Bryan Caplan  

Debate Bleg

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I'm looking for quantitative research on the effectiveness of various debating strategies and styles.  Nothing good readily googles.  Tips?

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COMMENTS (8 to date)
samson smets writes:

How to Win a Televised Debate: Candidate Strategies and Voter Response in Germany, 1972–87
"We report three major findings: (I) ‘positive’, non-attacking debating styles generate the most favourable public evaluations; (2) voters are most attentive to candidates' discussions of the parties' and government's record rather than their discussions of individual personalities; and (3), in some cases, these effects exceed those of party identification."

Yaakov writes:

You do not need quantitative research when you can just watch television. Look at the tactics of successful politicians.

Sieben writes:

The most effective debating strategy is to choose your judge favorably.

khodge writes:

I don't know if this helps, but I found the following article to be enlightening on the state of debating in the University. It also has a fair number of links within it.

Brian L DeLong writes:


The communication journals will provide you with some quantitative analysis of presidential debates and their impact on audiences with theories in how performances of strategic communication, style, and tactics may have affected the results.

However given how ephemeral debate situations can be you may find this request for quantitative data difficult to fulfill. Locating continuities across debate events can be difficult given several factors, including: Participants in the debate(s), format, audience size/expectations, question type(s), political realities of the time/day, and the actual performance and delivery of material by each candidate, to name a few. For example, quantitative analysis of what works in general in debates would seem to fail when being applied to a Sarah Palin AND a Joe Biden. Each had their own political teams doing analysis on what their audiences would like to see/hear. Each also had their own particular styles based on who the candidates were. If we parse "good debate" down to suggestions that would apply to both candidates you are left with generics like: Project your voice, sound confident, do not be too aggressive, but do not be too passive. While useful suggestions these do little to actually prepare a candidate to debate specific issues or specific situations, such as a Palin v Biden debate in 2008.

One problem I notice is a basic question on what you mean by "style"? Recently there are several publications in reference to "feminist" styles of political debate, but that may not be what you are looking for and it may be a more broad interpretation on what you wanted.

In general you are going to find more qualitative work about messages and how they influence humans positively or negatively given a situated audience. British Parliamentary style of debates for example look radically different and more confrontational than what we call "congressional debate" in the United States. Would it be wise to teach a pupil one correct style or several in case they are confronted with a new dynamic audience and situation? Rhetorical scholars would suggest the latter!

By the way, Khodge the federalist article is not an adequate representation of college debate. I can assure you debate is certainly allowed and rigorously so.

James writes:

This is probably not especially helpful, but the use of statements in the future tense has been led to poor outcomes in presidential debates. Reference here.

khodge writes:

Brian L Delong, more and more of my comments (here and elsewhere) seem to require that I qualify my statements. I did not follow through on all of the links when I read the article but some looked promising.

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