09/29/2016 07:43 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2017

Debate Night Disillusion: Millennials want Pragmatism

By, Molly McElwee

More than 84 million people tuned in to watch the first Presidential Debate of the 2016 race, making it the most watched in debate history. That number does not include the thousands of people glued to the coverage at watch parties, which were hosted across the country.

At the Millennial Action Project and Party Politics DC watch party we heard from millennials prior to the debate and former National Press Secretary at Bernie 2016, Symone D. Sanders, said young people wanted the candidates to talk about their policies: "46% of millennials identify as independents, they are not party loyalists, so they want to know 'What are you [the candidate] going to do for me?'"

The millennials in attendance concurred with this idea. James Hayes-Barber said he wanted the debate to focus on real issues and "practical solutions". Steven Olikara, founder of the Millennial Action Project, followed a similar rhetoric; referencing the candidates' lack of focus on core issues affecting millennials, like campaign finance and election reform.

"I think the biggest thing the candidates can do is the one thing they're probably not going to do tonight," Olikara mused, "and that's speak through how they're going to revitalize our democracy and instill confidence and trust back into our political system."

Perhaps Olikara's own preemptive disillusionment is a representation of the millennial demographic as a whole. A Gallup poll this week cited only 47% of millennials as certain they would be exercising their right to vote on November 8.

The overriding message from the watch party panel clearly tackled this issue, encouraging millennial engagement and reminding them that their vote and their "voice" was a vital part of the political process, even if they felt let down by the choice of candidates.