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October 23, 2012 12:56 PM College Students on the 3rd Presidential Debate

By Dan Hopkins

Well, the debates are done, and we’ve got our final update from Amber Boydstun, Rebecca Glazier, Timothy Jurka, and Matthew Pietryka.  (Follow these links for previous updates on the first presidential debate, the vice presidential debate, and the second presidential debate.)  The students providing their instant reactions are diverse: 65% are white, 12% are Hispanic, 9% are Asian American, 9% are black, and 5% term themselves “other.”  Unsurprisingly, the students also lean Democratic, with 58% of these respondents planning to support Obama while 31% planned to vote for Romney.  The 2,269 students who registered an opinion at least once last night is a number almost identical to what the researchers saw during the second presidential debate (2,295).

Overall, some of the same patterns from earlier debates held: agreement with President Obama’s comments consistently outpaced disagreement by a wide margin, while Governor Romney’s comments drew levels of disagreement that neared his levels of agreement. Agreement with Obama peaked during his comment about “horses and bayonets,” while disagreement reached its peak when he said that America was stronger than when he took office.  His rebuttal to Governor Romney on the question of the two candidates’ foreign trips—”If we’re going to talk about trips that we’ve taken”—was seen as his moment of maximum spin.  Governor Romney registered his highest levels of agreement when saying that “these principles of peace … begin with a strong economy here at home.”  (Intriguingly, that moment was also seen as Governor Romney’s high point in terms of spinning.)  His defense of prior statements about the auto industry drew his highest levels of disagreement.

When asked to name the winner, 64% named Obama while 25% said Romney, a margin of victory that is similar to but slightly smaller than Obama’s perceived victory in the second debate.  In the eyes of the students, moderator Bob Schieffer had his best moment when saying to Governor Romney, “with respect, sir, you had laid out quite a program there.”

[h/t to Amber Boydstun and to the time-zone differences that make these posts possible]

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Dan Hopkins is an assistant professor of government at Georgetown University.

Comments

  • James E. Powell on October 23, 2012 6:22 PM:

    The big question for college students, maybe the only question, is "Are you going to vote?"