Did Women’s Voices Shape the Final Presidential Debate? The #WhoTalks Post-Debate Analysis
The final presidential debate of the 2016 election season may officially be in the books, but the Who Talks? project is far from finished. We’ve reported on the gender balance of political pundits across three major cable news networks for the past six months, including special reports after each presidential debate, to see how women’s voices are being included (or not) in commentary about the election. Wednesday’s debate, moderated by Fox’s Chris Wallace, drew out some of the most specific answers we’ve heard from either candidate on the issues. Our question, however: who would analyze and dissect those answers after the debate?
Who would analyze and dissect those answers after the debate?
The latest Who Talks? post-debate data shows that CNN had a perfect 50/50 gender balance during the hour immediately following the presidential debate, which was the best of the evening among the networks monitored. Fox News came in a distant second, featuring only 31% women commentators, and MSNBC lagged well behind with only three appearances by women analysts throughout the hour for a paltry 25%.
Looking at each network’s progress across all three debates, CNN has remained at the top with an average 48% appearances by women over all three debates. Fox News has been the least consistent, averaging 31% women among its commentary, while MSNBC has remained consistently bad with gender balance ratios across all three debates only reaching 23%.
…you might be asking yourself why we care about them quite this much. Women make up over half the population.
At the end of the day, these are just numbers, and you might be asking yourself why we care about them quite this much. Women make up over half the population. Their exclusion means the exclusion of the opinions and lived experiences of half our country. When they are included, women’s voices have the power to shape how the public understands these hours of debates, and they can steer not only conversations but also the policy propositions that will stem from them.
Women belong in all levels of political discussion now and long after this election season is over.
Women belong in all levels of political discussion now and long after this election season is over. This data shows us just how much work still needs to be done for equal representation to be the norm. When post-debate coverage across all of the networks includes less than 36% women on average, we cannot ignore it. We cannot pretend this lack of women does not have real and immediate consequences, and we cannot stop our demand for something better.
Change happens when women speak. It really is that simple.
The debates may be over, but the work and vision of the Who Talks? project continues. We have two more weeks to go. Keep counting, keep tallying, and keep using whatever platform is available to you. Whether that platform is a top-rated cable news show or a Twitter feed, your voices, our voices, need to be heard. Change happens when women speak. It really is that simple. Join us to challenge the continued underrepresentation of women.