Dina’s Place was packed with Winthrop students Monday night for the First Presidential Debate Watch Party. The debate was a 90-minute commercial-free event, streamed live from CNNgo at Hofstra University in New York City.
The debate was between republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. It became the the most viewed debate in history and drew in 84 million views, according to Nielsen, a global information and measurement company. The subjects discussed at the debate included taxes, trade agreements, foreign relations, racial relations, the police, ISIS, nuclear weapon handling and cybersecurity.
Dr. Jennifer Leigh Disney, who facilitated the cultural event, aimed for undecided voters to learn more about the presidential nominees. Disney stressed that the Watch Party was a nonpartisan affair. The decision not to stream the debate through Fox News or MSNBC supported the statement, even though it was met with some disagreement in the audience.
Disney and Ellin McDonough, another collaborator, directed extra students to in Room 114 of the DiGiorgio Student Center to watch the debate when Dina’s Place had no more seats.
The audience laughed, gasped and cheered throughout the debate at both Clinton and Trump’s statements and reactions. Shock and amusement were the most common reactions from the audience throughout the evening.
After the event, Disney asked the audience to give applause if someone thought either Trump or Clinton did better in the debate. When asked about Trump, there was a fair amount of applause. When asked about Clinton, the majority of the audience roared with applause and cheers.
“I thought Trump played right into Hillary’s hands,” said freshman David Truesdale, an undecided voter. He contemplated going to a third party, but decided to support Clinton after the debate. “Hillary was reserved and seemed like she had a plan.”
Freshman Justin McCraney agreed with Truesdale.
“Overall, the debate leaned towards Hillary’s favor. The entire time it seemed like Trump was trying to bash Hillary and her shortcomings. I think Hillary handled it quite well and put him in his place,” McCraney said.
Freshman Tyler Bishop was an undecided voter with a disinterest in politics before the debate. Afterward, he leaned toward the Republican Party.
“After watching the debate, I side more with… Donald Trump. As a business major, I feel strongly about creating jobs and keeping business in America,” Bishop said. He believed that Trump did a better job than Clinton.
“I personally think he answered the questions, and Hillary took jabs at his character, but did not address major issues about improving the government,” Bishop said.
The event was sponsored by the Department of Political Science and Winthrop Decision 2016.
Disney explained that the mission of Winthrop Decision is to seek voter friendly designation for Winthrop University by educating students about presidential candidates and helping students register to vote.
Disney and McDonough stated that the idea of the Watch Party dated back to the summer. The main inspiration came from the National Survey of Student Engagement which collects information on student involvement in college/university activities that promote growth and learning. According to Disney, Winthrop consistently scores above average.
“You’re an engaged community, and we wanted to tie it into politics,” Disney said.
She and other organizations focusing on voter-themed events this semester are channeling Winthrop’s engagement into focus for the general election.
“It makes me want to do more,” McDonough said about the event, “getting more students to vote and be engaged in this election and onwards.”
Disney said that Winthrop Decision and the Digiorgio Student Union (DSU) are planning a Watch Party on the night of Election Day in Richardson Ballroom, which will have food and drinks available. The event will also be open to both Winthrop students and alumni, and will be a part of Homecoming Week.