Professor: First presidential debate unlikely to sway voters

Democrat Hillary Clinton, right, and Republican Donald Trump during their first presidential debate on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 in Hempstead, N.Y. (Qin Lang/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)

The Internet and political forums are still buzzing about political waves caused Monday night at Hofstra University.

Moderated by NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump threw verbal barbs at one another for nearly 100 minutes.

Topics of the night ranged from foreign diplomacy to domestic police brutality, Clinton’s email scandal to Trump’s lack of releasing his tax forms. Nothing was safe from the scrutiny of the media — or the scrutiny of young voters.

Tim Minotas, president of Central Michigan University College Democrats, hosted what he said was a “non-partisan debate watching party” Monday night in the basement of the Bovee University Center.

Clinton was the “clear winner” of the debate, Minotas said, based solely on her ability to keep a cool composure and answer questions factually.

“(Monday’s) debate featured an unprepared man repeatedly shouting over a highly prepared woman,” he said. “It really gave a clear picture of who should be the next President of the United States.”

President of College Republicans Mackenzie Flynn could not be reached for comment.

Recent polling data gathered on Sept. 23 by Real Clear Politics puts Clinton at a 4.7 point lead ahead of Trump in Michigan. The website also lists her as having 188 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 165.

Political Science Fixed-Term Faculty Member Kyla Stepp said although more than 80 million people tuned into the debate, voters shouldn’t expect those numbers to change drastically in response to televised debates.

“Studies show debates don’t typically move the polls that much. If they do, it’s usually temporary,” she said. “In Michigan, I feel we probably will (vote Democratic) like we have in the last few elections. Unless something happens in the next two debates we’re not expecting, I doubt anything will change that much.”

When Stepp watched the debate Monday night, she said she rejected the idea of having a “clear winner or loser.” While she feels Clinton was more prepared for the questions posed, Stepp said neither candidate did a good job swaying the undecided vote. If anything, each candidate reaffirmed the beliefs of their already steadfast supporters while still remaining unappealing to the unswayed.

Stepp pointed to dramatic party polarization as a leading cause of this, a subject which was also the topic of the Griffin Policy Forum just prior to the debate.

Outside of the frequent interruptions from both candidates and their tendencies to stray off topic, Stepp said viewers got the opportunity to see small pieces of Trump and Clinton’s policies explained.

“A lot of (the debate) was back and forth bickering, which I don’t think was helpful for people, but in the roughly 100 minute debate, there was a lot of substance on both sides,” she said. “Maybe we didn’t get to see as many policy specifics as we would have liked to see, especially from Trump, but I think there was enough that people could get a better feel for the candidates.”

Stepp, who teaches a political science course focused on elections, said her students have been very engaged with this election but notes that’s not always the case with most students.

For young or first-time voters, Stepp stressed the importance of being educated on a candidates’ opinions and policies. With this election placing a special emphasis on candidates who are more often than not lying, she said self-education might be the only thing voters can rely on.

The next presidential debate is Sunday, Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis. Anderson Cooper, CNN anchor, and Martha Raddatz, chief global affairs correspondent and co-anchor of “This Week,” will moderate the event.


About Jordyn Hermani

Troy senior Jordyn Hermani, Editor-in-Chief of Central Michigan Life, is a double major ...

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