The presidential debates are broken. They tell voters almost nothing that can’t be gathered from campaign ads and allow no time for depth, no payoff for nuance, no serious discussion of policy. They have been reduced to “gotcha” questions, personal attacks, uninformative soundbites, and rehearsed remarks. Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US) has a solution: holding the debates in a rigorous format known as the “Oxford style”.

For ten years, IQ2US has set the bar for intelligent, informative debates using this format. Known as “America’s debate series,” the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization has encouraged the public to “think twice” on hot-button issues from gun control to Obamacare. Now IQ2US is advocating for this fall’s presidential debates to follow the same Oxford model with a petition calling on the candidates and the Commission on Presidential Debates to “Fix America’s Presidential Debates.”

* Read/sign the petition:

* Watch a short video explaining how to fix the debates:

The Oxford format begins with a stated motion for one side to support and the other to oppose; for instance, “give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship” or “the United States intervenes abroad too often.” There are opening statements, a rigorous back and forth where the moderator ensures that the candidates actually debate each other, and final closing arguments.

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, IQ2US founder Robert Rosenkranz and moderator John Donvan wrote, “Oxford-style debate would force the candidates to respond to intense questions, marshal relevant facts, and expose weaknesses in their opponents’ arguments. This format would quickly reveal how well the candidates think on their feet, how deeply they know the subject, how well they understand the trade-offs, and how persuasive they are without teleprompters.” Vox also recently argued that the format could improve the debate system.

To learn more or to sign and share the petition “Fix America’s Presidential Debates,” go here:



A non-partisan, nonprofit organization, Intelligence Squared U.S. was founded in 2006 to restore civility, reasoned analysis and constructive public discourse to today’s often biased media landscape. The award-winning debate series reaches millions through multi-platform distribution, including radio, television, live streaming, podcasts and interactive digital content. With over 100 debates and counting, Intelligence Squared U.S. has encouraged the public to “think twice” on a wide range of provocative topics. Author and ABC News correspondent John Donvan has moderated IQ2US since 2008. The executive producer is Dana Wolfe.

For more information on Intelligence Squared U.S. please contact Ray Padgett ( or Mark Satlof ( at Shore Fire Media.


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