Debate sponsor taps YouTube, Yahoo and AOL to quiz, inform voters


Starting this week, voters can go to three new online platforms to watch the Obama-Romney presidential debates and to see how their views on 11 issues compare to those of other Americans. The forums will help educate voters while also providing the media companies — YouTube, AOL and Yahoo — with a chance to pump up their political offerings.

It works like this. The three companies will all host the same toolkit that lets users take short surveys on topics like immigration and health care. Their sites, which will have a countdown to the next debate, will also show how many other Americans are exploring the same issues. Here’s what it looks like:

This isn’t the first time the Commission on Presidential Debates has worked with online media companies to educate voters.  In 2008, the non-partisan CPD partnered with MySpace (described then as “the world’s premier social network”) to stream the Obama-McCain debates and offer political learning tools.

This time around, the process will include data visualization graphics that depict how an individual user’s views on topics like social issues compare to others:

When filling out the surveys, voters will also be able to indicate that a given issue — say jobs or the environment — is important to them. This will produce graphics showing how voters prioritize the different issues.

For CPD, the debate sponsor, the new online partnerships are a way for it to carry out its mandate of educating voters. For the media partners, it is a way to showcase their political coverage.

According to Chris Grosso, SVP of AOL Homepages, the debate channel will let the company “showcase different brands” like AOL, Patch and the Huffington Post. As an example, Grosso said that if a topic like the auto industry bailout comes up, AOL will be able to “surface” relevant content from a Patch live blog.

As of Monday morning, the sites had yet to go live. They will soon be available at, and

The interactive toolkits were produced for the Commission as a pro bono project by New York ad agency BBH.

(Image by James Steidl via Shutterstock)


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