Low Turnout for Third and Final Presidential Debate Watch

A few students gathered in the basement lounge of Walsh Hall to watch the last debate.

The third and final presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump found a small audience at a debate watch party in Fordham’s Walsh Hall on Wednesday night.

Some students wandered in to watch for a couple of minutes before returning to other activities. Several students were already in the lounge working on homework, and most of them seemed unfazed by the debate taking place on the screen.

Even the small group of students clustered around the large screen in Walsh’s basement lounge who came to watch multi-tasked by doing homework while watching the debate, and one student worked on knitting a scarf as Clinton and Trump duked it out.

Erin Shanahan, a residential assistant in Walsh Hall and the coordinator of the watch party, said that the watch party held for the first presidential debate was more widely attended. Shanahan, who has conducted other election-related events such as voter registration drives and absentee ballot programs, noted a decrease in enthusiasm for the election among students.

“I think there’s becoming a general apathy toward the election and I think that young voters feel fed up with the situation they feel they’re being put in when it comes to choosing our next president. So I think that’s something I’ve noticed when doing these election programs,” she said.

Even though enthusiasm is not at a high point, Shanahan said, “I would like to think that these programs have shown our residents how important it is to do their civic duty. I would hope that even though they’re upset, they would understand that it’s important to pick the best of the worst sometimes and that seems to be a tough decision that they have to make.”

Alex Yunker, a debate watch attendee who is a first-time voter, echoed the importance of being informed. “I wanted to watch all of the debates before I made a decision. I think that there’s nothing worse than to choose to vote without being fully informed about the candidates and the issues they stand on, and I think it’s my civic duty to watch the debates and make sure I’m aware of what’s being said on each of the candidates and where they stand on each of the issues,” she said.

Students multi-tasked during the debate by doing their homework and even knitting a scarf while the candidates duked it out on screen.

Yunker also went to Walsh’s previous debate parties and agreed that those had higher levels of attendance, citing voter disillusionment as the cause. “I think that there are very high negatives to both of these candidates and I think that a lot of people have just grown more and more disgusted with both of them as time goes on,” she said.

Despite increasing frustration with the ongoing election across the nation, students at the debate watch still recognized some benefits of viewing.

“I didn’t watch the first two debates. I saw clips of them afterwards but this is the first one I watched in full. It was the last one and I figured I might as well know something about the election,” said junior Ken Iselhart, another student who is eligible to vote in a presidential election for the first time. “I looked at it more as entertainment.”

Only time will tell if voters, and students in particular, will rally enough enthusiasm to go to the polls.

Election Day is on November 8.