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Past Policy 2020 Event

Do presidential debates matter?

Past Event

Amid a pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 200,000 Americans, a weakened economy that has left many unemployed, and deepened tensions around race relations following several police-involved shootings, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden will debate for the first time on September 29 in Cleveland. But given the sharp divisions among Americans regarding the state of the country, are the candidates likely to persuade anyone in their favor? Does the debate really matter to the outcome of the election?

On September 28, Brookings hosted a webinar with a media expert and experts who have helped advise past presidential candidates to explore the role of debates in previous elections – including by highlighting some of the most famous moments from previous presidential match-ups. They discussed how Trump and Biden are likely to appeal to voters when they meet up in Cleveland and shared what they believe voters should hope to hear from the candidates on Tuesday night.

This event was part of Brookings’s Policy 2020 initiative, which aims to unpack the issues shaping the 2020 election through fact-based analysis.

Viewers submitted questions by emailing or on Twitter using #Policy2020.



Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication - Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Co-Founder -

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