Fast Facts: Women Moderators and Presidential Debates


Ahead of the first Democratic debates of the 2020 presidential race, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced that it will require each debate to include at least one female moderator. The DNC said the policy was intended to make the debate process as diverse and inclusive as possible, reflective of seeing a record number of women candidates for president on the debate stage. Historically, women – especially women of color – have been underrepresented in presidential debates, both as candidates and moderators.

These facts about women moderators illustrate just how women have been locked out of our debates and why we need to make sure women and men are represented equally in all aspects of the debate process.

  1. Out of 132 primary debates from 1996 to 2016, 44% did not include a woman moderator.

    The study by Time’s Up found that none of the debates featured more than two women moderators, but 20 debates included more than two male moderators.
  1. Of those same 132 primary debates, only 8% included a Black woman moderator and only 6% had a Latina moderator.

    In its analysis, Time’s Up also found that there were no debates that included moderators who identify as Asian American. So 86% of their entire dataset had no women of color in their moderating panels.
  1. In 2012, CNN’s Candy Crowley became the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in 20 years.

    The last woman to moderate a presidential debate before Crowley was ABC’s Carole Simpson in 1992.
  1. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff became the first women duo to moderate a Democratic presidential debate in 2016.

    That’s sixty years after the first televised Democratic primary debate in 1956.
  1. In the 2016 primary cycle, only six questions about issues that affect women (and were not about abortion or Planned Parenthood) were asked of candidates.

    The analysis, done by The Women’s Debate, additionally found that all six of these questions were asked by women moderators.

In a year where our candidates are more diverse than ever, it’s imperative that debate moderators reflect that as well. Cheers to the amazing women who will be on the stage and asking the questions this cycle!

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