COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Thousands of American college students participated in real-time polling while watching the first presidential debate, and their views were dramatically different from those featured in other instant-reaction polls.
The results showed young people are more likely to agree with President Barack Obama and have mixed opinions toward Mitt Romney.
According to the results from React Labs, an online polling app developed by University of Maryland Professor Phillip Resnik, much stronger “disagree” responses were registered for Romney than for Obama among the 3,767 people who reacted during the debate on Wednesday night.
Sixty percent of participants said they plan to vote for Obama, while just 24 percent plan to vote for Romney, despite the fact that 52 percent said they believed the Republican challenger won the first debate.
In polls from CNN and CBS News, the majority of debate-watchers found that Romney was the winner.
More than 170 college instructors enrolled with React Labs, signing up about 12,000 students.
The React Labs results show that Obama received the most positive responses to his comments about eliminating corporate tax breaks, while Romney’s best lines concerned his plans to promote energy independence and foreign trade to improve the economy.
“My attitude is, if you got a corporate jet,” Obama said, “you can probably afford to pay full freight, not get a special break for it. … Part of the way to do it is to not give tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas.”
College students responded most negatively to Romney’s positions on energy policy.
“If I’m president, I’ll double [federal oil and gas leases], and also get the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring that [Keystone XL] pipeline in from Canada. … I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal,” Romney said during the debate.
Before the first debate, several polls showed a closely divided nation. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Obama with a three-point advantage among likely voters. In Quinnipiac University’s national poll, the president had 49 percent support, while Romney had 45 percent.
React Labs runs on most smartphones and allows participants to register immediate reactions to what candidates are saying during a debate, using button taps and answering pre- and post-debate survey questions and questions throughout the event.
“React Labs had a remarkable debut last night, with React Labs: Educate bringing in responses from more than 3700 students across the country,” Resnik said of his company’s technology, which “can tap into people’s instantaneous, moment by moment reactions on a large scale.”