Home – Missed Media Opportunity: The Presidential Debates Failed to Sway Millennials

Missed Media Opportunity: The Presidential Debates Failed to Sway Millennials

Posted on 11-21-2016 by Megan Burnside

This post was guest written by Brandon Teeple, a junior at Wright State University. 

The Millennial Generation, those who are born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, have recently become the largest generation in the U.S.  They range anywhere from recent high school or college graduates to critical workers in today’s ailing labor force. They also make up a large portion of the undecided vote this Presidential Election, as they are not “pigeon-holed” into a particular political party, making them a gold mine up for grabs for either candidate. Each candidate attempted to sway these people, along with the rest of the nation, to vote for them over the past month during the three Presidential Debates. It is often debated as to whether these debates sway anyone for either voting for or against a candidate. Did Trump or Clinton do that with the Millennials? What impression did the candidates leave on this generation?

The first debate was a much anticipated event for two reasons: it was the first time Clinton and Trump would be on stage together, and it was the first chance for both candidates to attempt to pull in undecided voters. Even before the debate, there were Millennials saying that they weren’t planning on watching the debate. According to a poll conducted by Roll Call, only 30% of Millennials were “definitely” planning on watching the debate. Even those that did watch, it does not appear that either candidate gained ground with these swing voters. A local Harrisburg, PA news source interviewed some of their own Millennials, and it appeared that many of the young voters were still tied to third party candidates; either Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. One voter cited Clinton’s lies and everything Trump stands for as “horrible” as reasons that neither will get their vote. 

But for those that did watch, regardless of whether they had made up on their mind on who to vote for, they noticed something lacking: anything of substance relating to Millennials. According to a forum from the Davis Enterprise, Millennials were the biggest losers from the first debate. The writer discusses that the candidates never even mentioned the word “Millennials", and only mentioned “young people” once. Additionally, they didn’t touch on probably the biggest issue for Millennials: student loan debt, of which Millennials combine for a $1.4 trillion in debt.

The second Presidential debate was conducted in a town-hall style forum, where certain citizens were invited to ask the questions for the two to discuss. According to the Oakland Post, a student-run newspaper out of Oakland University, the debate was “one of the most brutal examples of mud-slinging” during a Presidential campaign. Clearly the second debate did nothing to sway the Millennials who call Oakland home. Other students made a drinking game of the debate, with many feeling the after affects. It is interesting to note that outside of these two seemingly simple articles, there is very little reaction from the Millennial generation. There are two plausible explanations for this. The first is perhaps, after watching the first debate, they were just completely turned off and sick of seeing the mud-slinging, of which there was plenty. Or, perhaps it was because there was, yet again, just no substance. The only time they candidates came close to touching on issues important to Millennials was regarding how to set a better example for our youth.

The final debate of this Presidential campaign was setup like the first, two candidates behind a podium answering questions from the moderator, though this debate brought in a record number of viewers. One thing it did not do: change anyone’s mind. A Killeen, TX newspaper conducted a few interviews with its locals and the resounding message was clear: if you were going to vote for Clinton before, you will still vote Clinton; the same applies with the opposite. Though this debate touched on topics closer to the Millennial generation, such as gay rights and abortion, there still is very little reaction from those college students and recent college grads.

After three debates, the message was clear: they did nothing to sway the Millennial vote. The debates were opportunities to win undecided votes, yet they were wasted and spoke only to their bases.

This blog post was written based on sources found using LexisNexis Newsdesk.

3 Ways to Apply This Information Now

  1. Visit our U.S. Presidential Campaign Tracker to see what post-election topics are dominating the media.
  2. Explore some of the other media-intelligence posts here on the Biz Blog.
  3. Learn more about news and media monitoring with LexisNexis Newsdesk

Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close