These would-be political pundits, who represented a cross-section of the country, are not old enough to vote, but they had no shortage of observations. What did they think about the much-anticipated debate?
"I found the debate very informative," said 16-year-old Staci Boardman from Wheatland, Indiana. "I've never watched a debate before or any political program for an hour and a half but it kept my interest."
"Senator John Kerry did a better job in this foreign policy debate," said Rashad Drakeford, 16, of Queens, N.Y. "Going into the debate I honestly thought President Bush would do better because he has a lead in the polls, which takes the pressure off."
A complete interview with the five teenagers will be featured in the October 11 of Teen Newsweek, one of 16 award-winning magazines published by Weekly Reader Corporation. Their quotes will also appear on the Weekly Reader's Website, http://www.weeklyreader.com.
Students nationwide also weighed in on the debate. Weekly Reader posted an overnight poll on the Election Headquarters Central section of its Website, asking students what the top issue was, how the debate changed their opinions, and what issues they would like to see addressed at the next debate. The responses to the poll were varied, but respondents agreed on several key points. When given four choices, the majority of teens felt that terrorism was the most important issue.
What did they like best about the debate? More than half of teen respondents nationwide cited the extended 30-second rebuttals. Students commented this allowed them to see the candidates react under pressure. Their least favorite parts? President Bush's facial expressions and Senator Kerry's "lack of interest" when the president was speaking got the thumbs down from teens.
The top question of the night was, of course: Which candidate did the better job? The majority of teen reporters said Senator John Kerry appeared to be the winner. Students said the Senator appeared more confident and explained his policy better.
Is there anything the teens would change in next week's debate? Many students said they would like a section where the candidates can ask each other questions.