There's surely plenty to talk about the morning after at the watercooler for most potential voters in the upcoming 2008 election, and for students, in the dining halls and in the classrooms.
If the gathering at SUNY Fredonia Tuesday evening, for the second of three debates, between Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain is any indication it seems the youth vote movement may play a larger role in this year's election than in years past. A lecture hall in McEwen Hall was filled to capacity with students interested enough to gather after classes to watch the debate with their peers during the campuse's third DebateWatch.
"DebateWatch is a national program that happens all over the country," Communications Department Professor Dr. Linda Brigance said. "I came here in 2000 during an election year, and the school I was at previously did DebateWatch and I thought it would be a great thing to bring here."
During the 2004 election the SUNY Fredonia campus drew in 500 participants ranking the campus second-largest in attendance among colleges and universities nationwide during its second DebateWatch.
"I just think we have a really engaged campus. We were surprised by that," she said. "I think it's great that so many people are involved. I hope people are listening to the issues, I hope people aren't voting on personality...not voting for someone just because they're a war hero, not voting for someone just because they're African American and would make history, but listening to the issues."
Students were tuned in for sure Tuesday evening, like a feisty move theatre audience who boos at the bad guy and cheers for the good guy, the majority making it clear whom they'll be voting for this year by cheering following their candidate of choices responses. And whether students realized it or not the room was definitely split left and right, literally, with left wingers on the left and right wingers on the right of the lecture hall.
"The youth of SUNY Fredonia tend to be very skewed toward Barack Obama, but there are a few quiet souls out there who are John McCain and Sarah Palin fans which I'm very happy to see," said student Dahn Bull, who ran for Chautauqua County District 25 Legislator on the Republican ticket this past 2007 election year and lost to incumbent Stephen Keefe. "Most of the people on campus here are voting for the first time, very very few a second time in a Presidential race so every four years everyone gets very active and very motivated by whomever the candidates are. It's a nice occurrence to see every four years, I wish I could see more in between."
Tuesday evening was the last event as part of a series of Rock the Vote events around campus, giving students yet another opportunity to register to vote as well.
"We decided to do this DebateWatch again, as suggested by Dr. Brigance and Dr. Rankin, and so far our events have been great. We really spread the word about the DebateWatch and we really use all of our events to get people to register to vote, that's the most important thing. We're not advocating for one candidate over the other, we just want people to get interested in the election," said Bailey Anderson, President of the Political Science Association, who says she can notice the buzz surrounding this years election. "A lot of my close friends aren't politically active or interested, but I had about 20 people over my house to watch the Vice Presidential debates and they were so in to it. It was a lot of fun and I think as a whole I think people are getting interested a lot because we have two new candidates and it's really going to effect us college students after we get out of here."
Following the debate students were asked a series of four questions as part of a national poll regarding post debate reactions. Questions were did students come to the debate with a favorite candidate in mind, all of whom did; if any of those who did changed their mind after the debate, none of which who did; if students learned anything new, from or about, either of the candidates; all of whom did; and to prioritize issues most important to them. Based on the answering tool, clapping, it seemed students in the hall prioritized issues from greatest importance to least importance in the order of: the economy, education, war in Iraq, energy, environment, and healthcare.
"The economy is a hot topic because obviously a lot of students are going to be looking for jobs, in this area in Western New York, we haven't had a very strong economy in the past 20 years. Private sector jobs are going to be a tough find and a lot of kids are concerned with that and where they're going to go after they graduate," said Derek Degraab, Vice President of the Political Science Association. "The war is also a big topic with many students who have friends or siblings over seas and they want to know when they'll be home from Iraq."
Dr. Brigance and Political Science Department Professor Dr. David Rankin were going to facilitate an audience discussion following the debate but students must have vented enough in between candidate answers amongst themselves.
To help bolster voter registration The League of Women Voters also had a table set up during the event for registration opportunities.
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