Televised Presidential Debates in a Changing Media Environment
by Edward A. Hinck, Editor
November 2018, 700pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
2 volumes, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5043-1
$164, £122, 142€, A222
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5044-8
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The 2016 presidential campaign was the first in which a candidate was perceived to have won all three debates by a substantial margin, and yet lost the election.

This two-volume set examines recent presidential and vice presidential debates, addresses how citizens make sense of these events in new media, and considers whether the evolution of these forms of consumption is healthy for future presidential campaigns—and for democracy.

The presidential debates of 2016 underscored how television highlights candidates’ and campaigns’ messages, which provide fodder for citizens’ widespread use of new media to “talk back” to campaigns and other citizens. Social media will continue to affect the way that campaign events like presidential debates are consumed by audiences and how they shape campaign outcomes. This two-volume study is one of the first to examine the relationship between debates as televised events and events consumed by citizens through social media. It also assesses the town hall debate format from 1992 to 2016, uses the lens of civil dialogue to consider how citizens watch the debates, and considers the growing impact of new media commentary on candidate images that emerge in presidential and vice presidential debates.

Televised Presidential Debates in a Changing Media Environment features contributions from leading political communication scholars that illuminate how presidential debates are transforming from events that are privately contemplated by citizens, to events that are increasingly viewed and discussed by citizens through social media. The first volume focuses on traditional studies of debates as televised campaign events, and the second volume examines the changing audiences for debates as they become consumed and discussed by viewers outside the traditional channels of newspapers, cable news channels, and campaign messaging. Readers will contemplate questions of new forms, problems, and possibilities of political engagement that are resulting from citizens producing and consuming political messages in new media.


  • Examines research on presidential debates from 2004 to 2016, and considers how these debates—and elections—were affected by the changing media environment of each election season
  • Assesses the impact of U.S. citizens using social media to make sense of the campaign debates
  • Considers whether the established presidential debate format is no longer effective for informing voters in a time of unprecedented political polarization and voter cynicism
  • Applies different methods of analyzing the debates that will interest rhetorical scholars, argumentation scholars, and political communication scholars
Edward A. Hinck, PhD, is professor of communication at Central Michigan University. He teaches undergraduate courses in advocacy and leadership as well as graduate courses in rhetorical criticism and communication theory. He is author of Praeger's Enacting the Presidency: Political Argument, Presidential Debates, and Presidential Character and coauthor of Politeness in Presidential Debates: Shaping Political Face in Campaign Debates from 1960 to 2004. Hinck has served on the editorial boards of American Forensic Association's Argumentation and Advocacy and the Western Journal of Speech Communication. He has been honored by the Michigan Campus Compact for service-learning in 1998, and he received Pi Kappa Delta's E.R. Nichols Award in 2002 and the National Forensics Association's Eddie Myers Award for service in 2006. He was corecipient of the American Forensic Association's Dan Rohrer Research Award in 2006, received the Pi Kappa Delta John Shields Award for service in 2010 and the Pi Kappa Delta Golden Gavel Award in 2013, and was recognized by the Argumentation and Forensics interest group of the Central States Communication Association for outstanding contributions to argumentation and forensics in 2013. Hinck received his doctorate from the University of Kansas.


"In this two-volume edited collection Edward A. Hinck draws together many of the most respected scholars of televised presidential debates and introduces readers to the next generation of such scholars. This rich assortment of chapters includes studies focused on many different debates occurring in campaigns from 2004-2016 and approaches these contests from an array of different research perspectives. This collection promises to define the field moving forward and will prove to be an important resource for scholars and political practitioners alike. "—Thomas A. Hollihan, Professor, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California

"This collection provides the most comprehensive and insightful look into how new media technologies and platforms impact the roles and functions of presidential debates in contemporary American campaigns. These volumes are essential to students and scholars of contemporary presidential campaigns and debates."—Robert E. Denton, Jr., W. Thomas Rice Chair and Department Head, Department of Communication, Virginia Tech

"Edward A. Hinck has assembled more than two dozen illuminating and thought-provoking essays from leading communication scholars focusing on debates that occurred during the general presidential campaign from 2004 through 2016. Building on decades of scholarly research, the essays range from traditional topics like argument analysis and debate formats and effects to emerging areas such as memes of memorable debate moments and they ways debates are consumed on social media. The essays are rich with illustrative stories, scholarly insights, and critical perspective and are sure to be of interest to anyone with an interest in political discourse or public argument."—Dale Herbeck, Communication Studies Department, Northeastern University

"These two volumes are an incredibly timely addition to the current conversation about the health of American democracy. The editors have assembled some of the communication discipline’s most thoughtful scholars to reflect upon the 2016 presidential debates and offer their insights on what those debates can tell us about candidates, campaigns, and the American electorate. As pundits, scholars, and practitioners raise concerns about the ability of American democracy to maintain its tradition of deliberation, these essays offer an incredible body of work to enrich those conversations."—Karla K. Leeper, PhD, Executive Vice President of Strategic Communication, Augusta University
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