by Bryan Shepard, University Of Georgia
Jacob Vallbracht, University Of Georgia

This webquest analyzes the role that the television had on the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon debates.

Introduction

 

    On September 26, 1960, the first-ever televised Presidential debate occurred between Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon.  These debates had a huge impact on politics because it provided the American people with the opportunity to watch their candidate go head-to-head on important issues, such as international affairs and education. However, in 1960, there were still many people that did not have the luxury of a television.  These people resorted to listening to the debate on the radio.

     The results from the debate were mixed.  The majority of the people that listened to the debates on the radio tended to think that the candidates were evenly matched.  Contrary to this opinion, the majority of people that watched the televised debates leaned more towards John F. Kennedy.

Today, you will play the role of either a biased researcher or an editor in order to write an article in the Opinions section of the New York Times.  After this, you will be charged with the task or supporting your argument against the criticisms of your opponent.

     Background information:  Not to long before the first debate in September, Vice President Nixon injured his knee and was in the hospital for two weeks.  He had lost weight and was still pale by the time of the debate.  In addition, Nixon refused to wear make-up to improve his color and his clothes did not seem to fit correctly.  On the other hand, Kennedy was fresh off the campaign trail with a tan and was in great shape.