Here are the key issues Trump and Clinton didn’t address during Sunday night’s debate

Allison Hamburg

By the end of the second presidential debate, Fusion host Alicia Menendez noticed that something was awry.

Recent polls–including the Fusion Issues Poll of millennials–confirm that these issues are among the most important to young voters, especially young voters of color, yet none of them were discussed substantially in either the first or the second presidential debate.

So if the moderators and candidates won’t break down the issues, we will.


81% of 18-to-35-year-olds polled by Fusion said that “they favor a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants who arrive in the U.S. as children, or who have U.S. citizen children.” As Fusion reported, that puts them well to the left of the GOP candidate’s stance. And 78% of those polled by Fusion said they wanted to maintain the 14th amendment, which gives citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. Trump famously questioned this “birthright” citizenship at the beginning of this campaign—although denying U.S.-born babies passports did not make it into his updated 10-point immigration plan released in August.

Of all these issues, immigration has gotten the most discussion on the debate stages. The topic made its way into the second debate after an audience question about Islamophobia and moderator Martha Raddatz’s follow-up on Trump’s Muslim ban prompted a discussion of the vetting of Syrian refugees.

What’s left to discuss about immigration? What about 6-year-old daughter of undocumented immigrants Sophie Cruz’s question submitted for the consideration of the debate moderators: “What happens to me if you deport my parents?”

Student debt

Washington University freshman Albert Wu managed to get the issue of student debt more airtime than it has gotten in both presidential debates so far.

Wu, 18, became a minor internet celebrity and $600 dollars richer after he held up a sign saying “student debt sucks,” along with his Venmo username in the background of CNN’s debate coverage this weekend.

Wu said the burden of student debt affected his decision when choosing universities, and affects his peers as they choose jobs, so he believes young voters would pay attention if candidates discussed the issue further.

“We’re having this debate on a college campus. It should be a priority,” Wu told me on the phone, speaking about student debt. “There’s an audience of students watching.”

While Bernie Sanders made combatting student debt a centerpiece of his campaign, Clinton mentioned student debt only in passing during the first debate. She has, however, outlined a plan on her website to lower the rising cost of a college education. Trump’s economic position page mentions that student loan debt accounts for $1.3 trillion of the national debt, but doesn’t mention any specific plans to lower it.

According to the Fusion Issues 2016 poll, 40% of 18- to 35-year-olds have taken out one or more loans to pay for their education. Six in 10 of those polled said student loans are a source of stress in their lives.

Climate change

In the first debate, Clinton called out Trump for calling climate change a hoax, which he (falsely) denied. This time around, the candidates discussed the environment as it related to energy jobs, thanks to fan favorite Ken Bone. While climate change specifically has yet to come up on the debate stage, Vox summarized the main differences between Clinton and Trump’s climate platforms like this: “Hillary Clinton wants to use various regulatory levers at her disposal to nudge down US greenhouse gas emissions bit by bit.” As for her opponent, Vox’s Brad Plumer wrote, “Trump’s climate plan is even simpler: He doesn’t have one.”

52% of voters between 18 and 29 years old told Pew that the environment was “very important” to their vote this year.


While Trump’s comments about women became one of the first topics of the second presidential debate, a woman’s right to choose didn’t make it onto the stage like it did at the vice presidential debate last week, though Clinton did mention that she wanted a Supreme Court “that will stick Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose” when asked by an audience member about selecting a Supreme Court justice. Trump faced harsh criticism earlier this year for suggesting that “there must be some form of punishment” for women who receive abortions.

According to a Fox News Poll, 61% of voters under the age of 35 identified as pro-choice.