Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has emerged as the most popular Democratic presidential candidate among University undergraduates, with 24.2 percent indicating that they would vote for her if the 2020 primary were held today, according to The Herald’s fall 2019 poll.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and entrepreneur Andrew Yang ’96 followed Warren’s lead, earning 12.2 percent and 10.1 percent of student support, respectively. The fourth and fifth polling places went to former Vice President Joe Biden with 8.7 percent and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, with 7 percent of the student body.
“I would have expected Warren and Sanders to be pretty much at the top of the list for Brown students,” said Richard Arenberg, visiting professor of the practice of political science. “However, I am somewhat surprised that her advantage is so great, but the general direction of the primary has clearly been trending in that direction, toward Warren really becoming the frontrunner.”
The gap between Warren and Sanders is substantially smaller among undergraduates nationally, according to an Oct. 15 poll from education technology company Chegg. Warren polled at 32 percent, followed by Sanders at 27 percent.
Members of Brown Students for Warren are encouraged by Warren’s lead on campus, said Nathaniel Pettit ’20, a coordinator of the group.
“I am not at all surprised that Elizabeth Warren is the candidate who resonates with a lot of Brown students,” Pettit said. “She’s progressive to her core, which is obviously a quality that a lot of Brown students value, but I think she’s also … obviously someone with a plan.”
The group has worked to involve students in Warren’s campaign by hosting debate watch parties, canvasing in New Hampshire and running a phone bank. Pettit emphasized Warren’s progressive policies in areas such as affordable housing and climate change as compelling to Brown students.
“She is truly the right person for the job and wouldn’t do it if she didn’t genuinely believe that,” Pettit said.
Brown Students for Bernie, on the other hand, was slightly disappointed that Sanders does not have more supporters on campus.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to … sway some of the people who marked that they didn’t know or they didn’t plan on voting and try to convince them how important the election is this year,” said Connor Johnson ’21, a member of Brown Students for Bernie. “We all sort of see him as the only candidate who will be able to … make the change that we need.” Sanders’s support for the Green New Deal, plan for universal health care and commitment to canceling student loan debt are also points of interest, Johnson added.
Tej Stead ’23, who is working to establish a student group in support of Yang, was pleasantly surprised to see Yang’s third-place ranking in the poll.
“It is significantly higher compared to his national polling average,” Stead said. “If 10.1 percent of people at Brown are supporting him, then it means that I am more easily able to connect with people who are supporters and hopefully organize things.”
Stead supports Yang because of his plans to establish a universal basic income of $1000 per month and manage the problems he anticipates will follow automation in various industries.
Automation is “something that other candidates are sort of brushing off, but it’s going to have major effects on the economy, and you need to have a plan to deal with the displaced workers,” Stead said.
Another factor that students may find compelling is Yang’s status as a Brown alum. “The fact that he’s an alum might give him a lot more weight than he might otherwise have in popular American politics,” said Ashley Chang ’23, who is not affiliated with Stead’s group.
Philip Yang ’21 is working to create a student organization in support of Buttigieg. Philip Yang is from South Bend, and he worked as an intern in Buttigieg’s office over the summer.
“Just doing that, being on the ground, seeing what Pete has done for the residents of South Bend was very inspiring,” Philip Yang said.
“I was a bit surprised that Joe Biden was polling higher than Pete,” Philip Yang said. He had expected that “Pete’s generational message would really resonate with the student body here” and was “pleasantly surprised … that there is a strong base of support for Pete here on campus.”
Philip Yang, who supports Buttigieg in part for his public option health care plan and Green New Deal endorsement, plans to hold meetings where students can talk about Buttigieg and his policies, and he hopes to garner support from undecided student voters.
Despite the support for more left-leaning candidates around campus, some students are concerned with their electability.
“Joe Biden could beat Donald Trump, but I am worried about the electability of the rest of them,” said Bintou Diarra ’23. There are currently no registered student groups to campaign for Biden, according to BearSync, and no group in support of Biden is currently seeking recognition, according to Undergraduate Council of Students Student Activities Chair Alex Song ’20.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Pete Buttigieg supports a single-payer health care plan. In fact, Buttigieg supports a health care plan that would include private health insurance. The Herald regrets the error.