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320 Controversial Questions

Below is our list of 320 controversial questions separated into 20 topics. You can use them as debate questions or just to start a conversation. Just remember that these are controversial questions and topics, some being more controversial than others. Being controversial means that people are likely to have very strong opinions about a lot if not all of these questions and topics. And they might not match up with your own. Keep it civil and take a break if things get too heated.

Note from the publisher: Because discourse in the US has gotten so aggressive, I went back and forth as to whether I should even publish this list of questions. After all, it seems like everyone has a chip on their shoulders these days. But I still believe that healthy and respectful debate has the power to help shape our ideas, open our eyes to different points of view, improve our ability to express our ideas, and question beliefs that might need to be questioned.

With that being said, if you decide to use these questions:

  • Use them carefully and respectfully.
  • Use them with an open mind.
  • Use them not to start a fight, but to start a dialogue or respectful debate.
  • Use them not to harden your own opinions, but to try and understand different viewpoints.

*Warning* Be careful with these topics and questions, especially the last few topics. Some of these questions deal with ideas that people on both sides of the political aisle are extremely sensitive about. They can lead to some fruitful discussions, but they very easily be the start of a relationship ending fight. So, tread lightly.

REMEMBER: Being “right” or changing another person’s mind in a debate is not worth destroying a relationship, whether it be friend or family.

Social Issues Controversial Questions

  1. Should recreational marijuana use be legalized nationwide?
  2. Does outlawing abortion or making abortion legal violate human rights?
  3. Should doctor assisted suicide be legal for terminally ill patients?
  4. Should childhood vaccinations be mandatory?
  5. Should tech companies do more to combat cyberbullying?
  6. Should businesses be able to deny services based on religious objections?
  7. Is solitary confinement in prisons a human rights violation?
  8. Should prostitution be legalized and regulated?
  9. Should hate speech be protected under the First Amendment?
  10. Are social media companies responsibly regulating content or infringing free speech?
  11. Should the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement be banned?
  12. Should teachers be allowed to carry firearms in schools?
  13. Should the government use AI to help decide what policies to implement?
  14. Should students be forced to recite the pledge of allegiance?
  15. Is society progressing in generally a good direction or a bad direction?
  16. Are social media platforms the cause of mental health issues in users or are they just a scape goat? Should they be regulated?
  17. Should the legal drinking age be lowered?
  18. Does cancel culture promote accountability or suppress free speech?
  19. Is the gender pay gap the result of discrimination or other factors?
  20. Do governments have a role in creating policy to improve “morality”?

US Political Controversial Questions

  1. Is the two-party system in the US still effective or does it need major reform?
  2. Should we strive to have a more efficient democracy or is the slow pace of legislation a good way to make sure bad policies aren’t put into place?
  3. Should corporations and unions be banned from making political donations? How about private citizens?
  4. Should all elections in the US adopt a ranked choice voting system?
  5. Do social media platforms do more to spread information or disinformation in an election?
  6. Should voting be mandatory as it is in some other democracies?
  7. Should people have to pass a general knowledge test before being able to vote?
  8. Should felons be allowed to vote after completing their sentences?
  9. Is the Supreme Court too partisan?
  10. Should justices on the Supreme Court have term limits?
  11. Does the USA rely too much on the ideas of the founding fathers or not enough?
  12. Should there be age limits for holding office and/or voting?
  13. Should election day be a public holiday and businesses be mandated to give their employees time off to vote?
  14. Should Puerto Rico be granted statehood?
  15. Should Hawaii be granted independence?
  16. Should the electoral college be abolished in favor of a popular vote system?
  17. What policies would you enact to reform the political system if you were given the ability to do so?
  18. What are the biggest problems facing the US at the moment?
  19. Should individual taxpayers be able to choose where their taxes are allocated?
  20. What are some ways we can improve political discourse?

