Questions To Ask Presidential Candidates



Christopher Ebbe, Ph.D.


ABSTRACT:  In the melee of our presidential elections, citizens get little in-depth information about what candidates are committed to and what they would do if elected, instead being targeted with sound bites and slogans designed simply to appeal.  This document has questions for candidates that might be useful if answered seriously.


KEY WORDS:  elections, politics, political platform


The questions below would be helpful for voters in determining whom they think will be the kind of President that they desire.  They can be adapted, of course, for other political offices.  You could ask them in person (town hall?) or write to urge candidates to publish answers to these questions.  Naturally, most candidates are not prepared to respond to all of these questions, but the amount and nature of their responses would tell us quite a bit about them.




1. How much are prestige and power motivating you to seek the Presidency?

2. Can you imagine doing something that was “the right thing for the country” even if you believe that it would keep you from being re-elected?  Can you give an example?

3. How do you think voters really choose whom to vote for (different from what they say or what they think would be most appropriate)?

4. What level of transparency do you think is appropriate for a President?  What things do you think a President or Presidential candidate should be able to keep private?

5. Do you see the role of the President more like that of a king or as a CEO?

6. If you are elected, how will you reward those who have worked for your campaign?  How will you reward those who contributed large sums to your campaign?  Which offices or jobs do you consider good rewards for such people?

7. What do you think of Pres. Trump’s style of addressing issues (public attacks, name-calling, bullying if he isn’t getting his way)?  Is it overall more effective or less effective than doing things “behind the scenes”?

8. How much do you trust what Pres. Trump says publicly and in his tweets?  Would you speak to voters any differently?

9. Are there any past behaviors that you think should in effect disqualify a candidate for President?

10. How would you interact with lobbyists if elected?

11. Given that soundbites and brief TV appearances are not adequate for conveying to voters any depth about how you would govern, what will you do to get that more in-depth information to voters?

12. Would you treat friends and contributors any differently from other citizens, in terms of what you do for people?  If you say “no” now but are “caught” later favoring friends and contributors, what would you do?

13. Why do you think many voters think differently than you about political issues?  How will you respond to those who think differently?  How will you be the President of those other voters?

14. Do you consider yourself liberal or conservative (or something else)?  What specifics most determine how you place yourself?  What implications does your political identity have for the direction you would lead the country?


15. Do you think many people are using medicines, drugs, and other substances to feel better?  If so, what is the down-side of this?  What would you do about it, if anything?

16. Various polls and surveys show that more citizens than in the past feel over-stressed, anxious, and/or depressed in our country?   What has caused this?  What would you propose for such people?

17. Why are citizens on average less happy than the people in many other countries?  What would you propose?

18. What do you have to say to people who have lost jobs due to globalization?  (Getting higher training won’t work for everyone, since someone still has to do the more menial jobs.  What about them?)

19. What do you think is the appropriate level of tax contributions by people with over $500,000 income per year?

20. Would you favor keeping some industries going in our country (like steel) by using tariffs, even though this would make those products more expensive which would result in a slightly lower level of income for all citizens?

21. People feel that moving up in society is much harder now than in the past?  Why?

22. We judge everything by cost and wealth, resulting in people not feeling recognized for their inherent worth.  Would you lead citizens in changing those values?

23. How would you advise the country to deal with “fake news”?  How can ordinary people have enough background to know what is probably faked?

24. Why are so many people willing or even eager to put down their fellow citizens on the internet?

25. What do you think are the most important issues to focus on for the country long-term?


26. Every principle and goal has implications for outcome, including what kind of society it will produce.  If our citizens are more intelligent, it will make our society more intelligent overall, and if our citizens are more compassionate, the overall society will have less internal conflict.  How will you lead citizens in terms of values and ways of interacting with each other, and what kind of society will you be trying to produce?


27. In order to work together effectively and amicably, we must be able to trust each other, and the key to trust is honesty.  How will you try to be honest and trustworthy as President?

28. Do you think that every citizen deserves equal treatment under the law and under the regulations of every part of the government?  How will you remove or combat the huge amount of seeking and granting of special favors that goes on in government?

29. How will you ensure that the needs of all citizens are considered for every decision you make as President?

30. How will you get Congress to act instead of avoiding difficult issues, as they usually do, forfear of not being re-elected?

