On the Impact of the Debate: the Undecided Become Disinterested

On Tuesday, September 29, candidates, President Donald Trump and former-Vice President Joe Biden, met on stage at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic for the first 2020 Presidential debate. A night characterized by chaotic interruptions and unhinged commentary has left undecided voters even more

perplexed on the question of who is best fit to serve our country, leaving many to wonder if they should even vote at all. 

This debate focused on six key topics: the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, and the integrity of the upcoming election. However, many believe that the chaos of the debate seemed to have outweighed the candidate’s positions on these issues. In a virtual focus group made up of 16 undecided voters streamed by the Los Angeles Times, 4 formerly undecided voters said that after watching the debate they will now vote for Biden, and only 1 said that they have decided to vote for Trump. However, the rest were still undecided and left with even more questions than they initially had prior the debate. “How can you still be undecided after watching that debate?” The focus group moderator asks. 

“They really didn’t answer the questions I was looking forward to,” says a still undecided voter, “I really wanted to hear more about race relations and civil unrest… also how they were going to help the american public when it comes to COVID-19.” 

For undecided voters, this debate was crucial to listen to each candidate and finally decide who they would vote for come November, but many found that “we didn’t learn anything new. We learned that they play loose with numbers, they attack one another, and avoid the issues when they can. They didn’t answer so many important questions.” The chaos of the debate has turned off many, and without having gained clear answers to crucial questions, undecided voters are looking towards forgoing voting entirely this election.

Overall, voters had complaints about the performance of both candidates. “Donald Trump is a known quantity. I know Donald Trump after the past 4 years, and I know what he is gonna say, but Biden didn't convince me of anything and he didn't talk 

policy,” says an undecided voter. “It's hard to vote on the known of Trump or the unknown of Biden's policies. How can I put him in charge for 4 years if he doesn’t have an answer to these questions?” While there were interruptions on Biden’s part as well, many feel that Trump excessively interrupted Biden which moderator Chris Wallace pointed out during the debates as well. This behavior caused irritation and mayhem, forcing many to just stop watching the debate all together. 

According to voters, this debate was frustratingly centered around each candidate explaining why the nation shouldn’t vote for the opposing candidate, rather than each candidate explaining why America should vote for them. “What I wanna see for the next debate is Biden defending why he should be elected, and Trump doing the same for himself. Not either of them saying why I shouldn’t vote for the other,” an undecided voter said. 

When asked what advice they would give to each candidate for the next debates, the responses were clear. On Donald Trump, one said “give me a reason to vote for you, Trump! He’s acted in a way that has made it so hard for someone to tell anyone they are voting for him. Learn to become coachable,” he continues, “have some facts, stay away from the personality and stick to the substance.” When the conversation turned to discussing Biden, the main message was that voters want him to “stay focused and stay away from replicating Trump's poor behavior.”

This debate was intended to be a pivotal moment for undecided voters to come to a conclusion as to who they will cast their vote for in November, but now undecided voters are more perplexed than ever, and if no progress is made during the next debates, those same undecided voters will most presumably not vote at all.

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