UNF debate watch party encourages participation in political process

Professor says 1/3 of millennials still undecided about who to vote for

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The University of North Florida held a watch party Wednesday night for the third and final presidential debate, which included a discussion that aimed to encourage students to participate in the political process. 

The watch party also focused on the topics that interest millennials the most. Students said they also paid close attention to how Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump carried themselves during the debate. 

"They are really dynamic. They are really interested in what's going on around the world and they want to know that the United States is prepared to take a leadership role here and abroad," said Josh Gellers, political science professor at UNF. 

Gellers moderated the discussion that urged students to take part in the political process. He said millennials are an interesting group right now because one-third of them are still undecided. 

"They're still trying to figure out whether issues about the economy are going to be important for their long-term stability, whether national security is something they need to be worried about now with the role the United States is playing abroad," Gellers said. 

According to an online poll recently conducted by USA Today, millennials are paying even more attention when the candidates discuss jobs and the economy -- both issues that will affect many first-time voters. 

"The biggest thing that sticks out to me with this one is just how different it's been, how controversial it's been," said Gary Monahan, a freshman at UNF. "You get so many people's opinions, so it's going to be interesting in the end to see who ends up as the commander-in-chief."

Gellers said he hopes the watch party was able to spark students' interest in politics. 

"This is a really important way to engage students and to have them have positive experience with the political process so they can make informed opinions about who to vote for now and in the future," Gellers said.