The First Presidential Debate

How does the student body feel following the debate?

Many Poly students agree that the presidential debate did not influence them to think from the perspective of the opposite party or reconsider their political affiliation. The debate contained very little useful discussion about policy and largely came off as childish bickering which negatively impacted the public’s image of both candidates. 

Sophomore Reeds Mahmud said, “from what I saw, those who support Donald Trump will not be swayed to vote Biden and those who support Biden will not have been swayed to vote for Trump. Neither of them capitalized on viewpoints that swing voters would agree with.” 

Students largely agree that the candidates failed to cater to undecided voters and even made statements that could lose them votes. Mahmud echoed this sentiment saying that the debate “simply gave each candidate’s supporters more of a reason to dislike the opponent, everyone was just waiting for the other side to mess up.”

Most people’s main takeaways from the debate were the errors made by their least favorite candidate, and this is largely due to the lack of substance and real discussions of pertinent policy. There was no shortage of these small slip-ups to focus on. The debate was filled with interruptions, name-calling, and bickering. Sophomore Summer Hornbeck said, “They definitely had a lack of self-control.” 

Other candidates interrupted more than they should have based upon the prior agreed-upon debate rules with Trump interrupting 71 times and Biden 22, according to the Washington Post. 

Hornbeck also added “Understandably, many were critical of Biden’s name-calling and childish behavior, but Trump was worse. Biden asked Trump to shut up as a last resort after being interrupted four times in the same sentence.” 

Most students agreed that while Biden was childish, it was in retaliation to Trump’s behavior. Some students were angered by Trump’s mentions of Biden’s college records, viewing those comments as off-topic and not valuable to the American people. While the comments on intelligence and interruptions were largely classified as “bickering,” many were outraged by Trump’s comment about Biden’s son Hunter Biden and his drug problem. Sophomore Brianna Kwan said, “It was disgusting to use Biden’s past pain and loss against him” and “it added nothing to the debate while dredging up a hard past.” 

In addition to being disrespectful to Biden, many felt that Trump was disrespectful to the moderator of the debate, Chris Wallace. 

These events have proven to be detrimental to Trump’s public image. Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy also outraged many and has been detrimental to the president’s reputation. 

Sophomore Hannah Gross said “Trump had the opportunity to condemn white supremacy but did not take that chance. This tells us something about whose vote he is trying to get.” Furthering this point, Hornbeck said “Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy was frightening even after all that we already know about him” 

Student’s opinions differed on whether or not Biden’s public image was somewhat tarnished by the debate. 

Sophomore Hannah Crowley said, “when Biden looked directly into the camera and empathized with the struggles of the American people, it showed us that he cares. Biden came out looking more professional, especially by comparison.” 

Some, however, believe that they are both worse off than when the debate started. Sophomore Olivia Umeh said, “both of them did not come off well because of the lack of order and patience, and the debate was a whole lot of nothing” Most viewed the debate as useless in providing any policy views that were not already known by the general public. Mahmud said, “we did not learn anything new about where they stand as there was little talk of policy and nor really anything of substance.” 

While most viewed the debate as insignificant, there was a consensus that it was still necessary. Kwan said, “they are a staple of democracy” and “are a reminder of who we are voting for.”

The universal opinion of the debate was negative with many finding it embarrassing to watch and with some even describing it as “scary” and “frightening.” 

Crowley said, “I did debate in seventh grade and the kids there were more articulate than either of the candidates. I am afraid that these are the types of people who will run our country.”