Debate Watches Draw Crowds

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

"I think you learn a lot more from a debate when you have somebody there to discuss it with, especially if you have the other viewpoint." - HC Student Sierra Walker

More than 50 million people watched Monday night's presidential debate, and some of them weren't watching in the comfort of their own homes.

Debate watches have been drawing crowds even in central Nebraska.

University of Nebraska Kearney students from different majors and student groups watched Monday's presidential debate together.

"It gives them a chance to come together and not only to watch the debate and find out about the issues, but also a chance to collectively start to see what other people are seeing about those issues, what are other people talking about, what other people think are important," says Dr. Aaron Dimock, an Associate Professor of Communications at UNK.

Other colleges have hosted large debate watches for campus and community members this election year too.

Students in a Hastings College communication course gathered for the second presidential debate.

"Sometimes it's hard to get people to watch it at all," says HC sophomore Nikko Zurawski. "People don't like doing things on their own as it is, especially politics on their own, so if you bring a large group of people together they're more likely to watch it."

Zurawski and sophomore Sierra Walker moderated a post-debate discussion after that debate and say that's the best part of watching as a group.

"I think you learn a lot more from a debate when you have somebody there to discuss it with, especially if you have the other viewpoint," says Walker. "Like Nikko and I - he's a Republican and I'm a Democrat, so when we were both sitting at the moderator's table you get more of that kind of a discussion."

Today's college students are also a plugged-in generation, but they say the instant opinions and fact-checking swarming social media platforms during the debates may not hold much sway.

"Looking at how people argue about issues and whether or not they're capable of really making a connection with their audience, whether or not they present themselves as knowledgeable depends a little bit more on how they argue with the other person on the platform not so much how the fact-checkers argue with them after the fact," says Dimock.

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