I think we can all agree that the first presidential debate of 2020 was a disaster. It was nothing more than two grown men fighting like toddlers, while the preschool teacher was failing to calm everyone down.
What is more disappointing than not seeing our presidential candidates acting like adults, is it was completely pointless; the debate did not change anyone’s mind about who to vote for.
My colleague, Caitlyn Mahoney, argues that Trump’s poor performance during the debate will help people realize he is not qualified to be president and vote for Biden. I do agree that Biden won the debate, but not because he was a better orator. With Trump’s constant interruptions, attacks on the debate moderator Chris Wallace and Biden’s family and his refusal to condemn white supremacy, anyone would look presidential next to him.
Many surveys conducted after the debate already showed that not many people were swayed on who to vote for. A survey by CBS showed that 17% of participants found the debate informative, compared to 69% of those that found the debate annoying. Plus, when the recipients were asked to rate each candidate's qualities before and after the debate, there was little to no change among the participants.
Another survey by NPR reported most undecided voters were still unsure who to vote for. While the general consensus was that Biden did a better job, they were upset that neither candidate clarified their positions on certain policies and issues.
To put it in more perspective, here are some students who watched the debate and remained unchanged on who they will vote for.
Keerthana Prasad, a fourth-year studying electrical engineering and business administration, says her decision on who to vote for didn’t change after watching the debate.
“I always had Biden in my mind, and going through this debate and watching Trump in a way he acted and kind of attacked [Biden’s] late son and attacked his values just didn’t sit well with me,” Prasad said. “I don’t think that is something you should do as a politician in general and kind of just reinforced that Biden was a better option.”
Dmitri McKinney, a third-year studying chemistry and political science and a volunteer in the Biden campaign, said the debate strengthened his decision to vote for Biden.
“I really do think that the vice president did a very good job of making sure to talk to the American people,” McKinney said. “And not just by talking at the camera, but by showing he is engaging in the conversations that we’re having all across the United States.”
While rhetoric and performance are important in a presidential debate, many people are interested in what policies a candidate will implement. Biden and Trump are arguing why they are the best person to lead the country, so we need to know what they will do as a leader. But if they can’t do that on a national stage, then the whole debate was pointless.
Most people already know who they are going to vote for in the elections. An article by NBC, written before the debate, reported that around 90% of people knew who they were going to vote for, and seven out of 10 people said a presidential debate wouldn’t change their mind. Seeing the response from the first debate, it is possible that this information remains relevant.
It makes sense. We are living in very unstable times. With pressing matters such as COVID-19, racial injustice, the economy and the environment, most people are informed enough on these issues to make a stance. We all know what Trump thinks, and we all know what Biden believes.
Are there some people, including Republicans, that will vote for Biden after Trump’s poor performance? Yes; however, they don’t make up the majority of people in this election. This debate did nothing to convince us and, I would argue, even further solidifies us in our chosen candidates.