Thursday, October 4, 2012

Group at Dole applies dials to Romney, Obama during debate

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

When Republican Mitt Romney said he would cut government funding to Public Broadcasting Service, a group of undecided and independent voters at the Dole Institute of Politics watching the first presidential debate moved their dials way down.

The 14 people were holed up in a room, moving individual dials to show how they felt about everything President Barack Obama and Romney said during the 90-minute debate that was held Wednesday at the University of Denver.

Outside the room, more than a 100 people sat and watched the debate on a large screen and followed the focus group's dial movements superimposed on the screen.

After the debate, Kansas University associate professor Mary Banwart asked the group members why they disapproved of Romney's verbal shot at PBS.

"I thought that was a stupid move," Kathie Stovall of Lawrence said as others around the table nodded in agreement. Stovall said she supported PBS.

Banwart also noted that during the debate, the group seemed to grade Romney down the more aggressive he became in pointing out differences between himself and Obama, than they did when Obama did the same thing to Romney.

Elaine Grosser of Eudora, and a registered Republican, said she felt Obama did a better job of explaining himself than Romney, and she said that she did not appreciate Romney's remarks that were publicized last month about 47 percent of the population being dependent on the government and in Obama's column.

"I don't think he is in touch with us," Grosser, 68, said of Romney. Her husband, Stewart, 73, and retired from the Navy, said he was undecided about who to support. He agreed with Obama on some issues, but added, "He (Obama) seems to hit a brick wall with Congress."

Later, he said he felt himself agreeing with Obama more during the debate. "I felt like Obama was giving stronger answers," he said.

Ashley Fielder, a senior accounting major at Kansas University, was in the focus group and said she appreciated Romney's business-like approach to certain issues.

Outside the focus group room, Abby Hughes, a sophomore at KU, watched the debate on the big screen and remained undecided.

"I don't think it swayed me, but it informed me," she said. Chris Lyons, also a KU student, agreed. He said he wasn't going to decide who to vote for based on a debate, but would study the candidates' positions.

Bill Lacy, director of the Dole Institute, said he believed both Romney and Obama did well. "I don't think there was a clear winner," he said.