Economic Controversial Questions

  1. Would instituting a universal basic income help or harm the economy?
  2. Should the federal minimum wage be raised?
  3. Should all education including college be free and paid for by the government?
  4. Is a flat tax system preferable to a progressive tax system?
  5. Are public employee unions having a negative economic impact?
  6. Should unpaid internships be made illegal?
  7. Should shareholder profit be the only goal of corporations or should social responsibility matter too?
  8. Do free trade agreements like NAFTA help or hurt American workers?
  9. Should college athletes be paid a salary?
  10. Should cryptocurrencies be better regulated?
  11. Is gentrification good or bad for urban areas?
  12. Should the US implement tariffs on imported goods?
  13. Should the government provide money to companies in order to create jobs?
  14. Is the gig economy as a whole beneficial to workers or exploitative?
  15. Do corporate tax cuts stimulate economic growth?
  16. How much effort should be put into enforcing tax compliance? Should there be a difference in the amount of effort put towards individual versus corporate tax compliance?
  17. How do you think long term environmental economic consequences can be mitigated in the face of short-term economic gains?
  18. Does government investment in infrastructure boost economic growth? How could we get more economic bang for our taxpayer buck?
  19. Do current intellectual property laws spur or inhibit innovation and economic growth?

Education Controversial Questions

  1. Is the tenure system for teachers and professors outdated?
  2. Should parents be allowed to homeschool their kids with minimal government oversight?
  3. Should public schools implement mandatory drug testing for students?
  4. Is it ethical for wealthy parents to be able to make donations to institutions in exchange for admission for their child?
  5. Should high school students be required to pass a civics exam to graduate?
  6. Should schools implement later start times to better match teen sleep cycles?
  7. Should students in grades K-12 be permitted to pray in school?
  8. Does the education system underserve minority students?
  9. Should colleges consider race in admissions to promote diversity?
  10. Should intelligent design or creationism be taught alongside evolution?
  11. Should teachers be evaluated based on student standardized test scores?
  12. Are elite colleges overrated compared to state schools?
  13. Should mandatory school dress codes be allowed?
  14. Should school students be provided with free lunches?
  15. Should schools actively monitor students’ social media accounts?
  16. Should sororities and fraternities be banned from college campuses?
  17. Is removing classic books from curriculums censorship?
  18. Should we stop allocating money to schools based on property taxes?
  19. If funding was increased to the education system, what would be the best use of that money?
  20. Is it too easy to pass through the US public school system?

Environmental Controversial Questions

  1. Should fracking be banned due to environmental concerns?
  2. Should solar panels be mandatory for all new home constructions?
  3. Should the US revive construction of nuclear power plants?
  4. Should cities be designed to be more pedestrian and cyclist friendly?
  5. Should offshore oil drilling be expanded or reduced along US coastlines?
  6. Should all government vehicles be electric or hybrid vehicles?
  7. Should ecotourism that disturbs natural habitats be more regulated?
  8. Should rich countries provide climate reparations to poorer countries?
  9. Is labeling GMOs and their products necessary or fear-mongering?
  10. Should national parks raise entry fees to fund conservation projects?
  11. Does the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra actually help the environment?
  12. Should major cities ban cars from city centers?
  13. What kinds of environmental effects of past and current policies will we see in the next 10 years?
  14. Should environmental regulation be done more by the federal government, state, or local governments?
  15. How does the regular switching of parties in power interfere with or help long term environmental policy?
  16. Is it more important for governments to promote economic growth or environmental protection?
  17. How involved should countries get in with avoiding the destruction of resources that aren’t in their own borders but affect humanity as a whole such as the rainforest?
  18. How effective are carbon taxes at controlling carbon emission?
  19. Should large scale geoengineering projects be attempted?
  20. What is the biggest change that local governments can make to improve their local environment?

Science & Technology Controversial Questions

  1. Should restrictions be placed on human genetic engineering?
  2. Is commercial space tourism a worthwhile investment?
  3. Is it necessary for scientific papers to be behind paywalls?
  4. Should social media companies be liable for products being pushed on their platforms?
  5. Will advanced artificial intelligence threaten human jobs and society?
  6. Should parents be allowed to genetically modify designer babies?
  7. Does widespread surveillance technology undermine privacy rights or increase security and wellbeing?
  8. Is civilian use of drone aircraft appropriately regulated?
  9. Should the scientific community make more of an effort to make their papers accessible to a general audience or is it up to individuals to learn enough to interpret the papers?
  10. Are technology companies responsibly regulating content or infringing on free speech?
  11. Do social media filters and editing promote unhealthy body image ideals?
  12. Should we implement mitigation strategies for lethal asteroids?
  13. Is there any scientific knowledge that shouldn’t be sought out?
  14. Should brain implants be allowed for consumer use?
  15. Is human life approaching technological singularity?
  16. Should passwords and encryption have legal backdoors for law enforcement?
  17. Will quantum computing revolutionize problem-solving and encryption?
  18. What is the most dangerous area of scientific research currently?
  19. Should school children be microchipped for increased safety?
  20. Should people who publish misinformation on social media be punished under the law?
  1. Should the death penalty be abolished?
  2. Where is the line in prisons that once you cross the punishment becomes cruel and unusual?
  3. Should non-violent drug offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences?
  4. Should prisons focus more on rehabilitation or punishment?
  5. Should all police officers be required to wear body cameras?
  6. Does the bail system unfairly penalize low-income defendants?
  7. Should police focus more on preventing crime or solving crimes?
  8. Should juveniles be tried and sentenced as adults for serious crimes?
  9. Should doxing be classified as a criminal offense?
  10. Is civil asset forfeiture by police departments justified?
  11. Should prisoners have voting rights?
  12. Do police unions make it harder to discipline problematic officers?
  13. Does excessive plea bargaining undermine the justice system?
  14. Should drug courts and diversion programs replace incarceration for nonviolent offenders?
  15. Should the US continue using privatized prisons?
  16. Do the current measures to combat racial disparities work or do they need reform?
  17. How in general how effective are the police at solving crimes?

Business & Industry Controversial Questions

  1. Should tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google be broken up for being monopolies?
  2. How much of a role should unions play in the USA?
  3. Should unpaid internships be made illegal in all industries?
  4. Should industrial animal farming be banned for ethical reasons even if it means a dramatic increase in the price of meat?
  5. Should false or misleading advertising face stricter regulations?
  6. Should pharmaceutical companies be allowed to advertise prescription drugs on TV/radio?
  7. Should sports teams be publicly owned by the city or town instead of by wealthy owners?
  8. Do professional sports leagues have monopolistic business practices?
  9. Should insider trading regulations be more strictly enforced on Wall Street?
  10. Should the government punish or even take over companies that use child labor?
  11. Should celebrities face consequences for promoting harmful products?
  12. Are banking and financial services institutions too regulated or not regulated enough?
  13. Should corporations fund local infrastructure and services to offset impacts?
  14. Should social media sites verify users’ identities to reduce anonymous abuse?
  15. How involved should the government be in the private sector?
  16. Are there any industries that should only be owned by the government because of public safety concerns?

Healthcare Controversial Questions

  1. Should the United States adopt a single-payer universal healthcare system?
  2. Should healthcare be considered a human right?
  3. Does privatized healthcare inhibit patients’ access to affordable treatment?
  4. Is obesity a disease or personal responsibility?
  5. Should alternative medicine be covered by insurance providers?
  6. Should prescription drug prices be regulated?
  7. Should customers pay a tax on fast food to fund healthcare costs?
  8. Should employers be able to require flu shots of all employees?
  9. Should research on cloned human embryos be allowed?
  10. Should the United States allow the import of prescription drugs from other countries?
  11. Should parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids be punished?
  12. If both political parties agree that the US healthcare system has major problems, why is it so hard to implement policy to help change it?
  13. How comfortable would you be with an AI doctor diagnosing you with no human oversight? How about a doctor that relies heavily on AI for diagnosing you?
  14. How will AI change the medical field?
  15. Is the use of animals in medical research ethical?

Defense & Military Controversial Questions

  1. Should the United States increase or decrease its military spending?
  2. Should the draft be reinstated if not enough American citizens voluntarily enlist?
  3. Should the US ban assault-style weapons for civilian use?
  4. Are sanctions an effective deterrent against countries or do they hurt civilians more than the government?
  5. How heavily should the US military rely on the use of AI in planning and in drones?
  6. Should detention camps like Guantanamo Bay be closed?
  7. Does America’s military presence in Asia provoke or deter Chinese ambitions?
  8. Should the US welcome defectors from totalitarian regimes or turn them away?
  9. Should openly transgender individuals be allowed to enlist in the military?
  10. Are private military contractors sufficiently accountable for misconduct abroad?
  11. Should schools ban ROTC programs on campus?
  12. Does American “hard power” undermine its “soft power” diplomatically?
  13. Is extensive airport security screening of passengers necessary or excessive?
  14. Should chemical and biological weapons be universally banned?
  15. Should veterans and their families receive free healthcare for life from VA hospitals?
  16. Should local police forces receive military grade weapons and vehicles?
  17. Does the West have an obligation to intervene in humanitarian crises abroad?

Cultural Issues Controversial Questions

  1. Should laws preserve historical landmarks when new development is needed?
  2. Should artistic works with offensive content carry viewer discretion labels like movies and video games do?
  3. Is gentrification good for urban renewal or does it displace minority communities?
  4. Should social media sites be required to remove hateful/offensive content?
  5. Should parents limit children’s exposure to violence in video games and media?
  6. Do trigger warnings shelter students from realistic life situations?
  7. Is denying the Holocaust protected free speech or should it be illegal?
  8. Should professional sports teams stop using Native American mascots/symbols?
  9. Should unhealthy foods and drinks be subject to sin taxes like cigarettes and alcohol?
  10. Should beauty pageants for young girls under 18 be banned?
  11. Should public funding for the arts require politically neutral content?
  12. Does social media reinforce tribalism and undermine free thought?
  13. How intertwined are political views and cultural views?
  14. What are the best and worst things about current US culture?
  15. Should the government take an active role in trying to shape culture?

Ethics & Morality Controversial Questions

  1. Does the death penalty violate moral standards regardless of the crime?
  2. Should any limits be placed on scientific research in the name of ethics?
  3. If AI became self-aware, should it be given the same rights as humans?
  4. Is it immoral for pharmaceutical companies to profit from life-saving drugs if some people can’t afford the drug and die as a result?
  5. Should charities be required to publicly release what they spend donated money on?
  6. Is it ethical to genetically modify embryos to prevent disease?
  7. Are extremely unequal distributions of wealth inherently unethical?
  8. Do corporations have any moral obligations beyond profitability?
  9. Should access to technology like the internet be a basic human right?
  10. How should autonomous vehicles handle ethical problems, should the driver or a pedestrian’s life be prioritized?
  11. Are ethics and morality inherently subjective?

For more ethics based questions check out our philosophical questions.

Sports & Entertainment Controversial Questions

  1. Should college athletes be paid a salary like professional players?
  2. Does the unequal pay between men’s and women’s sports need to be addressed?
  3. Should performance enhancing drugs be allowed in competitive sports?
  4. Should parents let kids under 14 play tackle football due to safety concerns?
  5. Should violent sports like boxing and MMA be banned?
  6. Are mega multi-million dollar contracts for star athletes excessive?
  7. Should sports teams publicly release the salaries of all players and coaches?
  8. Is the over commercialization of college sports programs detrimental?
  9. Should musical artists and actors be judged for unethical actions in their private lives?
  10. Should celebrities be held accountable for their endorsements?
  11. Should professional athletes and coaches be obligated to speak out on social issues?
  12. Should ticket resellers who markup prices heavily be capped or banned?
  13. Is paparazzi stalking and invasive celebrity news coverage unethical?
  14. Should major performing arts centers book more avant-garde acts?

History Controversial Questions

  1. How accurate is the history taught in public schools? Do they avoid uncomfortable facts about history?
  2. How useful is the “great man” version of history for understanding history?
  3. Does celebrating Columbus Day ignore the suffering of indigenous peoples?
  4. Should western museums be required to return artifacts to their cultures of origin?
  5. Is it ethical to risk damaging artifacts and sites in archaeological digs?
  6. Does society overlook wartime atrocities committed by winning sides?
  7. Should controversial monuments be kept in museums rather than public display?
  8. Does celebrating Thanksgiving ignore the perspectives of Native Americans?
  9. Should more be done to return Native American tribal lands?
  10. Is exporting antiquities from their home countries ever justified?
  11. Is there anything from history that shouldn’t be taught?

Foreign Policy & Global Issues Controversial Questions

  1. When is military intervention by western powers justified in foreign conflicts?
  2. Should foreign aid be tied to conditions or provided unconditionally?
  3. Is America’s use of drone strikes ethical and effective?
  4. Should governments negotiate with terrorists or maintain no-concessions policies?
  5. Should the United Nations be given authority to intervene in nations violating human rights?
  6. Does globalization exploit developing countries or provide economic opportunity?
  7. Should trade with authoritarian regimes continue despite human rights abuses?
  8. Should wealthy nations pay reparations to countries impacted by climate change?
  9. Should social media companies comply with censorship in repressive countries?
  10. Should the International Criminal Court have authority to indict leaders of any nation?
  11. Should western powers uphold Taiwan sovereignty against Chinese ambitions?
  12. Should offering asylum to defectors from repressive regimes be encouraged?

