Surveys Liven Up OU Presidential Debate Watch Party
Moss Cairns clickers allow participants to weigh in on how candidates performed during Wednesday night's event.
If those who attended a watch party at the Oakland University Oakland Center are any indication, Mitt Romney is going to win the Republican primary.
In a survey taken at the close of Wednesday night's "Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate" at OU in Rochester, 82 percent of about 250 audience members said they expected Romney to get the Republican nod. And virtually everyone – 90 percent – thought the debate was a good thing for Oakland University.
The results were collected through hand-held audience participation devices provided by Minneapolis-based Moss Cairns. Company principal Steve Moss said the firm has worked with Oakland University on other initiatives and was hired to make the watch party "a more enjoyable experience."
Students who participated agreed the "clickers" made the evening a lot more fun.
For Katie Hepfinger of Brighton, "It was cool just seeing what other people thought. I was more conscious of what was being said." While she describes herself as "more of a liberal," Hepfinger said she attended the party because she wants to understand the issues.
Luke Phillips of Grand Blanc appreciated the more "participatory" feeling the technology added to the debate. "It gave us an opportunity to voice our opinions in a macro setting," he said. "And it helped curb the malaise."
While people moved in and out of the room during the event, Moss said the company has a way to track which keypad was used when, and that's on a spreadsheet included with all the data the university will receive. He said the university owns the data; the company can't release it without permission.
Survey results displayed during the watch party showed more than 40 percent of students moved on their support for candidates after the debate, with Romney and Newt Gingrich gaining ground. Drilling down, the data showed percentage of change in support was very similar among Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents.
Amanda Grzadziel attended the debate viewing party wearing an Obama T-shirt and bringing an open mind to hear from the Republican candidates.
The 23-year-old Royal Oak resident voted for Obama in 2008, and still supports the president, but said she is an "open-minded" person. While the Oakland University junior did not get heckled or harassed for being a Democrat at a Republican event, she did gain an interest in Mitt Romney and Herman Cain with his "999" flat tax plan.
"I think (Romney) looked the most presidential," Grzadziel said.
On the other side of the spectrum, Livonia resident and chair of the University of Michigan-Dearborn College Republicans Alexander Stuart felt Gingrich was the clear winner.
"The person I'm supporting didn't change," said Stuart, who is a communications major with a political science minor, "but I think debate-wise, Newt Gingrich came out on top. He had some of the best sound bites."
John Huntsman and Rick Santorum, on the other hand, lost ground in Stuart's opinion.
"Huntsman especially. I think he did the worst ... He got no applause," Stuart said.