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Debates may not affect student votes

Oct. 19, 2000

Lariat poll highlights little change in views



Though there was much discussion on which candidate won and how voters reacted to Tuesday night's final presidential debate, the debates overall had little effect on the Baylor campus, according to many students.

The Baylor Lariat conducted an informal poll Wednesday of 78 Baylor students around campus. About 15 students at each of five different sites -- the Bill Daniel Student Center, the Vara Faye Daniel Fountain Plaza, Moody Memorial Library, Carroll Science Hall and the McLane Student Life Center --were asked whether they watched the debates and, if so, whether the debates changed their opinions.

Of those 78, a total of 34 watched at least one of the presidential or vice-presidential debates during the last month; however, 17 of these students watched only one, and only five watched all four.

Those that did watch were generally not swayed from their original opinions. The most frequent reaction to the debate was that it merely reinforced previously held views. Twenty-seven students said the debates made them more confident of their choices.

Andres Del Toro, a Hereford junior, said that although the debates served a good purpose, he already knew whom he planned to support.

'The debates are helpful because they discuss important topics,' Del Toro said, 'but I feel that those who already feel like they're going to vote for a certain candidate go into debates with a biased opinion.'

Sarabeth Shalley, a Van Vleck junior, said the debates made no change whatsoever in her conceptions of the candidates -- a view held by five of the 78 students.

'I had researched the topics before, and I already knew the candidates and what they stood for,' Shalley said. 'They may have been helpful to some people who didn't know who they wanted to vote for, but they weren't very helpful for me.'

Besides being largely unaffected by the candidates, many students were also unhappy with the overall tone of the debate.

'For me, I'm kind of a political atheist anyway, and that kind of reinforced my dislike of politics,' Tricia Greeney, a Dallas junior, said. 'For the first debate, they were so hostile to each other. That made me just kind of shut off.'

Jonathan Newman, a Spring junior, said he agreed that the debates had the wrong focus.

'I watch them because my dad has ingrained in me to 'keep up with the news,' but they were annoying,' he said. 'Debates aren't supposed to be about personal attacks. It's about 'here are the issues, and I'm supporting this for this reason.''

Other students expressed disappointment with everything from the exclusion of the third party candidates to the new formats used this year.

While most of the students who did not watch the debate cited such reasons as jobs, homework and baseball playoffs, a few said they skipped them because they were just not interested.

'I don't like either of them,' Ken Walker, a Waco senior, said. 'I'm not really interested in this election. I don't even know that I'm gonna vote in this election.'

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