With the culmination of the third and final presidential debate, voters can assess what they heard from the candidates and how it will factor into their decisions come Election Day.
However, not all Boston University students watch debates to gain new information, as a number of students said they instead watch to root for their preferred candidates.
Graham Wilson, department chair and professor of the political science department, said there is more to the debates than just the information presented.
“The crucial thing to remember is that things like body language and appearance can be just as important to voters as what the candidates actually say,” Wilson said. “And that may not be a totally ridiculous thing. Some people were turned off Nixon because he looked shifty and dishonest. Well, guess what? Role forward to Watergate and he turned out to be shifty and dishonest.”
Sarah Arch, a College of Communication sophomore who attended a debate watch party at BU Central, said she already choose who she was voting for before she saw the debates.
“I already know who I’m voting for but I mean, you never know,” she said. “It’s important to know what you’re talking about. You can’t just watch some of the information and be like, ‘alright I know everything.’”
The debates are less about learning information and more about watching the candidates’ performance, said Mara Mellstrom, executive vice president of BU College Republicans.
“I do it mostly to see how they are under pressure,” Mellstrom, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said. “It’s interesting to see the performance aspect of it all because I obviously know a lot about both candidates. Certainly not to learn anything really, it’s kind of more for the entertainment factor.”
School of Management freshman Sam Karp said he pays attention to the details of the candidates’ body and hand gestures to see how they react to different topics.
“It’s been really neat to see not just what the candidates have debated on, but also how there’s so much more behind the scenes,” he said.
Mellstrom said the debates will not sway decisions significantly, but rather solidify votes the candidates already have.
However, Karp said the debates are important in campaigns because they can help undecided voters make their decisions.
“It is one of the strongest reasons that it can quickly move undecided voters, especially if one candidate does far superior over the other candidate,” Karp said.
Margarita Diaz, deputy director of communications for the BU College Democrats, said the debates bring all the issues to the table and allow voters to learn the candidates’ stances on trending issues.
“They are a very good way for students to get informed,” Diaz, a CAS senior, said. “But it’s not the only way.”
Some students said they did not want to watch the debates because they are not the best way to gain information about the candidates’ platforms.
“They become kind of an end-all, be-all situation for the people who watch them where everything comes down to what goes on in the debates and it’s a win or lose situation when really there are much more reliable sources for knowing policies,” said CAS sophomore Brett Engwall.
Engwall said the debates only solidify beliefs, rather than sway voters.
“A lot of the talk you see on Facebook, you see on the live news feed during the debates has to do with people shouting support for their own candidate that they’re endorsing,” he said. “Which, I mean, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems more important to the people who have already picked a side than the people who haven’t.”
Students who are undecided said the debates could be overwhelming and unhelpful.
“They talk about issues, that to someone who is not educated on it, would not understand,” said Lauren Dickey, SMG sophomore. “Certain topics I’m educated on but some I don’t know and they’ll just start rattling off information and I don’t know what that means. I don’t think it’s [the debates] are necessarily user friendly.”