Town hall debates are designed to give candidates a chance to hear directly from voters, and to let voters get answers to the issues foremost on their minds. A look back at the first five presidential town hall debates, beginning in 1992, provide an interesting time capsule that demonstrates how the nation’s focus has shifted over time, from social issues to health care to foreign affairs to the economy.
As Senators Barack Obama and John McCain took the stage last time around, the economic crisis was front and center. The crux of the first five question was: how do we fix this? The latter half of the conversation was dominated by overseas concerns, with voters asking one question each about terrorism, Russia, Israel and America’s role overseas.
One final note: the final question in the 1992 debate was about diversity, with the questioner asking candidates Clinton, Bush and Perot when they thought America would see an African-American or a woman on a presidential ticket. All of them predicted it would happen in their lifetime. At least in that instance, all three got the question right.