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Elections: Debating the 1976 Debates: Establishing a Tradition of Negotiations


John W. Self is assistant professor of communication at Truman State University. This piece is part of a larger research project on presidential debate negotiation. He has also published an article on the 1960 debate negotiations between Kennedy and Nixon in the June 2005 edition of Presidential Studies Quarterly.


The 1976 presidential campaign brought televised presidential debates back to the presidential campaign after a 16-year absence. Like every presidential campaign debate, the 1976 debates were carefully planned and negotiated before they aired in the fall. The negotiators, much like the negotiators in 1960, gained control of the negotiations as well as the debates. This article culls together information from many sources to reveal how the 1976 debates were negotiated between the Ford and Carter campaigns as well as the League of Women Voters. This article is part of a larger project to develop a theory of presidential debate negotiation.