Iowa State University



Dianne Bystrom, Catt Center, (515) 294-3181

Steve Sullivan, News Service, (515) 294-3720


AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics will coordinate "DebateWatch '96" activities for the state of Iowa.

DebateWatch '96 is a Commission on Presidential Debates and Speech Communication Association project aimed at encouraging voters to watch the 1996 presidential debates in groups and conduct discussion sessions.

Materials neeed to host a DebateWatch '96 event are available from the Catt Center, (515) 294-3181. The Catt Center also will help organize groups to watch the debates, and make presentations to generate interest and participation in the project.

"The goal of the project is to get people involved in the political process by encouraging them to be active participants, rather than spectators," said Dianne Bystrom, Catt Center director. "Participants will have the opportunity to report their reactions to the debates, which will provide citizen feedback about election issues and allow project participants to assume a larger role in influencing this year's political agenda."

DebateWatch '96 is the result of a study of voters in the 1992 presidential election who participated in national focus groups that measured the educational value of presidential debates. This study found that participants preferred a variety of debate formats; wanted more citizen involvement, such as that provided by the town hall debate format; and wanted more topics covered in depth during the debates, said Bystrom.

"The participants in the 1992 study also found that they enjoyed talking about the debates and the candidates with people they previously did not know and with whom they did not necessarily agree," said Bystrom. "They found that they learned as much from these discussions as from the debates."

The current debate schedule, which is subject to change, includes presidential debates on Sept. 25, Oct. 9 and Oct. 16. A vice presidential debate has been scheduled for Oct. 2.