Election 2015

Reality Check: How easy is it to moderate a debate?

Julie Etchingham in ITV debate studio Image copyright Getty Images

A seven-way TV debate may be unprecedented in the UK, but Americans have got used to the idea.

Primary debates, where political parties choose their presidential candidates, regularly feature seven or more participants. As the discussion heats up it becomes increasingly important for the moderator to give equal time to each, but does this end up being the case?

Research into the 2012 Republican presidential candidate debates by Dr. Eric Ostermeier from the University of Minnesota shows that it's not. He painstakingly monitored how much time each participant was allowed to speak for in each debate.

Answers in the debate are generally limited to one minute each, with rebuttals limited to 30 seconds. However, one seven-way Republican debate in 2011 saw Mitt Romney speaking for a total of 17 minutes 22 seconds. Newt Gingrich on the other hand spoke for only 8 minutes 23 seconds. That's around twice the amount of time to promote policy and engage with viewers.

Some in the US believe that the media deliberately favours the frontrunners. Indeed, Romney spoke for the longest amount of time in six of the nine monitored debates and went on to win the nomination. While there's no proven link between the two, it certainly doesn't look like a level playing field.

Election 2015 - Reality Check

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