hofstra University is hosting a Viewer’s Guide to Televised Debates, which will offer tips for viewing the debate critically and provide a guide how to be media literate while watching the presidential debates. (
  • Longwood University is hosting a 2016 Student Citizenship Summit, where several hundred secondary school students will come from around the region to learn how the democratic process has brought about meaningful change in American history. (
  • Washington University in St. Louis 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 the election. (
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas will host a group of over fifty international delegates, in an International Debate Study Mission, to help them understand what goes into hosting a presidential debate. (

For more information about the CPD and our voter education partners, please visit Voter education partners are solely responsible for the content of their events and projects.