Final Presidential Debate Asks Top Crowdsourced Question
Open Debate Coalition scores with question, plus notes on audience participation and fact checking during the third and final presidential debate.
One of the questions moderator Chris Wallace asked during last night’s presidential debate came from the Open Debate Coalition’s crowdsourced platform PresidentialOpenQuestions.com. The site received 15,865 submissions and more than 3.6 million votes.
Here’s how it went down:
CHRIS WALLACE: Let me bring Mr. Trump in here. The bipartisan Open Debate Coalition got millions of votes on questions to ask here. And this was, in fact, one of the top questions that they got: “How will you ensure the Second Amendment is protected?” You just heard Secretary Clinton’s answer. Does she persuade you, that while you may disagree on regulation, that in fact she supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms?
The question had 65,586 votes, making it the second most popular submission. The top vote-getter, with 75,617 votes, asked if the candidates would support criminal background checks for all gun sales.
Trump’s answer took an odd turn as he focused on Clinton’s feelings about the District of Columbia vs. Heller Supreme Court case, but there’s no controlling for responses. You can watch here (it’s set to start at the point where Wallace asks the question to Trump, a little more than 11 minutes into the debate):
Moderators of the Oct. 9 town hall debate had agreed to consider the top 30 questions, with no guarantee of asking any of them, and yet ended up selecting one that had received only 13 votes.
The Open Debate Coalition then launched a petition encouraging Wallace to consider questions that had received popular support. Two Open Debate Coalition members, Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, also visited Wallace last week to make their case.
Last night’s inclusion of one of the top questions—and the second mention of the Open Debate Coalition—was a big step forward.
Now imagine a debate centered more around the public’s interest instead of the moderators’ (the way the Florida Open Debate between Representatives David Jolly and Alan Grayson was run back in April). If the public had more say, we might have heard a question about climate change.
Audience Participation: I’m betting having a live audience will come up for discussion in 2020. Though last night’s audience wasn’t as disruptive as previous groups, there were still several calls for quiet during the debate—and, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza notes, many reminders beforehand.
“In the 15 minutes before the debate started, there were roughly 487 warnings from people on stage that the audience needed to remain totally silent during the debate,” writes Cillizza. “This is, to be blunt, dumb. If you don’t want people to cheer, boo or otherwise react, don’t have an audience. Come on, man.”
By the way, the Annenberg Public Policy Center suggested eliminating on-site audiences for all debates other than the town hall in its 2015 recommendations on improving the quality and relevance of presidential debates.
Future of Fact-Checking?: Last night I installed and used FactPopUp, a tool developed by Gautam Hathi, a computer science student at Duke University. It worked great! Whenever a PolitiFact editor heard one of the candidates make a previously fact-checked claim, a tweet with a summary and Truth-O-Meter rating was pushed out, and that information popped up on screen.
“We’re hopeful that this will be a small first step toward the ‘Holy Grail’ of fully automated fact-checking,” Bill Adair, director of the Duke Reporters’ Lab and creator of PolitiFact, wrote prior to the debate. Below is a demo screenshot from the second presidential debate: