UNDERSTANDING THE GREAT DEBATE
September 30, 2016 / By: Meg Elwood
The first 2016 Presidential Debate aired across the nation Monday, allowing many universities the opportunity to have debate parties, an educational time for students to understand the event through class discussion and debate.
“Debates don't do much to change people’s votes, but what they do-do is inform us. They give us a chance to see the candidates side-by-side talking about the same issues,” Patrick Wheaton, communications professor and former college debate coach, said.
Many viewers see debates as a win or lose event between candidates, but Wheaton believes that debates are primarily about voter-candidate reinforcement. He does not think of debates as win or lose, but as an informative, educational and engaging process.
“[During debates] you can be educated and informed as well as take someone seriously without having to stick to one side of your party,” Jack Hagler, sophomore public relations major, said.
After attending the debate party at Georgia Southern, Hagler said that the televised event gave him less confidence in his preferred candidate. Being an early Bernie supporter, Hagler has tried to find the best qualities out of the two candidate options through listening to both sides, a point of view he received by watching the debate.
According to Wheaton, 86% of viewers come into the debate with an idea of who they are voting for and leave with the same candidate in mind. Only about 3% of viewers come out with a change in their vote, such as Clive Davis, a senior biology major who also attended a debate party on campus.
Davis came into the debate leaning towards one candidate, but left completely unsure about both. He felt that throughout the whole debate, the candidates only talked to try and lower the opinion of the other person by using phrases like 'corrupt Hillary' or 'believe in me,' instead of focusing on real issues and questions he wanted to hear.
Students like Davis and Hagler are hoping to use the debates to strengthen their understanding of each candidate, allowing them to have a defined opinion on whom to vote for when Election day comes. Both students also hope to see more information on topics such as immigration, education and criminal justice reform policies in the next presidential debate on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 9:00 p.m.
Patrick Wheaton: email@example.com
Jack Hagler: firstname.lastname@example.org
Clive Davis: email@example.com
Video by: Courtney Rorex
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