YouTube: Debates start with Nixon vs. Kennedy

September 27, 2010, 2:34 PM UTC

Fifty years have passed, but the first live televised presidential debate still shapes elections.

YouTube is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first live televised presidential debate, which took place on September 26th, 1960.

It was 50 years ago today that then Senator from Massachusetts John F. Kennedy took on then Vice President Richard Nixon in the first-ever general election presidential debate. The debate was a turning point not only for the 1960 election, but also for U.S. politics: An estimated 80 million people tuned in, and the debate set a new precedent for the use of television as a political communications tool.

In 2008, YouTube partnered with CNN on the CNN/YouTube debates and has since launched Google Moderator, which allows citizens to submit and vote on questions presented to public officials on YouTube.

The Kennedy Presidential Library has made the full Nixon Kennedy debate available  via YouTube, below:


For the 2010 midterm elections, YouTube is partnering with news agencies across the country for a series of debates. YouTube lists the following below:

  • Nevada: We’re partnering with the Nevada Broadcasters Association for a Senate debate on October 14 between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican challenger Sharron Angle. Submit your questions here.
  • Iowa: We’re working with the Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Television for the October 21 gubernatorial debate between Governor Chet Culver and challenger Terry Branstad. Submit your questions here.
  • Colorado: We’re partnering with KUSA 9 News and the Denver Post for a gubernatorial debate between Democrat John Hickenlooper, Republican Dan Maes and American Constution Party candidate Tom Tancredo on October 13. Submit your questions here.
  • 10questions: We’ve also partnered with, who used the Google Moderator API to build a platform for a web debates series across the country, in which candidates will submit their answers to the top-voted questions via YouTube videos. You’ll also see this platform in action in TV debates in both California and Georgia in the coming weeks.

YouTube also encourages those looking for debate to visit their debate landing page for instructions on how to use Google Moderator to solicit and broadcast questions from voters via YouTube.  YouTube states that they feel “More open, engaging political debates benefit voters, candidates, news agencies, and the political process.”

Debates also bring in many more eyes to be advertised against during election season.