Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris will debate in Salt Lake City, Utah on Oct. 8. With 27 days until the election, USC students have expressed their opinions on the debate and whether or not watching it live will have any influence on their personal vote.
The two candidates will discuss policy, track records and their plans if they’re elected. The candidates will not only be debating each other, but representing their presidential running mates and political parties, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, respectively.
Mark Rodriguez, a USC political science major, thinks that while this VP debate will be an opportunity for viewers to learn more about the candidates, it won’t change anyone’s vote.
“I really don’t think it’ll influence my voting pattern at all, just because I know who I’m voting for,” Rodriguez said. “Kamala Harris just has a lot of draw just because she’s an amazing debater, but I don’t personally know anyone that’s kind of undecided and is waiting for this debate, or any other debate, to kind of sway their vote.”
Hannah Agar, a political science and sociology major, is skeptical that she’ll hear anything tonight that would affect her vote.
“I’m a pretty diehard liberal and I can’t stand Donald Trump,” she said, “so I don’t think there’s anything that could possibly happen that would change my mind.”
Around 5% of likely U.S voters are still undecided, according to polls reported by Newsweek.
“We’re so polarized now more than ever,” Agar said. “I don’t think that there’s any chance this is going to change very many people’s minds, especially since it’s the vice presidential debate, not the presidential debate.”
Nationally televised presidential debates can amass millions of viewers. VP debates are the second most-watched political debates on television today, according to the Pew Research Center. With the exception of the Joe Biden and Sarah Palin debate of 2008, viewership of VP debates garners fewer viewers than their presidential counterparts.
“The V.P. debates tend not to matter as much as the presidential debates,” said Tom Hollihan, a USC professor in media, politics and campaign communications. “But they have mattered on those occasions when there was already a robust public conversation about the qualifications of the V.P. candidate.”
Hollihan cited the 2008 vice presidential debate and how it drew an uncharacteristically large audience due to growing concerns regarding Palin’s qualifications to fill the position.
“Tonight is going to matter, but it’s going to matter for a whole different set of reasons,” said Hollihan. “It’s an important debate because we have the first woman of color on the national ticket. So I think a lot of people will tune in to watch that.”
Additionally, he attributes the debate’s importance to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Trump’s recent positive test for having the virus.
Hollihan’s advice to those watching the debate tonight is to listen carefully to which candidate is really answering the questions and who is offering evidence to support their claims.