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Penn State Students React To First Presidential Debate

Freshman Sharif Fouda at the American School of Doha in Doha, Qatar.
Sharif Fouda
Freshman Sharif Fouda says he'll either vote for Joe Biden or not at all.

Many Penn State students tuned in to Tuesday night's presidential debate between President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. 


Freshman Sharif Fouda didn’t watch the whole debate, but said the parts he did watch were enough to sway his vote. 


“The debate was a good opportunity to just see what each candidate was like, and having watched it, I think it just pushed me towards Biden more,” Fouda said. 


Fouda was born in the United States but moved to Qatar when he was eight years old. Fouda came back to America three months ago to start college at Penn State and said he didn’t really have an opinion about either candidate before the debate. 


After watching Trump and Biden go head to head, Fouda said he will either vote for Biden or not vote at all in the first presidential election where he is old enough to vote. 


Throughout the debate, Fouda found himself questioning a lot of what Trump said. He did some fact checking afterward and decided not to believe the president’s attacks. 


“I feel like Trump’s lost credibility over the years, since he is our president, and just listening to Trump say things about Biden, I dismissed most of the things he said as not true,” Fouda said.


Fouda found Trump’s interruptions funny, but thought they reflected badly on him. Fouda believed Biden acted more like a president and won, despite the differing beliefs he saw on social media. 


Unlike Fouda, Senior psychology major Tahrier Faruque thought nobody won the debate. 


“I think both of them really didn’t handle themselves well," Faruque said. "I did have a bit of like high expectations because now is the time to debate and really show your true colors but they really, both of them, blew it.” 


Faruque is the treasurer of Penn State’s chapter of Turning Point USA, a right-leaning organization aimed at college students. 


Senior Tahrier Faruque poses for a picture.
Credit Tahrier Faruque
Senior Tahrier Faruque says she'll vote for Donald Trump.


Faruque said she supports Trump but thinks the way he handled himself was unprofessional. Faruque believes Trump would have won easily if he’d let Biden speak more. 


But the debate didn’t change Faruque’s intentions to vote for Trump. Faruque said she agrees with him on the economy, immigration and taxes. 


“He aligns with my political views, and I always tell this to everyone: it’s policy over personality," Faruque said. "I do support his policy. He seems to be like the only president that stands his ground.” 


Freshman Jacob Malizio’s vote also remained unchanged after the debate. The double major in public relations and theater studies still plans to vote for Biden. Malizio thinks Biden exceeded expectations Tuesday night. 


“Joe, honestly, he did way better than I thought he was going to do," Malizio said. "I was kind of nervous, but I was impressed. I thought he pulled through. He was clear in his points. He was concise. And I thought he did a great job.” 


Freshman Jacob Malizio leans against a brick wall.
Credit Jacob Malizio
Freshman Jacob Malizio says he's supporting Democratic candidate Joe Biden.


Malizio said Trump dominated the debate, but through inappropriate comments and personal attacks. 

Malizio said the next president must address racial tensions, protect LGBTQ rights, and—most importantly—restore peace within the United States. 


“I think over the past four years, we have been so polarized, and it’s gotten really ugly, so I think Joe Biden will be able to heal this nation and bring them back together,” Malizio said. 


The next presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami and the single vice-presidential debate will be Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City. 


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