In 1992, the CPD organized focus groups around the U.S. to watch the debates, turn them off immediately after they ended (before media commentary) and discuss what people had learned. The focus group participants unanimously said how valuable it was to talk about the debates in a civil way without being dismissed or criticized by those with different views. Thus was born DebateWatch, a voter education program established in 1996 which we are reinvigorating in 2020. DebateWatch is designed to bring people together to watch a debate, then turn it off at the end (before commentary) and discuss what they saw and heard. Hosting a DebateWatch provides a communal viewing experience for participants. The goal is not to say who won or lost, it is to share views with those who may agree and those who don’t. It is to listen respectfully to others’ opinions. We are inviting civic groups, libraries, and particularly educational organizations to join DebateWatch2020.
There is no single way to hold a DebateWatch. It can involve 12 to 20 people, or several hundred. Ideally, it can include people of different generations and different views. The post-debate conversation can last 20 minutes or an hour. There can be a facilitator of the conversation or not. Past DebateWatch organizers have included book clubs, senior centers, workplaces, religious centers, hotels and schools. DebateWatch is a way to incorporate a town meeting into each debate.