Lower viewer turnout seen at UMD watch party, nationwide for VP debate

Photo by Bryan Gallion

About 50 students watched the vice presidential debate in Stamp Student Union’s Hoff Theater Tuesday night, witnessing Tim Kaine and Mike Pence butt heads in their only face-off before election day.

Fewer students attended this event – hosted by University of Maryland College Republicans in conjunction with the College Democrats, Maryland Discourse, MaryPIRG, the Society of Professional Journalists, Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty – compared to the more than 300 students who viewed the Sept. 27 presidential debate in Hoff Theater, and fewer people tuned in nationwide.

“I doubt a lot of people watched it,” sophomore Emma Davis said. “I bet a lot of people already made up their minds about who they’re voting for.”

Kaine and Pence drew in 37 million viewers, the smallest audience for a vice presidential debate since 2000, according to the Los Angeles Times. An estimated 84 million viewers watched the first presidential debate, making it the most watched debate ever, according to Nielson data.

Some students still found watching the hour-and-a-half long debate – held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia – to be important.

“While the focus might be centered on the candidates for the presidency, it is important to understand your vote extends past the top half of the ticket,” junior government and politics major Georgie Jones, Maryland Discourse President, said.

Virginia Sen. Kaine and Indiana Gov. Pence consistently clashed throughout the debate regarding key campaign issues including immigration, Russia and police brutality.

The vice presidential nominees attacked each other’s running mates on their platforms, such as their views on the economy.

“Do you want a ‘you’re hired’ president in Hillary Clinton or do you want a ‘you’re fired’ president in Donald Trump? I think that’s not such a hard choice,” Kaine said.

When discussing Donald Trump’s resistance to releasing his tax returns, Pence said his running mate – who may have not paid taxes for two decades – “brilliantly” used the law.

“Donald Trump is a businessman, not a career politician,” Pence said. “He faced some pretty tough times 20 years ago.”

While Pence was determined the debate’s winner by a CNN poll, some students believed Kaine emerged victorious.

“Pence didn’t have facts that defended Donald Trump. He really just deflected whatever Kaine said,” Davis, a government and politics major, said. “I thought his facial expressions and responses made him seem unprepared for it.”

While voters will not directly elect a vice president Nov. 8, students still found value in listening to what both vice presidential nominees had to say during Tuesday’s debate.

“When you cast your ballot, you’re casting a vote for the president,” Jones said, “but you’re also voting for who you trust to be ready to assume the most powerful office in the nation at a moments notice.”