Student Views On the 2020 Democratic Primary


Photo Credit: Common Dreams

As we watch how these former and continuing candidates are addressing our current situation, we would like to look back at SHC student perspectives from earlier in the presidential race. Ms. Duffort and Ms. Phelan, Co-Moderators of The Emerald

In anticipation for the 2020 elections, many surveys have been conducted, polling the voters’ favorite candidates and issues. However, a majority of these surveys target registered and eligible voters and exclude a large group of future voters. While this makes sense in terms of determining the electability of a given candidate, it is important to know what candidates and issues high school students care about for coming elections. Although only about 10% of SHC students are eligible to vote in the primary, all of them said that they are planning on voting in the next election. This is important because less than 50% of eligible voters aged 18-29 voted in the 2016 presidential election. 

We surveyed the entire school in order to get data on which presidential candidates students were interested in for the democratic primary, the issues they care about most, whether they watched the debates, and whether they are eligible and planning to vote in the primary. We chose to focus on the democratic candidates in order to mirror a survey conducted regularly by the New York Times. In this article, we will be focusing on the most recent results from the week of November 25th, 2019. 

When asked which candidates they are most interested in, an overwhelming 23.4% of students said they are interested in Kamala Harris as the democratic nominee compared to the 4% from Democratic voters. This can be attributed to the name recognition and popularity from many years of working in California and San Francisco. Interestingly, Kamala Harris dropped out of the race before the publishing of this article– demonstrating her relative popularity at SHC.

Potentially more shocking is the contrast between Joe Biden’s position as the frontrunner in the national primary, polling 27% of Democratic voters, compared to only 6.3% of SHC students. However, of the SHC students interested in Joe Biden, 75% said the issue they’re most concerned about is defeating Trump: in other words, electability. We can conclude from this that the students who are most inclined to vote for Biden are voting for him because he is the candidate most likely to be elected into office as the Democratic nominee. 

Notably, Elizabeth Warren, the runner-up after Biden, polling 22% nationally, only polled 10.9% of SHC students. This could be because Warren wins only 11% of voters aged 18-29, and her support increases with voters’ age. 

Bernie Sanders was one of the only candidates who experienced similar polling results from the SHC students and the Democratic voters. 17.2% of SHC students and 18% of voters are interested in him as the Democratic nominee. 

Of the SHC students who are eligible to vote in the primary, one-third are interested in Pete Buttigieg, who won only 10.9% of all SHC students. One-third of eligible student voters don’t know who they’re voting for yet and the remaining support is divided between 11% Elizabeth Warren and 22% Kamala Harris fans. 

When asked which issues they were most concerned about, over one-third of SHC students answered climate change. With recent scientific discoveries and press, climate change, specifically the need for environmental regulation, has been a heated element of many debates. There is also a lot of awareness about climate change at SHC, from the sustainability of the cafeteria to Ms. Nastari sorting through trash at lunch. 

Another big issue, with one-fifth of SHC students saying it is their most important issue, is gun control. After several recent mass shootings, students have become much more involved in this issue by arranging protests and skipping school to march in them. Along with this, unfortunately, students have become more aware in order to stay safe in their own schools. This involves keeping up with the news and recent mass shootings and learning more about gun safety and legislation, as many more students have begun doing. 

Recently, a national study was conducted of Democrats’ most important issue, which turned out to be affordable healthcare. However, when polling SHC students, affordable healthcare was only a major issue for just over 10% of students. This is likely because most minors haven’t had to figure out their own healthcare plans or insurance yet. 

Evidently, student views on the 2020 election are very different from those of the overall electorate. It’ll definitely be interesting to see which issues and candidates prevail!