Diet & Nutrition Controversial Questions

  1. Is a plant-based vegan diet healthier than eating meat and other animal products?
  2. Should manufacturers be required to label foods containing GMOs?
  3. Do government food subsidies encourage unhealthy eating?
  4. Should junk food advertising to children be restricted?
  5. Does corporate funding bias health research on sugar, fats, and processed foods?
  6. Should Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits be restricted to only nutritious food?
  7. Should all school meals meet certain nutritional standards?
  8. Should restaurants eliminate kid’s menus with unhealthy options?
  9. Should growth hormone and antibiotic use in livestock be banned?
  10. Should home-cooked meals be encouraged through tax incentives?
  11. Are low-calorie sweeteners better than sugar?
  12. Should nutrition fact labels include exercise equivalents?
  13. Does the organic label justify much higher prices for consumers?

Religious Controversial Questions

  1. Should companies be able to refuse service to individuals based on religious beliefs?
  2. Should religious organizations to be tax-exempt?
  3. Should employers be required to accommodate religious dress codes and practices?
  4. Is censorship for the sake of religious sensitivity justified?
  5. Is it acceptable to deny children life-saving blood transfusions based on parental religious beliefs?
  6. Does religion play too large a role in politics and policymaking?
  7. Should parents have the right to refuse medical treatment for their children and instead rely on faith healing?
  8. Should politicians be permitted to introduce morality laws based on their religious beliefs?
  9. Should religious institutions be held liable for discrimination or abuses?
  10. When looking through history has religion done more harm or good for society?
  11. Should public schools treat religious texts like the Bible or Quran strictly as literature?
  12. Does allowing Amish families to home school limit opportunities for their children?
  13. How much of a role should religion play in the government?
  14. Should the passage “under God” which was added in 1954 be taken out of the pledge of allegiance?

Gender & Sexuality Controversial Questions

  1. How much does religion affect views on gender and sexuality?
  2. Does modern culture overly sexualize women’s bodies?
  3. Can gender affirmative action correct representation imbalances?
  4. Should dress codes in schools allow males to wear skirts if they choose?
  5. Should homophobic or transphobic speech be protected as free speech, classified as hate speech, or handled in a different way?
  6. Should pronoun usage be dictated by individuals rather than anatomy?
  7. Should society aim for complete gender equality in all situations and behaviors or are there some gender traditions that should be kept intact?
  8. Should tampons and menstrual products be provided free in public restrooms the same as toilet paper is?
  9. Do strict dress codes for girls in school promote sexist double standards? Should every student have to abide by the same dress code?
  10. Should companies publish data on gender pay gaps?
  11. Can true gender equality exist with traditional gender roles intact?
  12. Why is society and often government so concerned about people’s sexuality?

Racial Justice Controversial Questions

  1. Does the justice system treat people unfairly based on race?
  2. Is affirmative action beneficial or discriminatory?
  3. Should social media platforms allow racist hate speech?
  4. Do public schools adequately teach the impacts of slavery and racism?
  5. Should ethnic quotas be implemented in industries lacking diversity?
  6. Is racial gerrymandering unethical even if the intentions are to ensure minority representation?
  7. Should companies be required to publish diversity statistics?
  8. Do the majority of Americans still have underlying racist beliefs that affect behaviors?
  9. How is racism tied up in power dynamics? How does society view racism between two discriminated groups of people versus a less discriminated group and a more discriminated group of people?
  10. What is the most effective way of reducing racism?
  11. Where do racist views most often originate from?
  12. Are positive racial stereotypes still harmful?

Immigration Controversial Questions

  1. Should immigrants be eligible for social services and welfare right away?
  2. Should the US take in more or fewer refugees from conflicts abroad?
  3. Should legal immigration be based on merit and skills instead of family ties and country of origin?
  4. Should undocumented immigrants be provided a path to citizenship?
  5. Do strict immigration laws prevent economies from benefiting from diversity?
  6. Should immigrants be required to pass an exam on American civics and history?
  7. Should low-skilled foreign guest workers have an easier path to work legally in the US?
  8. Should the US provide free services to help immigrants integrate into their local communities?
  9. Should immigrants adapt to American cultural values or maintain their own?
  10. Do you think that societies tend to blame immigrants more than they should for societal problems?
  11. Do you think that humans can ever move past the idea of countries and borders and just be citizens of Earth?