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There’s an app for that: college students say Biden won debate

October 12, 2012

Colored Map of the U.S. state by state

Six in 10 college students say Joe Biden outperformed Paul Ryan in Thursday’s vice presidential debate, according to a nationwide poll conducted with a smartphone application co-developed at the University of California, Davis.

About 1,500 students at campuses across the country participated in the poll, which allows participants to click buttons that say “agree” or “disagree” as well as “dodge” or “spin.” The app had its trial run at the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, when about 4,000 students participated in the polling.

The app allows, for the first time, live reaction to a debate on a large scale.

Students have been invited to participate by a network of hundreds of political science professors around the country. The polling will continue through the two remaining presidential debates.

“It’s thrilling to see students engage with the debate in real time, said Amber Boydstun, an assistant professor of political science at UC Davis who co-created the app with colleagues at UC Davis; the University of Maryland, College Park; and the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. “It’s clear from their responses that they have strong opinions about the candidates in both directions and that they know when the candidates are spinning an issue or dodging a question.”

In the latest app poll, more than half of the students said they were Democrats, and 31 percent said they were Republicans. Similarly, 55 percent said they plan to vote for President Obama, and 30 percent said they plan to vote for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. 

Vice President Biden received mostly “agree” clicks, while Ryan, the Republican challenger, received an even number of clicks for agree and disagree.

For Ryan, students largely disagreed with his abortion policy, but clicked mostly “agree” with his closing argument. For Biden, students disagreed with his discussion of Iran, and agreed most when he brought up Romney’s “47 percent” comment. (At a private fundraiser in May, Romney was recorded saying that about 47 percent of Americans want government to provide for them.)

“Dodge” clicks spiked when Ryan talked about tax policy.

When looking at poll participants by gender, slightly more than half were male. More than 60 percent said they were white; 13 percent Hispanic; 9 percent African American; 9 percent Asian and 5 percent “other.”

A slide show breaking down response by state, race, gender and other factors is available at the React Labs website.

Download a U.S. map showing how students voted.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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