Andrew Jenks Goes Searching For Youth Voice in Denver During Debates

Photo: (MTV)

Andrew Jenks was in Denver last night with MTV News for the first of three Presidential debates. His main goal: find out what young people thought of the candidates during the debate — and that’s if they were watching. Here’s what happened.

I am sitting only a few feet away from where President Obama and Governor Romney are about to take the stage at the first Presidential debate.

But a co-worker of mine and I leave as the debate is about to begin. We want to see what college students are doing.  Are they hanging in the dorms drinking and smoking? Are they interested?

We walk by about three packed bars but they are respectively playing the Simpsons, a baseball game, and an old sitcom.  Ugh. As many suggest, are young people this uninterested, this apathetic, about this election?  Damnit. But I also get it. We live in a world of transparency, and few of us believe politics is far from transparent. But three bars is certainly not a fair way to understand my generation’s interest in this election. So we are still walking around.

My co-worker and I land at this gigantic student quad. Denver University has set up ‘DebateFest’ where hundreds of students are watching the debate on two gigantic, movie-sized screens (unfortunately there are few seats in the debate hall so only a handful of students are able to attend). It’s really, really cool.

With hundreds of students, in the freezing cold, I watch. Not just the debate, but my peers. There is energy in the air. Certainly not a rock concert, but it does have that sort of buzz. It seems like most of the students are liberal (even though Denver University is known to not necessarily lean as liberal as some would think). As the President is introduced, the students are loudly cheering. But quickly, they are starting to get quiet. They aren’t sure what to cheer about. Suddenly, there is a huge commotion. A student is getting kicked out for smoking. Oh, c’mon!

I am walking around and notice a few Romney supporters that are energized – full of excitement. They smirk. ‘Look at this!’

By the end, nearly half of the student body has left (and it isn’t just because it got cold). The students only cheer when the candidates reference their appreciation for Denver University hosting the debate.

But my initial analysis from those three bars is way off. Turns out plenty of students at ‘DebateFest’ are energized to be here. They want to hear the candidates’ positions. And as I am talking with the students remaining at ‘DebateFest’, I am realizing because they are still undecided, they want to hear the whole thing. Most of the others, have already made their choice. Maybe that’s why they left.

Moving forward, I am hopefuly that my generation will care. Our future is bleak. For the first time in America’s history, our parents believe we will grow up in an America not as great as their own.

But we can change that, I think. In many ways, it’s on us. We can’t just blame the politicians. I can ‘t just blame the politicians. So it’s time. Time for us to get even more involved.

And hopefully it doesn’t just happen when both candidates have a debate at our own college.