Popcorn and Politics: BYUPAS Republican Primary Debate Viewing Party

BYU students and professors gathered last week to view the second Republican primary debate and discuss the upcoming presidential race.

The event, hosted by the student chapter of BYU’s Political Affairs Society drew a large and dedicated crowd. It provided students who may not have otherwise watched the debate an opportunity to do so. The students were determined to watch the entire debate—even after CNN surprised viewers with a third hour—and were commended by their professors.

“You have lasted through quite a marathon here; three hours and fifteen minutes is the longest debate that I’ve ever seen, so kudos to you for doing that,” said Dr. Richard Davis during his closing remarks. “The real winners here were the people who watched the debate.”

Event-goers were hesitant to name a “winning” candidate, even with the additional length. However Sven Wilson, the department chair, was quick to criticize CNN.

“The first questions people usually ask after these kinds of things are who won and who lost,” Wilson said. “I really think the loser here on this debate was CNN. Not because they went too long, but because they fed into that sad and discouraging part of this campaign which is that is has kind of become a reality TV show event.”

But the drama was precisely what motivated some students to attend.

“I like watching the debate with other people because [it’s] highly entertaining and it’s fun to see everyone’s reactions to the ridiculous drama onstage,” said Samantha Hawkins, a senior at BYU. “I had been looking forward to it all month.”

In contrast, Professor Davis gave a nod to the participants who were able to turn the drama into policy discussions. “Congratulations to the candidates who flipped those questions to what they really should have been and talked about the things that the media didn’t want to talk about,” he said. “If [viewers] even watched part of it they got a sense that there are some real policy issues here.”

After both Wilson and Davis gave their responses to the debate students were invited to discuss additional questions with them one-on-one. BYUPAS leadership also encouraged students to attend the Democratic debate viewing party that will be held on Tuesday, October 13.

This debate was broadcasted and moderated by CNN, bringing the network record ratings. According to CNN, 23 million Americans tuned in for the three-hour marathon.

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