Some Illinois State University students used a new smartphone app to provide instant feedback on the presidential debate. (Photo by Paul Morello/WJBC)
By Eric Stock
NORMAL - College students who provided instant feedback on a new smartphone app gave Mitt Romney a slight edge over President Obama in the first presidential debate.
Students in Carl Palmer's Voting and Election course at Illinois State University were among more than 3,700 students who were grading the candidate's responses. They could rate each statement on whether they agreed or whether they thought the candidate was trying to spin or dodge a question.
Palmer said students had Romney slightly out-performing President Obama, which he says is significant given that the student population was heavily Democratic. About 60 percent of participants indicated before the debate they planned to vote for Obama and 25 percent were going to vote for Romney.
"That they were willing to overcome those biases and actually honestly say they felt that Romney won the debate suggests that it's fairly similar to the other polls, " Palmer said, referring to a CBS poll of independent voters which gave Romney a 46 percent to 22 percent advantage over Obama.
Palmer said Romney appeared to take the offensive more often than the president.
"Of the zingers of the night, and I think that the majority of them came from Romney, that was a concerted effort on his part, I believe, to try to spark some interest in his candidacy and make him seem presidential." Palmer said.
Palmer said Romney might have changed the tone of the race.
"I have been hearing from pundits all week that it was Obama's debate to lose and that Romney really had to hit one out of the park to even stay in his race. What I saw was exactly what the Obama campaign did not want and what the Romney campaign did want," Palmer said.
Palmer said the Romney comments that drew the most favorable response were about energy independence, which Palmer said is tricky because they were most upset when he proclaimed his support for coal. The president won the highest marks when he called for ending corporate tax breaks and found the most disagreement when he said he kept his promise to fight for the middle class.
Palmer said the students will be grading the responses at the next two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate next week.