About 100 students and faculty gathered in the UCen on Thursday evening to listen to the first presidential debate of the 2004 election season.
The crowd, mostly comprised of students, watched the live debate on the Hub’s projection television. A majority of the crowd appeared to support Mass. Senator John Kerry, applauding after some of his remarks and laughing at some of President George W. Bush’s statements and several extended pauses between words and sentences. Under a dozen Bush supporters within the group shook their heads silently at Kerry’s remarks, and there was only scattered applause in support of Bush. An unidentified man booed and jeered when Kerry referenced his military service.
Some of the students interviewed said they came into the debate knowing that they would vote for Kerry.
“It’s just solidifying my prior impression that the current president is obtuse and incompetent,” said first- year philosophy graduate student John Chandler.
While some people interviewed were strong supporters of Kerry, second-year political science major Ethan Roberts said he is voting for the senator because he is the lesser of two evils.
“I agree with Kerry on social issues such as abortion, gay rights and welfare,” he said. “But Kerry flip-flops on the issues, and if he’s elected, Kerry might prematurely withdraw our troops [from Iraq].”
Although second-year biochemistry major Yoshi Deligne is a citizen of Belgium and not able to vote in the election, he said he would vote for Kerry if given the opportunity.
“I’m really worried about this country,” Deligne said. “I’ve lived here in the U.S. all my life and I love this country.”
Of the few Bush supporters in the crowd, fourth-year law and society and psychology major Mary Souras said she questioned the reason people laughed at Bush’s statements.
“I wonder how many people are really interested in actual policies,” she said.
UCSB Economics Professor John Marshall, who plans to vote for Kerry, said the debate has the potential to be an important turning point in the election.
“I debated whether to go to a sports bar to watch, but I thought this would be more interesting because of the students,” he said.
Several students around campus during the debate had strong views regarding this year’s presidential election, but were unable to attend the broadcast in the Hub.
While finishing dinner at the Ortega Dining Commons, first-year psychology major Mandy Ramsum said she would have attended the debate if she didn’t have class at the time. Ramsum, a Kerry supporter, said Bush failed to do what he promised in 2000, such as increasing educational funding and facilitating economic recovery.
“All of our resources are going to the war [in Iraq],” she said. “If we could figure the war out, there would be more resources to put towards other things to benefit the country.”
Bush and Kerry are scheduled to face off in another debate Oct. 8.