The project analyzes questions being asked of the presidential hopefuls and seeks to determine whether or not they reflect what issues voters find important. NYU professor Jay Rosen writes that they hope to find "another way to set priorities by reaching outside the closed loop of candidates, operatives and journalists."
With this, it seems the onus is actually not on CNN or debate moderator Jon King, but rather on the Guardian to reformulate their election coverage. Rosen has long advocated moving away from what he calls "horse race journalism," which he says focuses on polls and campaign jockeying rather than the actual issues at stake. The Citizens Agenda campaign is hoping to determine that there is indeed a viable, alternative narrative to answering the question, "Who's gonna win?"
There have been 20 presidential debates in this election cycle since the first one took place last May. With the 21st taking place tonight, the Citizens Agenda set up a Twitter account (@CitizensAgenda) and launched a hashtag campaign (#unasked) imploring users to tweet questions they want Jon King to ask.
Studio 20 students have been tracking every single question that has been asked and breaking them down into topical categories. So far, candidates have been asked 839 total questions. The most-asked questions have to do with the candidates' backgrounds/records and improving the economy/job creation, which have each been asked 230 times. Also popular are questions about fixing the government and reducing the debt. 13% of total questions have asked, in some form, "How conservative are you?"
Only 44 questions addressed science and technology, placing it just slightly behind questions about abortion and gay rights. Of those, digital technology was an even less popular subject. For example, while six questions addressed the moon (spurred on by Newt Gingrich's desire to create a lunar base), only one addressed SOPA. That's precisely the same number of questions as were asked about pizza crust.
Questions about broadband access, stimulating digital economy, and STEM education have yet to be asked, despite the fact that President Obama considers them important enough to have them all in his upcoming budget. Online privacy, one of the biggest issues in the tech sector right now, has also been neglected.
Do you think there should be more tech talk at the debate? Now's your chance to be heard. We want you to tell us what questions you'd like to see answered. Tell us in the comments or tweet us @MashUSWorld.
Graphic by Nadja Popovich, courtesy of Citizens Agenda
Disclosure: The author of this post is a NYU Studio 20 alumnus. He is not involved in the Citizens Agenda.