Students question debates’ ability to change minds

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by Lauren Gibbons

The debates between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney have provided talking points for liberals and conservatives alike, but some students question the effect the debates will have on voters’ minds when they go to the polls.

After a lackluster performance from Obama in the first presidential debate of the 2012 election season, many polls demonstrated a significant decrease in Obama’s lead over Romney. Some polls, however, gave the former governor of Massachusetts a slight edge.

Obama seemed to make a comeback following Tuesday’s town hall debate, leading with 47 percent to Romney’s 44 in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday.

But at this stage in the election season, hospitality business major Hailey Heil isn’t sure the two debates and the upcoming debate next week will sway many opinions one way or another.

It didn’t change her mind, she said.

“I’m not sure it would actually affect what’s going to happen on Election Day very much,” Heil said. “I think debates inform people more than it sways them. For me, it mainly reaffirmed the position I already had before it started.”

Supply chain management junior Paul Spletzer said he wishes more people would watch the debates, because then those who are merely voting based on the candidates’ stances on one hot-button issue might see their views on other topics.

“I think a lot of people who come in are already decided because they’re very passionate about one issue,” Spletzer said. “Debates can show how all of the single issues impact each other in the end.”

The debates likely would help uninformed voters see what the candidates think about the pertinent issues of this election season, communications junior Mary Hiller said.

Hiller said the number of undecided voters asking questions on Tuesday’s debate showed there are still people out there who don’t know who will earn their ballot on Nov. 6.

But Hiller said many of those who are undecided, particularly students, render the point of the debates moot by not paying attention to the statements offered by Obama and Romney throughout the campaign season, including the debates.

“If they were to watch, I think the debates would play an important role in the minds of voters,” Hiller said. “Some people just aren’t educated enough on the issues to vote or just don’t care enough.”

A final debate between the two candidates will focus on foreign policy and will take place Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.

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