Liberal Column

3rd debate topics leave little appeal for millennial voters

/ The Daily Orange

The presidential candidates have been bashing each other on immigration, the economy and their leadership abilities for more than a year now. But viewer be warned, there is little to expect from another televised street fight beyond stale talking points and personal attacks.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will meet Wednesday night at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for the third and final presidential debate. The Commission for Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan group charged with organizing debates, recently announced recently announced the topics that will be discussed. With 15 minutes allocated for each, they are as follows: debt and entitlements, the economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots, immigration and both candidates’ fitness to be president.

While doubtlessly important for the nation as a whole, this list covers issues that have already received significant attention and lacks issues important to younger generations, including gender equality and environmental issues. As college-aged voters, we would hope for both candidates to demonstrate they recognize our interests. But because of these predetermined topics, it will be difficult to address these social concerns without straying far from the specific questions of the debate.

The importance of certain campaign issues vary significantly across age groups, according to polling by Pew Research on the 2016 election. When it comes to seeing the Supreme Court and Social Security as important voter issues, there is a more than 20 percent difference in favor of the voters over 65 years old as opposed to those who are 18 to 29 years old. On the other hand, millennials are most likely to list the treatment of people of color and LGBT individuals as “very important,” which is 18 percent higher than voters over 65.


This focus on traditional issues instead of more progressive topics of discussion continues a disappointingly common trend: It represents an implicit bias of the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates toward older voters and the issues that disproportionately affect them.

Even more complicated is how Fox News anchor Chris Wallace will moderate this debate. With its conservative tilt, the news channel has become a journalistic refuge of Trump in recent weeks.

Especially in light of how the topics of discussion favor older, more conservative voters, Wallace will have to work hard to appear unbiased in his questioning of both candidates. The hope is that Wallace will hold Trump accountable for these allegations and lack of solid policies on these same issues, but viewers shouldn’t holding their breath.

After this debate, there will be 19 days left before Election Day — which, to clarify, is Nov. 8 rather than Nov. 28 as Trump suggested at a recent rally. That means 19 more days for the candidates to solidify their case for the presidency, and to avoid any catastrophic mistakes.

With fewer and fewer voters left to sway, the stakes of this debate will be raised, but the questions don’t live up to the hype.

Cole Jermyn is a sophomore environmental resource engineering major and economics minor at SUNY-ESF. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Cjermyn8.


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