PBS Creates Interactive For Every Debate Since 1960

By Steve Safran 

PBS NewsHour is partnering with Microsoft to create what it calls a “civic education and voter engagement site” that lets you call up every debate since 1960 and interact with it. WatchTheDebates.org has video of the debates, going back to that famous 1960 Kennedy-Nixon showdown, and lets you interact as the candidates discuss the issues of the day.

You can filter the debates by year or issue. Want to see how the candidates have taken on immigration through the years? Interested in how they talked about civil rights in 1976? You can call it up. They have archived 39 debates to interact with.

The program is powered by Microsoft Pulse, and that’s where the interactivity comes in. Once you’re watching a debate, you can give the thumbs up (or thumbs down) in real time, as though you’re in a live focus group. You can see how people in different age groups, genders and political parties reacted. Here’s what it looks like:


You don’t have to be a political wonk to find this interesting. It’s genuinely engaging. My first reaction was “Wow – debates used to be so polite!” I found myself sucked in quickly. Teachers take note – this is a great educational tool as well.

The program was created in partnership with the Commission on Presidential Debates, the group that organizes, sponsors and produces the debates.