31. Do you think that one side (liberals vs. conservatives, e.g.) should “win” and have control?  If you do, then which side?

32. Will you pursue effective compromises or “winning” as President?  On which issues?

33. Politicians often say that it’s a nice idea to serve the country, but first you must be elected.  This implies that being elected involves different actions and motives than serving the country.  How will you be different in office than you are on the campaign trail?

34. What will you do, if anything, to “drain the swamp” in Washington?

35. Will you do anything (besides press releases) to inform citizens of what you are trying to do  as President?

36. In order to work toward better compromising, would you pledge to mention and address opposing positions on issues as well as your own positions or beliefs when you make policy statements?

37. If Congress should become better at compromise, how will you help citizens live with those compromises—i.e., not getting everything they want?

38. What will you do to tone down the endless fighting between our two major parties?


39.  What is the appropriate role of money in political campaigns?  Should unlimited contributions by anyone and everyone be OK?  Don’t unlimited contributions give those with more money who wish to speak out more influence on government than people with less money?

40. Given that every bill or action of government both benefits some citizens and disadvantages others, are you open to helping the electorate choose wisely when voting, by explaining to citizens both the benefits and the negative effects of the actions you support?

41. Will you advocate for actions and attitudes that will make our elections more rational and less expensive, such as a set beginning date for campaigns and a reasonable limit on advertising spending?

42. What is your position regarding the electoral college?

43. What is your position on making citizens show proof of ID before voting?

44. What is your position regarding lies and misleading statements in campaign advertising?

45. What do you think about having a national identity card that could be used to prove one’s right to vote?


46. What is a fair way to decide how to impose different levels of taxes on different citizens?

47. What do you think of the idea of changing tax levels each year to pay for everything that you and Congress have approved during the last year?

48. What do you think of the idea of not using taxes to “help out” certain citizens rather than others (like the mortgage deduction)?  Why not pay them directly for an activity that government wants to encourage, rather than using tax deductions?

49. Will you insist on a balanced budget every year?  If not, why not?

50. Do you consider the national debt and government borrowing a problem?  Why not pay for everything up front rather than borrowing and paying more in interest?

51. Will you do anything to control risky investment packages offered to citizens for which the risk cannot reasonably be calculated (like the ones that caused the collapse in 2008)?

52.  Will you do anything to control pork barrel spending by Congress?

53. To what positions will you appoint persons who are friends, family, or contributors?

54. What “promises” are you making in your campaign that you are realistically unlikely to be able to carry out?

55. Will you press Congress to clarify their own laws, rather than letting it kick the ball over to the Supreme Court in order to avoid bad publicity for themselves on controversial matters?

56. How do you think we can get out of the cycle of each party appointing Supreme Court judges whom they think are sympathetic to their causes?

57.  Will you do anything about the unlimited amendment process in Congress (which allows amendments that have nothing to do with the bill they are attached to)?


58. Will you pledge to be careful that your public statements are all true (or at least to identify which of your statements are opinions rather than assertions of truth)?

59. What would be your solution to escalation of college costs?  Would you support separating undergraduate education from universities that are mainly research centers and graduate       institutions?  What is your position regarding the practice of colleges using mostly non-employees (contracted persons) rather than professors, to teach undergraduates?

60.  What is your position regarding charter schools?  When should they be employed and what for?

61. Is tenure a positive influence on education, particularly at the high school level?

62. Since our society is so big that people can easily stay within groups of people just like themselves and therefore lose sight of what the lives of other groups are like, do you have an idea about how to keep us all mindful of the needs of all groups in society?

63. What is your position regarding separating technical training from college training (like having insurance salesmen, accountants, computer programmers, dancers, artists, etc., receive training in more specialized institutions rather than college)?

64. Do you have any idea of how to encourage citizens to become truly educated (to know how society works, to recognize societal pitfalls through understanding history, etc.) rather than pursuing only career training in college as most do now?

65. Do you see any feasible alternative to “news” channels (Fox, CNN, etc.) who are biased toward liberal or conservative beliefs?  How else could we produce trustworthy public information?

66. What is your position on protecting the political speech of corporations to as great a degree as the political speech of individual citizens (Citizens United)?

67. What do you think government should do, if anything, about climate change?  What would you ask citizens to do (or sacrifice) to cope with the environmental changes that are coming?

68. What do you think the government should do, if anything, about those who lose their jobs because of globalization of our economy?  What should government do for those who lose their jobs to automation?

