Fox Taps Viewers for GOP Debate Questions

Fox Taps Viewers for GOP Debate Questions
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Debate season kick-off is almost here, but the candidates and Washington professionals aren’t the only ones frantically preparing. Fox News moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace have spent much of their time in the past few weeks crafting questions for Thursday’s debate—with a little help from viewers.

“We’re looking for you to get involved in the Fox News-Facebook debate live from Cleveland,” Fox host Neil Munro says in the e-vite video to 2016 GOP debate fans.

Fox News social media managers opened the online forum July 29, urging people to get in on the debate action by submitting their own questions for the 10 candidates via Facebook. Members of the public can submit a photo representing needed change in America, post a comment on the Facebook page, or upload a video of themselves asking a question.

Since the invite was posted, Fox has seen an influx of eager election followers seizing the opportunity to have their voice heard during the debate.

In eight days, Facebook users have posted thousands of comments about what matters most to them. According to a June survey by Rasmussen Reports, the economy, job creation, healthcare, government spending, and education are the top five most important issues to likely voters. But the political agenda has changed since the survey; posts about immigration reform and Donald Trump’s candidacy now dominate the commentary.

Many commenters want answers regarding immigration and border security, a cursory review of the posts indicates. Many have left lengthy suggestions on immigration policy, and many say they want the candidates to close the borders altogether. “What is your plan to secure the borders?” is one of the most frequent questions.

The other major topic is Trump, who’s getting more positive comments than negative. “I think Mr. Trump has already answered most of the questions adequately,” Shamus Stephens wrote. “Trump all the way,” Shannon Skeens wrote.

Inviting political buffs into debate conversations is not a new concept. Networks have been doing it since as early as 1936. “America’s Town Meeting of the Air,” a radio program aired by NBC Blue, allowed studio audience members to ask questions and figured out a way for remote listeners to call in--a complicated process for early 20th century technology. Even then, networks had to deal with ranting fans, but the input was always welcome. The network even awarded a prize to the audience member who asked the best question.

Although 2016 political buffs are not expecting a prize from the debate sponsors, Fox is monitoring and paying attention to their input. Contributors may even see their photos, questions, or videos play during the two-hour event.

Viewers won’t even have to leave their living rooms to have conversations about the Ohio battle. They can weigh in on the debate in real-time by downloading an app that allows them to score the candidates (available for both iPhone and Android users) or by participating in Facebook’s live chat.

At this point, Baier, Kelly, and Wallace have finalized most of their questions, but they remain mum on specifics. Baier promised Politco they have a “good mix” of questions prepared. “They are current, they are relevant to this campaign, but it’s going to be a pretty broad umbrella,” he said.

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