Next Monday, millions of Americans will tune in to the first presidential debate, hosted by Hofstra University and moderated by NBC’s Lester Holt. Among the viewers will be approximately 60 college students — half African-American, half white — who will be part of a live, real-time study on Hofstra’s campus looking at the role race plays in influencing viewers’ reactions to the debate.
Race and ethnicity are playing an important role in this election cycle, particularly as issues regarding immigration policy, poverty, and excessive use of police force are drawing a national spotlight.
In their study, the researchers will be looking at reactions to the debate from African-American and white college students. As study participants watch the debate, the researchers will collect real-time responses from them using the Perception Analyzer® dial testing system by Dialsmith to indicate their level of agreement with the speaker.
The researchers will later analyze the data to understand the messages or appeals that elicit the greatest responses from viewers, particularly how the candidates come across to college-age voters. An analysis from the Pew Research Center shows that millennials — defined as people between the ages of 18-35 — are now as large of a political force as Baby Boomers, demonstrating the important role that young voters will play in November’s election.
Two political communication scholars are leading the study:
- Philip Dalton, associate professor and chair of the Department of Rhetoric at Hofstra University’s School of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts and author of Coarseness in American Public Communication (Farleigh Dickinson University Press)
- Charlton McIlwain, associate professor of media, culture, and communication at NYU Steinhardt and author of Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns (Temple University Press)
Interviews are available with Dalton and McIlwain following the debate, including the morning after (Tuesday, Sept. 27). An analysis and findings of the study will also be released after the debate.