69. Do you agree with most citizens that their goal should be to work as little as possible and retire as early as possible?

70. What is your position on a guaranteed income for all citizens?

71. What is your position on government finding a way to create jobs for all who want them (in other words, having a zero unemployment rate rather than waiting for the private sector to       have enough jobs)?

72. What do you think we should do about the high number of jobs that don’t pay enough to live on (even when they are full-time)?  Is this fair to workers?

73. Do you support requiring everyone receiving “welfare” to do some work or job searching in order to receive help?

74. Do you think certain government services can be safely contracted out? (education, prisons, job-finding, the army, etc.)

75. What is your position regarding income inequality (or wealth inequality)?  Should we establish minimum wages that families could actually live on?

76. What is your position about viewing healthcare as a “right,” so that every citizen has decent healthcare?  Would you abolish private healthcare and health insurance in order to have a  single universal system?

77. Should government interfere in the pricing of medicines or let pharmacy companies make as much money as they can (like most of our other industries)?

78. What do you think of having frequent national referenda for all voters that would give better information to government about what people want than the current fragmented and unregulated polling system?

79. Should the United States have an official language?

80. What are your positions on various aspects of immigration?
setting a limit on each type of immigrant for each year
revising the rules regarding political asylum
increasing numbers of processers of asylum and other
immigration claims
“chain migration”
“the Wall”

81. What is the value of identity politics, if any?

82. How will you try to “bring the nation together” in the face of diversity politics and all the unthinking praise of diversity that we hear?

83. How would you help all groups in our nation to feel good about themselves without claiming to be superior to other groups?

84. What actions by government are needed to promote equality between
men and women
all racial/cultural groups
sexual preference groups (straight, gay, etc.)
gender orientation groups (transgender, the gender one was
clearly born with)?

What is the most pressing issue today in regard to women’s equality?

85. Given the explosion of the number of women willing to publically expose their abuse and abusers, should all claims of abuse be believed?  Should they all be believed conditionally?

86. What is your position on Roe vs. Wade?  What do you believe about abortion and about the unborn?

87. How would you address the resentments that people around the world have about the U.S.?

88. Is it good for our society to have a completely voluntary, career armed forces?  Would it be better to have some form of required national service, including the military?

89. How would you deal with lying by your opponents and by government officials in general?   Should lying by punished?  Would you sign on to a proposal to have all candidates have their TV ads fact-checked by a neutral body before they were aired?

90. How far should religious liberty go?  Who should decide whether a behavior should be protected that is consistent with a religion but is offensive or troublesome for others?

91. What would you do about the fear and suspicion of Muslims in our country?


92. What is your attitude toward treaties, formal agreements, and compacts between countries?  When, if ever, should a country withdraw from a treaty that it has signed?   What issues are worth seeking treaties for?  Are there other means of international      cooperation besides these formal agreements?

93. How and how much would you support Israel?  What about the fact that Israel took its land from the previous Palestinian occupants by force?  What do you propose to solve the ongoing Israel-Palestinian problem?

94. How do you propose we seek to reduce the covert influence of foreign governments on ourelections?

95. Do you believe that the U.S. is always right, because we are “good”?  How might you guard against the U.S. making mistakes?  How do you interpret “America first”?

96. What justifies the U.S. in making war (declared or undeclared) or killing people of other countries when no war has been declared?  Do these same “reasons” justify other countries to do the same?

97. Is pre-emptive war ever justified?  How should a war be paid for?


98. What role do guns play in the self-esteem of citizens?  Does this support for feelings of self-esteem or masculinity by having a gun justify having so many guns among the public?  Do you think it is important for us to have a lot of guns to keep the government from taking over everything?

99. Do you favor reducing gun violence by controlling gun ownership somewhat or by letting people have more guns so they can fight it out whenever threatened?

100. It can be argued that in order to feel good about themselves, people need (1) basic respect and acceptance from others, (2) the power and the satisfaction of taking decent care of themselves and their loved ones, and (3) a healthy and positive view of themselves.  What would you do to strengthen the self-esteem of our people?

101. What role do you think seeing an endless succession of movies that portray gun violence as good (defending oneself, stopping criminals, getting retribution) plays in bringing up children who think gun violence is normal and therefore are more inclined to use it themselves when they feel unfairly treated?