Press Room

Does Communication Matter More than Policy in the Presidential Debates?

September 20, 2016
Experts Available
Government, Political

Washington, DC  -  For the first time ever, the U.S. Presidential debates will feature a male candidate facing off against a female, when GOP nominee Donald Trump meets Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on stage next week to discuss the country’s most pressing domestic and international issues, which have often taken a backseat to intense analysis and scrutiny of how the candidates communicate their proposed policies. Voters will be watching carefully for articulate, confident, and substantive communication that not only wins debates, but also predicts global leadership success.  

Three political Communication scholars are available for insight on topics such as:

  • How do attributes such as tone and volume affect the candidates’ message and the public’s perception of the speakers on the debate stage?
  • What key phrases and words will help or hurt the nominees most at this stage of the election?

  • How does gender impact the way the candidates deliver their responses, and how the voting public responds?

  • What role might the candidates’ nonverbal communication play in the debates?

  • Do the candidates’ approaches to communication matter more than the policies they present?


Dianne Bystrom
Director, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics
Iowa State University

Dianne Bystrom’s research interests focus on the styles and strategies used by political candidates in their television advertising, websites, and speeches, and the coverage of women candidates and political leaders by the media. She is a contributor, co-author, or co-editor of 21 books, including alieNATION: The Divide and Conquer Election of 2012 and Gender and Candidate Communication.

Mitchell S. McKinney
Professor, Department of Communication, University of Missouri

Mitchell McKinney’s research interests include presidential debates, political campaigns, civic engagement, media and politics, and presidential rhetoric. He is the co-author/editor of seven books, including alieNATION: The Divide and Conquer Election of 2012 (with Bystrom, Tedesco & Banwart), Communication in the 2008 U.S. Election: Digital Natives Elect a President (with Banwart), and Communicating Politics: Engaging the Public in Democratic Life (with Kaid, Bystrom, & Carlin).

Edward A. Hinck
Professor, Communication and Dramatic Arts, Central Michigan University

Ed Hinck’s research focuses on rhetoric, political debate, and argumentation. He is the author of Enacting the Presidency: Political Argument, Presidential Debates, and Presidential Character (Praeger, 1993) and co-author of Politeness in Presidential Debates (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). Currently, he is working on a two volume book project on presidential debates under contract with Praeger.

CONTACT:To schedule an interview with any of these experts, please contact Jenna Sauber at or 202-534-1104.

About the National Communication Association

The National Communication Association (NCA) advances Communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media, and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific, and aesthetic inquiry. NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems. NCA supports inclusiveness and diversity among our faculties, within our membership, in the workplace, and in the classroom; NCA supports and promotes policies that fairly encourage this diversity and inclusion.

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