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Viewing the First Presidential Debate as a Part of a Student Audience

As an individual that is not completely a Republican, nor completely a Democrat, I decided a day before the first presidential debate that it would be something of value to watch. Especially because the upcoming election will be the first one I am able to vote in, I knew it would be a good idea to become more informed about the perspectives of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as they are obviously the frontrunners for the 2016 election.

While I have never been heavily involved in politics, it has constantly been a present aspect in my life, affecting me just as it affects every other citizen of the United States. Now with a greater interest in the topic, I believe that it is very intriguing to hear about so many different and heavily polarized perspectives on issues that so directly affect the American people.

This past week, I noticed a flier by University Union posted around campus about a few events aiming to get students involved and active in politics. The first of these events, a Presidential Debate Watch Party in Tate Theater, was one I decided to attend on Monday, September 26th. The initial anticipation for the event was exciting because I had no idea what to expect, since I had never experienced anything like it before.

I can now say that there is something to be said about watching the debate in a public setting. While I may not be the best at determining and expressing my own views, many UGA students had no issue in expressing their opinions loud and clear on one of the most important nights of the election season. It was awesome to see not only the reactions of each person in the audience during the debate, but also the sheer number of people who attended the event because they are passionate about politics and voting.

Throughout the entire process of the debate, as Trump and Clinton traded insults and arguments, emotions were high both on-screen and in the audience. Ranging anywhere from complete support to complete disapproval, the opinions of the students were just as different as the two candidates. What I found to be quite interesting was the fact that it was hard to tell how many people were like me, “independent voters.” I think this had something to do with the fact that in an environment that alive—with claps of approval, shouts of agreement, groans of frustration, peals of laughter, and every sensation in between—it is very easy to be swayed one way or another when experiencing the direct feelings of a crowd.

“All smiles.” 

Additionally, it was very intriguing to think about the distribution or ratio of Republicans to Democrats in that auditorium. It appeared that of the student population present, the majority of the crowd that attended was in fact Democratic (an inference created solely because there seemed to be more Hillary than Trump supporters throughout the course of the debate). This is logical, because younger generations and college campuses in general tend to be more liberal; however, I couldn’t help but wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that perhaps there aren’t a lack of Republican students, but instead there are a lack of Republican students that support Trump.

As a candidate unlike any other, Trump has continued to impact the election in unforeseen ways. On the other hand, as the first female presidential nominee, Hillary is making history just like Trump, but in a different way. In regards to thinking about which candidate won the debate, I can honestly say in my opinion neither seemed to come out as an obvious winner. In the end, I can’t say who will win the election and who will not, but I can say no matter the outcome, our country will certainly be in the hands of a president unlike any the United States has ever had.

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