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CCDE Releases Standards for Presidential Debate

UC Berkeley Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement, National Institute for Civil Discourse Call for Civility, Release Debate Standards for Upcoming 2016 Presidential Debates.

Today the Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy joined the National Institute for Civil Discourse in calling on the presidential debate moderators to adopt a set of Debate Standards designed to ensure that the 2016 Presidential Debates are fair, informative, and civil. More than 60 organizations signed on to the debate standards, which include guidelines for moderators, the audience, and the candidates themselves.

This election is the most uncivil in recent memory, and Americans agree. According to recent polling, 69 percent of Americans agree that civility has decreased in the last few years, and 2 out of 3 voters say the 2016 campaign is less civil than other elections.

“The only way to restore civility and respect in our political campaigns, and our government, is for people to stand up and demand better treatment,” said Dr. Larry Rosenthal, Program Director of the Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. “The American people have grown tired of all the distraction and theater. Our national concerns and pressing policy problems are far too important. How have all our choices about the future become mired in such pettiness and selfishness? Everyone knows we can do better, and these debate standards reflect that.”

The national conversation now may be moving in new directions. “After the constant vitriol and caustic rhetoric this campaign has wreaked on America’s political landscape, the debates represent our last best chance for a civil reset, for Americans to come together and hearing the candidates’ cases,” said Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. “We urge the moderators to adopt the National Institute for Civil Discourse’s Debate Standard and therefore ensure a civil debate, where both sides are heard and respected and treated equally.”

The Debate Standards are:
I want debaters to:

  1. Be respectful of others in speech and behavior
  2. Answer the question being asked by the moderator
  3. Make ideas and feelings known without disrespecting others
  4. Take responsibility for past and present behavior, speech and actions
  5. Stand against incivility when faced with it


I want moderators to:

  1. Address uncivil behavior by naming it and moderating the conversation to move toward a more respectful dialogue
  2. Enforce debate rules equally
  3. Hold candidates accountable by challenging each candidate to speak the truth and act with integrity
  4. Treat all candidates equally in regards to the complexity of questions and debate rules
  5. Be respectful when interacting with candidates


I want audience members to:

  1. Be respectful of other audience members, the candidates and moderators in speech and behavior
  2. Refrain from creating disturbances to other audience members, candidates and moderators
  3. Take responsibility for personal behavior, speech and actions
  4. Speak against incivility by reminding candidates it is not acceptable
  5. Practice active listening when someone else is speaking, seeking to understand them


The presidential debates are scheduled for September 26, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York; October 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri; and on October 19 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. The presidential debate moderators are NBC's Lester Holt, CNN's Anderson Cooper and ABC's Martha Raddatz, and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. The Vice Presidential debate is scheduled for October 4 at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBS News.

Public dialogue often lacks civility and efforts toward policy consensus rarely enjoy broad democratic engagement. Today’s hardened lines of political division threaten to aggravate and perpetuate social problems. The Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement (CCDE) at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy focuses on preparing current and future leaders to successfully engage people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints in the resolution of public policy issues. The need for more effective and successful democratic engagement is clearly seen in the paralysis and acrimony in our state and national governments and violence worldwide.

Through research, teaching, fellowships/internships and public events, students and the wider public learn about the range of deep beliefs and values which drive human social behavior. Along with acquiring expertise in democratic engagement, this knowledge is essential in helping diverse stakeholders achieve productive and enduring resolutions to pressing issues facing societies today. The Center was founded by the Cal Class of ‘68 to explore the legacy and advance the aspirations that characterize the spirit of the Class and their time at Cal. It is an exciting innovation in UC Berkeley alumni participation and relations with the University.

The National Institute for Civil Discourse, is a non-profit, non-partisan institute based at the University of Arizona dedicated to addressing incivility and political dysfunction in American democracy by promoting structural and behavioral change. Informed by research, NICD’s programs are designed to create opportunities for elected officials, the media, and the public to engage different voices respectfully and take responsibility for the quality of our public discourse and effectiveness of our democratic institutions. NICD was formed after the tragic shooting of former Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson, and their National Advisory Board includes former President George H.W. Bush, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.