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 How to Get the Most out of a  Candidates’ Forum or Debate

Before the Forum or Debate:
         Find out what the important issues are for this race, now. They may be different for local and national offices.
         Decide what issues are most important to you and what you think should be done about them.
         Find out about the candidates. The candidates' own Web sites, brochures, and  books are a good place to start.
        Think about what you want to learn from this debate. Do you want to find out if one candidate is as thoughtful as the news says she is, or if another one really says                       what people say he says.  
        Invite friends or family members to watch the debate with you. Watching the debate together and talking it over afterward helps everyone clarify their thoughts about                what they saw and heard.

During the Forum:
The questions
           Are the questions clear, fair, and equally tough?
           Do the questions cover the important issues?
           Do all the candidates have an equal opportunity to speak?

The candidates
           Does she answer the moderator's questions directly, or does she dodge them?
           Does he give specifics--facts and figures--about his positions, or just glowing generalities?
           Does she talk about her own positions, or does she mostly attack her opponents?
           Can he carry out the promises he makes? Could anyone?
           Is she honest, thoughtful and confident?
           Does he tell how his background and experience qualify him for the office?
           Are her answers consistent with her previous positions, and if not, does she say why?
           Is he appealing to voters' minds or to their emotions? If emotions, which emotions? Why?

The broadcast
         Do camera angles or other techniques emphasize a sense of drama? Is that  drama really there?
         Are the remarks by reporters and commentators before and after the debate  intended to inform you or to influence you? Do they?

After the Debate
         Take some time to think about what you have just seen and heard.
         Talk about it with others who watched the debate?
         Based on the debate, which candidate seems most qualified for the office?
        On which issues do you agree and disagree with a particular candidate? Does this make you more or less likely to vote for that candidate?
        Did you learn something new about the issues or the candidates?
        Do you have more questions about the issues or the candidates?
        Are there more debates scheduled? Watch them to find out more or to confirm what you saw and heard in this debate.
        Pat yourself on the back for working to be an involved and informed citizen.  And don't forget to vote!