Students Click With Presidential Debates

About 400 students enrolled in two sections of Political Science Professor Maureen Moakley’s introductory course on American Politics watched the last presidential debate between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain in the Chafee Social Science Center.

Prior to the debate, students were given digital clickers and asked to respond to questions about their debate expectations and political preferences. Their collective answers appeared in graph form on PowerPoint. After the debate, students were asked to evaluate each candidate’s performance and his positions. Students were then asked to register any changes in their own position on the election.

“Mostly the idea of ‘selective perception’ worked; that is students with a preference for one candidate or another beforehand tended to think that candidate performed better and were more likely to support their initial choice after the debate,” Moakley reports.

The purpose of the experience was to engage students in the democratic process by using the latest technology. Judging from the students’ collective enthusiasm, it definitely succeeded.