359 Sundry Debate Topics to Use as Inspiration

There’s hardly a shortage of debate topics out there. So why is coming up with a good one so hard?

debate speech topics

Well, maybe the very abundance of topics creates a kind of choice overload; there are just too many options to choose from. Instead of picking one that’s good enough, we’re hobbled by the fear that we’ll pick one that isn’t the best, or is even wrong!

So to help you find a good debate topic – or even give you the inspiration you need to craft your own perfect topic! – we’ve compiled a catalog of more than 350 questions organized by subject matter.

How to Prepare for a Debate

Before we get to our lists, we should consider the best way to prepare for a debate and settle on a compelling topic. Needless to say, the better prepared you are, the higher your chances of doing well. But how do you go about it?

Here are a few simple steps you can follow:

  1. Do your research
  2. Put down logical arguments for your position
  3. Prepare evidence that supports your reasoning
  4. Anticipate the other side’s argument and your response
  5. Practice presenting your case

How To Come Up With Interesting Debate Topics

There are a few main characteristics of a debatable topic that guarantee all participants will both enjoy and benefit from the discussion. Let’s break them down. 

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Good debate topics are:

  • Simple

If the topic is hard to grasp, it can make the debater reluctant to participate. Keep in mind that simplicity, in this case, applies to the way the issue is presented and not to the subject matter itself.

  • Compelling

If debaters are interested in the topic, they’re more likely to take part actively. How can you be sure that the subject is interesting? Well, you can’t. But chances are, if the issue grabs your attention, it will do so for others too.

  • Researchable

A good topic gives you a chance to back up your arguments and not go out on a limb. If there’s no evidence to go on, the discussion may quickly lose steam or go in circles.

Some of the Most Popular Debate Topics

To start off, we’ve curated a sample of topics from across subject matters that people tend to debate more regularly than others. That could be because they’re so all-encompassing that we never get tired of discussing them, or maybe they touch upon issues that in some way present a challenge to contemporary society and its functioning.

Either way, they’re potent topics that are bound to create a meaningful discussion.

  1. Should euthanasia be legalized?
  2. Should the government regulate abortion?
  3. Should gene editing in humans be allowed?
  4. Should the government intervene in the free market?
  5. Should mobile phones be banned during classes?
  6. Should the drinking age be lowered?
  7. Is the school grading system effective?
  8. Should women compete against men in sports?
  9. Should genetically modified foods carry labels?
  10. Could alien life have found Earth?

Controversial Debate Topics

Controversial Debate Topics

Next, we have a list of topics that once again cover all kinds of subject matter, but this time with a bit more bite on them. These are questions that trigger some emotional reaction in most people, and so are a great way to get everyone engaged in a discussion.

Although relying on a hot-button issue to get a debate going almost guarantees you’ll grab the attention of your audience, keep in mind that such topics may be too sensitive for some people. So it’s good to approach these with care.

Below is a selection of some of the most contentious debate topics. But you’ll find subjects that are controversial to some degree interspersed across the categories on this page. Also, for a list of more than 200 such issues, check out our dedicated page on controversial topics.

  1. Is the gender pay gap fair?
  2. Should same-sex marriage be allowed?
  3. Has the #MeToo movement gone too far?
  4. Why are there fewer women than men in science?
  5. Are scientists objective?
  6. Is reality television harming society?
  7. Should vaccination be mandatory?
  8. Should schools have armed security guards?
  9. Should teachers carry guns to protect students?
  10. Are violent video games causing violent behavior?
  11. Is internet censorship ever justifiable?
  12. Should the US government pay reparations to African Americans?
  13. Should it be legal to burn the US flag?

Social Debate Topics

Social Debate Topics

To help you sort through the numerous topics related to society, we’ve grouped them by the general area they’re concerned with. Keep in mind that many have to do with more than one issue, so there’s some overlap between categories.

Political Debate Topics

Debate is an essential part of politics, so it makes sense to choose one of these topics for your discussion. Plus, it shouldn’t be hard to come by arguments on either side of any given issue.

