The third and final presidential debate of the 2016 election – held on campus at UNLV – was the third most-watched debate ever. The event captured the world’s attention and placed UNLV squarely in the spotlight.
The debate was front and center at UNLV throughout 2016. From special election-themed courses this fall, free public lectures featuring national experts, updated campus signage, and a host of debate-inspired campus spirit rallies, UNLV and Las Vegas embraced the historic event.
By mid-October, several thousand national and international media members converged on Las Vegas to cover the debate. The university and its partners conducted hundreds of interviews related to the presidential debate and election, highlighting faculty experts, students and community leaders. CNN and MSNBC broadcast live programming from the heart of UNLV’s campus the day before and day of the debate.
While we can't come close to capturing them all here, below are a few of our favorite stories from the debate.
Preparing for the Big Day
Preparations for the Oct. 19 debate began more than a year in advance, but planning officially kicked off with a January rally at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion. Several more events throughout the year – from campus spirit rallies to free public lectures – kept the community’s attention squarely on the big event and what it means for UNLV and Southern Nevada.
Campus Rallies and Lectures
- KSNV-TV, KLAS-TV, Las Vegas Sun, and Las Vegas Review-Journal stories covering January's kick-off rally
- KTNV-TV, KSNV-TV, and KLAS-TV highlight a September rally
- Las Vegas Review-Journal (lecture)
- KSNV-TV stops by a watch event
- KNPR Radio
- Las Vegas Sun, KSNV-TV, KVVU-TV, KTNV-TV, and KLAS-TV capture campus preparations
- Information Week
As the campus planned for the event more than a year out, a common thread was to maximize opportunities for students. More than a dozen special debate and/or election-themed courses were developed, national experts delivered a special lecture series, close to 1,000 students signed on to volunteer for debate-related activities (with several hundred inside the perimeter on debate day), and more than 200 students were able to experience the debate in person. Student journalists covered the debate from the media center, and hundreds of students attended watch events throughout campus on debate night.
UNLV and LVCVA also formed a strong partnership with the Clark County School District, working with the district on an essay contest for high school students, special watch events where middle and high school debate teams interacted with UNLV’s nationally ranked squad, and on curricular opportunities for younger students.
- KSNV-TV, KTNV-TV, KUNV Radio, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal on CCSD partnership
- KSNV-TV (Essay Contest)
- KNPR Radio on UNLV classes and teachable moments
- KSNV-TV and the Las Vegas-Review Journal on debaters watching the debate
- MTV News captures student reaction to the debate
Live From (and above) UNLV
During debate week, CNN and MSNBC broadcast programming live from the heart of UNLV’s campus. As part of the coverage, UNLV students, faculty, and administrators participated in interviews, rallied the crowds, or just took a moment to watch their favorite programs and anchors. UNLV’s nationally ranked debate team debated the debate on national television, while a few of UNLV’s esteemed experts hit the Strip and took to the air to explain what makes Las Vegas so unique.
- Las Vegas Review-Journal, KSNV-TV, Las Vegas Sun, and Kats check in on final preparations for the Super Bowl of debates
- MSNBC (President Jessup)
- MSNBC (Debate Team)
- CNN (Debate Expert)
- Jimmy Kimmel Live
- ABC News talks debate from above the city
- CNN Facebook Live with debate team
- Huffington Post
- CBS News on the Strip and the election
Need an Expert?
In addition to tremendous coverage for the UNLV brand generally, our faculty and staff were featured experts on debate week. The media relations team sent targeted pitches, fielded hundreds of media requests, and pitched experts at five on-campus media "pop ups," during debate hall b-roll tours, and within the media center in the days leading up to and on debate day. UNLV faculty conducted well over 400 interviews in the lead up to the 2016 election – many on debate week.
In addition to thousands of national media, UNLV welcomed hundreds of foreign journalists from top media organizations throughout the world - many of whom walked our campus and spoke with our students and faculty at on-campus events or in the debate venue.
Media reports estimate that more than 70 million people watched the Oct. 19 event – live from UNLV – making it the third most-watched debate ever. The total media value to UNLV and Las Vegas for the debate topped $113 million. This is positive brand recognition for the university that simply couldn’t be achieved otherwise.
Catch more stories, stats, and scenes from the historic event on UNLV's Presidential Debate website