Many young voters expecting spectacle over substance in first presidential debate

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – People all over Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio will be gathering with family and friends to check out Tuesday’s big face off between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. That includes students at Purdue University, who are hosting a watch party for the first presidential debate.

Many students are ready for an “entertaining” spectacle, but they’re not sure how productive or meaningful the debate will actually be.

“Both candidates aren’t the best, let’s just be honest,” said sophomore Britney Pennington. “I’m only going to watch it just to see how horrible they’re both going to act on live television, but it’s basically just picking who’s the least terrible at this point.”

“I think it’s a lot less about policies and I think it’s more about just to see who can get the upper hand on someone else,” said freshman Lucas Lebo. “It almost seems like it’s just going to be a roast.”

But while skeptical, the students do believe the debate is important.

“I think it will be very important for both sides to show their opinion and get that out,” said Nick Steinkand.

“Honestly, I just want to see what both parties can contribute to America and how they could affect the difficulties going on in America today racially and a lot of people are facing problems with jobs,” said Oneel Occenat.

For nursing freshman Jaida Lang, it’ll be her first time watching a presidential debate.

“It’s the first year I can vote so it holds more standing in my life because I actually have a say in what happens in our country,” she said.

So for many young people, both candidates have to prove that they should be taken seriously.

“I feel like our generation just makes fun of both of them,” said Jacob Geyer. “So it’s kind of just putting that aside and seeing what they both have to say.”

PFW political science professor Mike Wolf has his beliefs on how Trump and Biden can win the respect of young people.

“The young people right now are engaged, but they’re disaffected as well,” he said. “They don’t like the partisan nature of some of this and all the attack politics.”

He said substance will be key.

“We’ve got big issues whether it’s foreign policy, race relations, we’ve got COVID-19, the supreme court,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things that are going to affect these students for a long time that they need to hear about tonight so if it devolves into some kind of back and forth between the candidates, it’s not going to be good. So the moderator really has to step up tonight.”

Tuesday’s PFW Debate watch party starts tonight at 8:30 p.m. with the debate kicking off at 9 p.m.

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