  1. Is national security a higher priority than personal privacy?
  2. Should the government regulate gun ownership?
  3. Is Universal Basic Income a viable solution to poverty?
  4. Should cannabis be legalized for recreational use?
  5. Should there be any exceptions to the right of free speech?
  6. Should hate speech be banned?
  7. Should voting be mandatory?
  8. Should military service be mandatory?
  9. Is patriotism doing more harm than good?
  10. Is democracy the best form of government?
  11. Should all monarchies be abolished?
  12. Was Great Britain right to leave the European Union?

US National Debate Topics

The below topics are once again political but more narrowly focused on matters related to the US. Nevertheless, since the US is a global power with influence all over the world, any of these questions could rouse a discussion in a non-American group of debaters as well.

  1. Should election day be an official bank holiday in the US?
  2. Should the Electoral College be abolished?
  3. Should there be a limit for US senators’ terms?
  4. Should there be term limits for Supreme Court Justices?
  5. Should a President be allowed to serve for more than two terms?
  6. What should be the role of the US First Lady/Gentleman?
  7. Should the US intervene when foreign countries commit human rights abuses?
  8. Should the US withhold humanitarian aid to foreign countries for political reasons?
  9. Should the US rely on private military companies to pursue military goals abroad?
  10. Should US states be more autonomous when it comes to Federal policy?
  11. Should the US build a wall along the US-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration?
  12. Should the Senate have impeached Donald Trump?
  13. What is the most significant national security threat for the US?
  14. How should we prevent future mass shootings?
  15. Should there be stricter regulations on gun ownership?
  16. Should private citizens be allowed to purchase automatic weapons?
  17. Is affirmative action helping or hurting equality in the US?
  18. Should the penny be taken out of circulation?

Historical Debate Topics

Whether history is written by the victors or not, it’s definitely written by someone, so it’s always up for debate.

  1. Was the Vietnam War justified?
  2. Was World War II a continuation of World War I?
  3. Would there have been a Second World War if Hitler was accepted into art school?
  4. Were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the only way to end World War II?
  5. Did the Chernobyl disaster cause the collapse of the Soviet Union?
  6. Did the rise of the Eastern Empire cause the downfall of the Roman Empire?
  7. Did Genghis Khan do more harm than good?
  8. Was King Arthur a real historical figure?

Criminal Justice Debate Topics

Most criminal justice issues get to the heart of what’s right and what’s not, making them perfect debate topics.

  1. Should police be allowed to use deadly force?
  2. Should body cameras be mandatory for police officers?
  3. Should the US restrict qualified immunity for police officers?
  4. Do minor drug-related offenses warrant prison time?
  5. Should prison time be reserved for violent criminals only?
  6. Should juveniles be tried and treated as adults?
  7. Should illegal immigrants be considered criminals?
  8. Should criminal trials be televised?
  9. Should felons be banned from voting?
  10. Is the death penalty justified?
  11. Should for-profit prisons be banned?
  12. Why does the US have the largest prison population in the world?
  13. Should there be 24 instead of 12 jurors in a jury?
  14. Should trial by jury be eliminated?

Ethics Debate Topics

Ethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the moral principles that guide our behavior. Since there’s rarely a consensus on ethical issues, they provide an excellent opportunity to generate a lively discussion.

  1. Is morality relative?
  2. Is there absolute truth?
  3. Is war ever justifiable?
  4. Is torture ever justifiable?
  5. Are zoos immoral?
  6. Is hunting immoral?
  7. Is animal testing immoral?
  8. Should animals have similar rights to humans?
  9. Should the sale of fur be banned?
  10. Are surrogate mothers moral?
  11. Is prostitution immoral?
  12. Are celebrities earning too much money?
  13. Are Hollywood movies a bad influence on people around the world?
  14. Do photoshopped images create unreasonable standards of beauty?
  15. Is there too much pressure on girls to have perfect bodies?
  16. Are beauty pageants objectifying women?
  17. Is Barbie a good role model for children?
  18. Is religion doing more harm than good?
  19. Should water be a commodity or a human right?
  20. Are adopted children entitled to finding out who their biological parents are?
  21. Are people aged 50+ too old to adopt children?
  22. Should drug addicts be helped or punished?
  23. Should human cloning be allowed?
  24. Is stem cell research ethical?

