Rachel Midey contributed to this article.
Surveys conducted by an Advanced News Writing and Reporting class – before and after the first presidential debate was hosted by Hofstra – showed that support of Hillary Clinton rose post-debate.
Students seemed to have a grasp on the magnitude of the first presidential debate, held Monday, Sept. 26. Close to 500 students applied to volunteer and over 7,000 entered the lottery for a chance to attend the debate. Even students that are typically apathetic when it comes to politics made sure that they had a place in front of a TV by 9 p.m. that night.
Hofstra students were surveyed at random before the debate; the results of which found that the overwhelming majority had not made a final decision on who to vote for in November.
Only 34 of the 96 responses indicated that they were definitely voting for either Republican candidate Donald Trump or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton – 17 votes for each. Even more interesting was that 17 students indicated that they had no intention of voting at all.
During the second round of polling students seemed far more eager and ready to share their political enthusiasm. Despite the fact that all participants in the survey were informed that the poll was completely anonymous, supporters on both sides seemed compelled to recite their answers aloud. The completion of most survey responses ended with a speech on why participants answered the way they did.
Based on responses, the debate seemed to spur striking realizations amongst those polled who were previously undecided, shifting their opinions towards Clinton.
Pre-polling showed votes were split between Clinton, Trump and those who are undecided. Thirty-two voters claimed to be “leaning or in support of” Trump and 31 voters claimed to be “leaning or in support of” Clinton. The remaining 33 voters polled claimed to be undecided.
According to post-debate polling after Monday night’s spar, opinions shifted in Clinton’s favor putting her in the lead by a considerably wide margin.
Clinton secured 63 percent of the votes, while the undecided bracket plummeted to just above 15 percent and Trump’s overall ratings declined leaving him with only 19 percent of the votes. Third party and other candidates took the final 3 percent.
Both decided and undecided students surveyed said they would be looking to the candidates for intelligent and full answers on the issues most important to them during the debate. The topics found to be most important to the students surveyed were the economy and social issues. Both were consistently the leading categories in both pre-debate and post-debate polling, followed by education, foreign policy, immigration, race relations and health care.
During the debate, both candidates were criticized for not sticking to the issues and instead veering out to “clapbacks” and childish spats between each other. Moderator Lester Holt was recorded as interrupting Trump 41 times in efforts to keep the Republican candidate from deflecting questions and to fact check. Democratic candidate Clinton was only interrupted by Holt seven times. Still, many criticized Clinton for avoiding giving specific answers on issues such as decreasing racism and plans to decrease costs of college tuition.