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Fixing the debates: a better way to interrupt

Did you watch the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? If your answer is no, then you’re not alone. Despite an increase this year, the proportion of Americans watching presidential debates has been diminishing.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, president of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, believes that is the result of a flawed format. Together with a working group of bipartisan former campaign advisers, Jamieson has prepared a report outlining suggestions for how to improve the structure of American debates.

Attracting more viewers means more entertainment, right? Not exactly. In fact, the researchers' first recommendation is to get rid of the audience. Along with other proposals, the report recommends removing the live audience, getting a new kind of moderator, and introducing a timing mechanism developed for chess.

With a new format in place, the Annenberg working group hopes to remove the incentive for canned responses and one-liner attacks. Instead, they hope to create a debate dynamic that fosters substantive policy discussions that would give voters a better understanding of what a candidate might actually do as president, and as a result, they hope you might actually watch next time.

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