Religious Debate Topics

To be relevant to today’s world, religions need to evolve. As any other large institution, they evolve through debate—both among their adherents and between them and society as a whole.

  1. Is the Bible symbolic or literal?
  2. Is religion responsible for war?
  3. Is science an enemy of religion?
  4. Is God really all powerful?
  5. Is God really merciful?
  6. Should religious institutions pay taxes?
  7. Should politicians swear on the Bible?
  8. Should public prayer be banned in schools?
  9. Should creationism be taught in schools?

Environment Debate Topics

As the environmental crisis deepens, questions about our relationship with Earth become more and more urgent, and so definitely worth discussing.

  1. Can renewable sources of energy be an adequate replacement for fossil fuels?
  2. Should the government invest in alternative energy sources?
  3. Is solar power the energy of the future?
  4. Is climate change a threat to humanity?
  5. Is climate change man-made?
  6. Is global warming reversible?
  7. Is policy or technology a better solution to the environmental crisis?
  8. Is the Paris Agreement doing enough to slow down the environmental crisis?
  9. Should we ban palm oil to decrease the speed of deforestation?
  10. Should all cars be electric?
  11. Should we ban fracking?
  12. Should recycling be mandatory?
  13. Should plastic packaging be banned or restricted?
  14. Should fossil fuel emissions be restricted?
  15. Should coal mining be banned?
  16. Is nuclear energy safe?
  17. Is tourism bad for the environment?
  18. Is veganism the solution to the environmental crisis?
  19. Is vegetarianism the solution to the environmental crisis?

Health Debate Topics

Many questions about human health remain unanswered, making them compelling debate topics. The list below includes more general health questions. For issues related more closely to medicine, check out our ‘Medical Debate Topics’ category further down on this page.

  1. Is obesity a disease?
  2. What’s the best way to deal with the growing problem of obesity?
  3. Is weightlifting a more effective method of weight loss than cardio?
  4. How much exercise is too much?
  5. Should cigarette smoking be banned in public places?
  6. Can cell phone radiation cause cancer?
  7. Should we allow the sale of human organs?
  8. Is drug abuse a health or a moral issue?
  9. Should healthcare be free for everyone?
  10. Should healthcare be universal?
  11. Should people own their DNA?

Scientific Debate Topics

Scientific Debate Topics

It’s in the nature of scientific inquiry to never settle on one interpretation of observed phenomena. Complete scientific consensus on any topic is a rare bird. Even if a theory is widely accepted by the scientific community, good scientists keep an open mind. They are ready to adjust their models if new and contradictory evidence comes along. That’s why scientific issues are continually evolving, and so are often up for debate.

Below we’ve sorted scientific issues into three general categories to make it easier for you to pick one that works for your purposes.

Technology Debate Topics

Technology is changing the world at a dizzying rate. Whether those changes are for better or for worse is just one possible topic to debate.

  1. Is space travel worth the cost?
  2. Should humans attempt to colonize Mars?
  3. Should robots have rights?
  4. Are robots taking people’s jobs?
  5. Is the Turing test still relevant?
  6. Is AI a threat to humanity?
  7. Is AI the next stage in evolution?
  8. Are we too dependent on technology?
  9. Is technology making people smarter or dumber?
  10. Can laws keep up with technological advancements?
  11. Is technology making Earth better or destroying it?
  12. Is television helping or hurting children’s upbringing?
  13. Should net neutrality be reinstated?
  14. Are street security cameras violating privacy or improving security?
  15. Can electronic libraries completely replace traditional ones?
  16. Should internet access be a fundamental human right?
  17. Can cell phones be used for education?
  18. Should online gambling be banned?
  19. Is Facebook better than Twitter?
  20. Are social media sites designed to be addictive?
  21. Do social media companies have too much power?
  22. Should social media sites be banned from selling our personal data?
  23. Is social media helping us connect or making us isolated?
  24. Should posting online be protected under the right to free speech?

Medical Debate Topics

Medical breakthroughs are always welcome. It’s how we use them that often creates disagreements between people.

