Children’s Issues Left out of Presidential Debates

A new analysis from Every Child Matters’ leading Iowa partner, the Children and Family Policy Center, has found that presidential debate moderators have largely failed to raise issues directly affecting children. As the Des Moines Register reported, the Center finds the media “guilty of child neglect.” Of 310 questions posed by moderators in the first six contests, not one related to child welfare or education.

Not one of the 310 debate questions related to child welfare or education

This is despite evidence that voters care deeply about these issues. A poll conducted for ECM and CFPC in July by Selzer & Company showed that Iowa voters put kids’ issues at the top of their priorities the next president must address – above jobs and the economy, the federal budget and terrorism. An ECM poll conducted last month found that 75 percent of Iowa voters believe the candidates have not done a good job of addressing the need to provide better opportunities for children.

But if we’ve learned anything from our encounters with candidates across Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s that candidates are willing to talk about education and child welfare policies—if only they’re given the chance.

“Candidates have shown genuine concern for kids’ issues when they’re raised,” Every Child Matters President Brian Ahlberg said in a statement. “What’s needed is real dialogue about their differing approaches so we as a country can build political will for action; the debates are a key place to do this.”

To that end, Every Child Matters has launched a Digital Dialogue, an online initiative to elevate the conversation in this election around the opportunity gap and other issues facing America’s children. The Dialogue includes a snapshot of each candidate’s statements, actions and stances on a range of policies affecting kids and working families, all taken from the public record. There’s also a tool for the public to engage directly with candidates about their positions.

With just 47 days until the Iowa Caucuses, it’s time for candidates and the media to make children a priority—just like they are to voters.