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Standards of Conduct for Presidential Debates

By November 18, 2020No Comments

When NICD release the Debate Standards in 2016, it was aimed at the presidential debate moderators asking for them to adopt these standards in order to ensure that the debates were fair, informative, and civil. More than 60 organizations signed on to the standards, which contain guidelines for moderators, the audience, and the candidates themselves.

A wide range of organizations endorsed the standards. This included the AARP as well as a number of other types of organizations, including education institutions, such as the Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, University of California Berkeley Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement, and University of Virginia Center for Politics; forums, such as the City Club of Cleveland and City Club of Portland; and faith organizations, such as that Faith and Politics Institute and Interfaith Alliance.

The Debate Standards are directed to three audiences: debaters, moderators, and audience members.


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

2016 Civility Score Card

2020 Civility Score Card

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