  1. Are flu shots necessary for at-risk groups?
  2. Does alternative medicine have any benefits?
  3. Should experimental drugs be allowed for terminally ill patients?
  4. Should alcoholics be allowed to receive a liver transplant?
  5. Should medical malpractice be punished harshly?
  6. Should there be restrictions on the prices of life-saving drugs?
  7. Are drug manufacturers to blame for the opioid crisis?
  8. Should organ transplants be allowed without the prior consent of the donor once the donor is deceased?
  9. Should parents be allowed to refuse medical treatment for their children?
  10. Should parents be allowed to choose the physical characteristics of their children?
  11. Is telemedicine as effective as traditional medicine?
  12. Is quarantine an effective measure against COVID-19?
  13. Should birth control be sold over the counter?
  14. Should genetic screening of embryos be allowed?
  15. Is cannabis a medicine?

Psychology Debate Topics

There’s no established consensus among psychologists about how the mind works. In essence, the human psyche remains a black box. And with so much room for interpretation comes a lot of room for debate too.

  1. Is psychology a real science?
  2. Is ADHD a real mental illness?
  3. Are antidepressants helping or hurting?
  4. Should psychologists be able to prescribe drugs?
  5. Should we look at mental illness as another form of physical illness?
  6. Is prejudice against people different from us inherent?
  7. Is behavior more dependent on nature or nurture?
  8. Is gender more dependent on nature or nurture?
  9. Is intelligence acquired or inherited?
  10. Is IQ an adequate measure of intelligence?

Business Debate Topics

Business Debate Topics

Whether it’s the clash between private and public interests, the relationship between employees and employers, or any other topic related to money, many business issues are yet to be settled.

  1. Should the government mandate a minimum wage?
  2. Should there be a quota for the number of employees from each gender?
  3. Is the eight-hour work shift outdated?
  4. Should corporations be allowed to fund research?
  5. Should corporations be banned from sponsoring political campaigns?
  6. Should corporations be considered citizens?
  7. Should corporations pay more taxes?
  8. Should tax avoidance by corporations be illegal?
  9. Is multi-level marketing a legitimate form of business?
  10. Should prescription drug marketing be allowed?
  11. Should marketing to children be allowed?
  12. Is it acceptable to date co-workers?
  13. Should companies be required to pay workers during maternity leave?
  14. Should men be given more time for paternity leave?
  15. Should employers be allowed to drug-test employees?
  16. Should employers be allowed to ask about age, religion, marital status, etc.?
  17. Should employers be allowed to review social media accounts of job applicants?
  18. Should employers restrict access to social media websites at the workplace?
  19. Are casual dress codes helping companies?
  20. Are happy employees more productive?
  21. Are employees who work from home more productive or less?
  22. Are cryptocurrencies creating a money revolution or just helping criminals?
  23. Is saving more important than improving one’s current quality of life?
  24. Are credit cards hurting or helping financial stability?
  25. Should payday loans be subject to stricter regulation?
  26. Is online banking safe enough?

Education Debate Topics

Education Debate Topics

Education is arguably one of the most powerful tools to change the world for the better. But not everyone agrees what and how young people should learn, which creates a myriad of ongoing debates. That’s why we’ve sorted these topics into several categories.

Debate Topics for College Students

College students may benefit from debating topics related to any field. But there are some issues that have to do with university education specifically and, as such, are bound to grab the attention of college debaters.

  1. Is competition more important than cooperation in the learning process?
  2. Is a college education necessary for a successful career?
  3. Is a bachelor’s degree more valuable than an associate degree?
  4. Is it worth getting a student loan to attend college?
  5. Should all student debt be forgiven?
  6. Should public college be free for all students?
  7. Should students get two years of free tuition for community colleges?
  8. Should all college campuses be co-ed?
  9. Should living in a dorm be mandatory for college students?
  10. Are online lectures an effective substitute for real-life classes?
  11. Should college athletes be paid beyond scholarships?
  12. Is finals week too stressful for college students?
  13. Is an argumentative essay or paper a better way to evaluate students’ knowledge than a multiple choice test?
  14. Is homework necessary in college?
  15. Are laptops in classrooms too distracting?
  16. Should sociology be taught as part of nursing education?

Debate Topics for High School

Below are some topics that deal with high school education and what it should involve, which should be instantly relatable to students in this age group.

