NORMAL — Students participating in a project collecting reactions to Wednesday night’s presidential debate were largely Democrats, but they judged Republican Mitt Romney as the winner.
Illinois State University assistant professor Carl Palmer said, “The biggest take-home is, despite the fact that you see an almost overwhelming bias toward Obama … people can still evaluate things that are said and overcome partisan urges.”
Students in Palmer’s Voting and Elections course are taking part in a nationwide project in which students use smart phones or similar devices to give feedback during the debates on whether they agree or disagree with statements being made.
Of the 3,767 students who participated nationwide during the first debate, Palmer said 56 percent identified themselves as Democrats and 27 percent said they were Republicans. Sixty percent said they planned to vote for Obama and 24 percent planned to vote for Romney.
Yet, 52 percent thought Romney won the debate, Palmer said.
The project is headed by Amber Boydstun of the University of California at Davis and Rebecca Glazier of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Palmer said the same React Labs debate application will be used for the vice presidential and next two presidential debates.
Palmer won’t get a breakdown of local results until after the four debates are concluded.
But regardless of which candidate a person favored, he said it was “hard to ignore that Romney was far more aggressive” in Wednesday night’s debate and Obama was far more serious and “not nearly as engaged and energized as people expect him to be.”
He attributed that to campaign strategies and the expectations that “Romney had to perform well in this debate” and present himself as “likeable, engaged, presidential” while Obama mainly has to avoid making any mistakes.