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We Asked 6 Gen Zers How They Really Feel About The Presidential Debate

The June 27 debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump served as the initial face-off of the 2024 election between the presumed candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. However, in the wake of the first 2024 presidential debate, young people across the country (and the internet) have reached the consensus that the June 27 event was less of a showdown and more of a letdown — and a big one at that. 

For many young people, the debate was an opportunity for the candidates to clarify their stances on important topics — and they largely failed to do so. In short, the evening pretty much consisted of the two presidential frontrunners spending 90 minutes not sufficiently answering the questions asked of them, spreading misinformation, and bickering over petty drama. 

This election season, 41 million Gen Zers will be eligible to vote, meaning this demographic’s opinions on the presidential candidates can make a huge impact on which administration will come out on top in November. As such, it’s imperative that Gen Zers’ voices are heard, so that political leaders will (hopefully) take notice — and action.

Below, college students and recent grads tell Her Campus how they really feel about the debate — sharing their disappointment, criticism, and concerns for the future.

Gen Zers care about policy, not pettiness.

It wasn’t even the candidates’ stances on major issues (which is what these debates are supposed to be about) that’s causing alarm and dismay for many Gen Zers following the debate — it’s that neither Biden nor Trump seemed too concerned with speaking accurately or thoroughly about their stances. “So many questions went unanswered,” Cate Scott, a rising senior at Syracuse University, tells Her Campus exclusively. “It felt completely unproductive and I don’t think anyone came out of that feeling better about their options — just really bleak overall.” 

According to a 2024 Her Campus survey surrounding the 2024 election, some of the issues Gen Zers care most about when it comes to voting are reproductive rights, the economy, and the war in Gaza, all of which were topics discussed during the debate. However, viewers walked away from the debate unsatisfied with the candidates’ answers.

“I honestly felt very frustrated,” Ella Femino, a Syracuse university rising sophomore, says. “I didn’t learn anything new about either side’s policies. They were just bickering.”

In place of sufficiently addressing the concerns of young people during the debate, Biden and Trump often instead opted for personal attacks. Twice, Trump mentioned the conviction of Biden’s son, Hunter, while Biden mentioned Trump’s recent felony conviction for allegedly making a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. But what baffled audiences the most was when they debated about their (*checks notes*) golf skills.

“The fact that it turned into an argument about golf at one point especially appalled me,” Karly Ramnani, a rising senior at the University of Southern California, says.

Not even the debate’s moderators, news anchors Dana Bash and Jake Tapper, came out of the evening looking good, considering both candidates were able to make multiple false claims throughout the debate without being questioned or corrected. 

“I feel like that debate could’ve used some more aggressive mediation and fact-checking,” Scott says. “I don’t think we got any straight, reputable answers to any policy questions — or any questions at all, for that matter.”

Biden and Trump’s debate performances reinforced many Gen Zers’ desire for fresh political leaders.

In addition to their lack of attention to important issues and blatant sharing of misinformation, both candidates’ demeanors on the debate stage left many young voters deeply unconfident in their choice between the two presumed candidates.

“I’m honestly extremely concerned for the fate of America,” Amanda Brown, a rising sophomore at James Madison University, says. “It’s hard to watch these two individuals be the only choice [for the] powerful, influential figure who will choose the future for our country.”

A recent grad who wishes to remain anonymous shares similar sentiments: “All I could think about was how these two are only choices — like, we really couldn’t do any better?”

So, who won the first 2024 presidential debate? 

According to Gen Z, no one won the debate. (Not even the moderators.) 

“I don’t think either candidate won that debate — and frankly, based on their performances, I’m as scared as ever about my country’s future (and my future, and my friends’ futures),” Scott says. 

As of now, it’s unclear how either candidate might be able to turn the tides of Gen Z’s opinions in order to win them over in the election — all that’s clear is that something needs to happen.

Because after that debate, young voters are not feeling too enthusiastic.

“I don’t think either candidate ‘won,’” Natalie Kirner, a University at Buffalo rising senior, says. “I think the biggest loser of the night is the American people.”

Additional reporting by Cate Scott.

Alisha Allison is a national writer for the Entertainment/Culture section of Her Campus who started in January 2024. Alisha is a senior at University at Buffalo majoring in political science and minoring in social justice. She is also pursuing her journalism certificate. She’s has gained experience writing stories for her journalism classes, as an assistant editor on the news desk (former staff and contributing writer) for her university’s student-led newspaper, and a writer for Her Campus Buffalo. She is on the executive board for two chapters of national organizations at UB. Alisha plans on attending law school in the future. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music and spending time with her friends and family. She also likes watching television shows, movies, and video essays, and reading novels.