  1. Should all schools be privatized?
  2. Are high school graduates qualified for the current job market?
  3. How many students should there be in a high school class?
  4. Should students be allowed to create their own curriculum?
  5. Should attendance be voluntary in high school?
  6. Is year-round schooling better for students?
  7. Should high school be shorter, longer, or remain the same?
  8. Should schools invest more in physical education facilities?
  9. Is separating boys and girls beneficial for students?
  10. Is social media hurting students’ ability to focus?
  11. Is arts education as important as science?
  12. Should animal dissections be allowed in high schools?
  13. Are computer games an effective teaching tool?
  14. Should public prayer be allowed in public school?
  15. Should school authorities be allowed to search students’ lockers?
  16. Should mobile devices be banned at school?
  17. Should financial education be mandatory in high school?
  18. Should school uniforms be mandatory in high school?
  19. Are single-sex schools more efficient?

Debate Topics for Middle School

To get a debate going among middle schoolers, it may work to pick a topic that deals with their experiences.

  1. Should a school uniform be mandatory for middle school students?
  2. Should sports be an essential part of middle school education?
  3. Should junk food be banned from schools?
  4. Should the Internet be banned from schools?
  5. Should middle school students be tested for drugs?
  6. Should students be able to give their teachers grades?
  7. Should middle school students be required to learn a foreign language?
  8. Should eighth-grade students be done with the school year earlier than other students?
  9. Is it OK to force middle school students to repeat a year of school?
  10. Should sex education be taught in middle school?
  11. Is detention an effective disciplinary tool?
  12. Should religion be taught in public school?
  13. Should fast food be banned in school?
  14. Is teaching handwriting in school obsolete?
  15. Should the homework a student gets be limited to some degree?
  16. Are private schools worth the extra cost?

Debate Topics for Elementary Students

And lastly in our educational debate topics category, here are a few that are either for elementary school students or about early education in general.

  1. Should cartoons be part of the educational process of elementary school students?
  2. Should children be allowed to bring toys to school?
  3. Is standardized testing helping or hurting elementary students?
  4. Is homeschooling better than traditional schooling for small children?
  5. Should elementary school students have tracking devices in their student IDs?
  6. Should we shorten classes for elementary school students?
  7. How should teachers punish misbehaving school children?

Debate Topics for Teens

Debate Topics for Teens

The teenage years are a turbulent time that’s on the boundary between childhood and adulthood. So naturally, they create lots of questions worth debating. Here are a few but we have a whole other article dedicated to debate topics for teens.

  1. Do curfews help keep teens out of trouble?
  2. Should the voting age be lowered to 16?
  3. Should unrestricted driving licenses be given to teens over 16?
  4. What’s the best way to address bullying?
  5. Is cyberbullying as bad as real-life bullying?
  6. Is peer pressure good or bad for teens?
  7. Are beauty pageants harmful to teenagers’ self-esteem?
  8. Is it OK for teens to keep secrets from parents?
  9. Should parents have access to teens’ social media activity?
  10. Is publicly sharing students’ grades humiliating or motivating?
  11. Should energy drinks be banned for teenagers?
  12. Should teens be allowed to get tattoos?
  13. At what age should teens be allowed to date?
  14. Is social media hurting teens’ communication skills?

Debate Topics for Kids

Debate Topics for Kids

It may be difficult to stir up a debate among kids by asking them whether we should abolish the Federal Reserve. That’s why we’ve collected some topics that small children are more likely to have an opinion on.

  1. Should parents be allowed to slap their children?
  2. Should students go on a field trip at least once a year?
  3. Is it better to have siblings or not?
  4. Are parents too strict?
  5. Is giving better than receiving?
  6. Should homework be done away with?
  7. Should kids be made to do chores at home?
  8. Should children get an allowance only if they do their chores?
  9. How often should kids be allowed to watch cartoons?
  10. Should allowance be the same for all kids?
  11. Should kids be paid to go to school?
  12. Is ice cream better than cake?
  13. Should every kid be allowed to have a pet?
  14. Should children be allowed to play outside as much as they want?

Sports Debate Topics

Sports Debate Topics

Sports is about competition and achievement, so people often have strong emotional connections to it. If you want to start a lively debate, going for a sports topic is a safe bet.

  1. Are professional athletes paid too much?
  2. Should female athletes be paid the same as male athletes?
  3. Are professional athletes good role models?
  4. Is there any point in drug testing athletes?
  5. Should performance-enhancing drugs be allowed in sports?
  6. Are the Olympic Games valuable or a waste of money?
  7. What sport should be added or eliminated from the Olympics?
  8. Should the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics be held in 2021?
  9. Should stadiums allow spectators during a pandemic?
  10. Should sports that use animals be banned?
  11. Is football too harmful to players’ health?

Food Debate Topics

Food Debate Topics

There’s a surprising amount of uncertainty related to one of the most important things for our survival – food. That’s why topics related to nutrition, farming, etc., are a great opportunity to get a debate going.

  1. Is vegetarianism good for health?
  2. Is veganism good for health?
  3. Is an all-meat diet possible?
  4. Is dieting effective for weight loss?
  5. Do the benefits of dairy products outweigh the health risks?
  6. Should most people stick to a gluten-free diet, or is it over hyped?
  7. Is fasting helpful or harmful to the body?
  8. How should we deal with food waste?
  9. Is organic farming ever going to get sustainable?
  10. Will biotech food be able to eradicate famine?
  11. Are genetically modified foods unhealthy?
  12. Should factory farming be banned?
  13. Should trans fat be banned?
  14. Is sugar addictive?
  15. Are artificial sweeteners harmful to health?
  16. Is fast food responsible for obesity?
  17. Should sodas and sugary snacks be restricted for children?

Relationship Topics to Debate

Relationship Topics to Debate

Whether we talk about marriage or more casual romantic affairs, the rules of relationships are far from clear. That’s why it’s hard to go wrong with a relationship topic.

  1. Should couples move in together before getting married?
  2. Is it acceptable to keep secrets from your partner?
  3. Are long-distance relationships worth it?
  4. Is online dating helping people find partners?
  5. Is marriage outdated?
  6. Is monogamy unnatural?
  7. Is divorce harmful to children?
  8. Should couples stay together for their kids?
  9. Are arguments in a couple helping or hurting?
  10. What is an acceptable age difference between two partners?
  11. Can one have a successful career and a happy marriage at the same time?
  12. Is romantic love required to have a happy marriage?

Funny Debate Topics

Funny Debate Topics

If you want to warm up debate muscles before a serious discussion or lighten the mood in the classroom, fun and easy debate topics may be the way to go. 

The below list is only a sample – check out our page dedicated to Funny Debate Topics for a complete collection. Or, if you’re trying to create a more spirited discussion but still want to keep it on the bright side, take a peek at our Funny Controversial Topics page, as well.

Light-Hearted Debate Topics

From the purely hypothetical to the just plain silly, these are topics that aim to amuse without causing any offense. 

  1. Would you rather travel backward or forward in time?
  2. Would you rather be able to read people’s minds or fly?
  3. If you could have one superpower, which would it be?
  4. Would you rather be deaf or blind?
  5. Is it OK to ask the genie for infinite wishes?
  6. Would the world be a better place if women were in charge?
  7. Do nursery rhymes carry hidden messages?

Pointless Debate Topics

What do we mean by pointless debate topics? Let’s say these are issues that are purely a matter of opinion, so coming to an agreement on them is pretty much impossible. They’re still a lot of fun to discuss, though.

  1. Is staying home better than going out?
  2. Is winter better than summer?
  3. Is fall better than spring?
  4. Are dogs better pets than cats?
  5. Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
  6. Which is better? Being TikTok famous or being Instagram famous?
  7. Is iOS better than Android?
  8. Which is better? DC or Marvel?
  9. Should Facebook introduce a ‘dislike’ button?
  10. What’s the best TV show of all time?
  11. Is Harry Potter better than Lord of the Rings?
  12. Is music getting better or worse?
  13. Are hotdogs sandwiches?
Cite this article as: Jim Peterson, "359 Sundry Debate Topics to Use as Inspiration," in My Speech Class, March 23, 2021, https://www.myspeechclass.com/debate-speech-topics.html.