By Kevin Hornibrook
They were shocked by Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard’s fiery back-and-forth, they laughed at Cory Booker’s jab about Joe Biden’s stance on marijuana and they even let out a brief “woo!” when their favorite candidate took the stage.
Students filed into the Social Science Building Room 230 to see the Democratic Primary debate on Nov. 20. The watch party was co-sponsored by Student Government and Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honors society.
The audience was filled with fans of almost every candidate running for the nomination.
“Yang gang!” shouted one student immediately after entering the room.
Before the debate began, a poll was conducted to see which candidates students would vote for if the primary elections were held right then. A Chegg-College Pulse poll from Nov. 19 indicated that 35 percent of college students across the country prefer Bernie Sanders, leading Elizbeth Warren’s 24 percent and Andrew Yang’s 11 percent.
This pattern was not the case at the watch party, which showed a stark contrast to the national averages. Warren led all candidates with six votes, while Biden, Yang and Pete Buttigieg each earned three votes. Both Booker and Biden followed with two votes, while Gabbard had one. No one voted for Amy Klobuchar or Tom Steyer.
“One of the things Pi Sigma Alpha wanted to do this year was to become more visible on campus and create a space for people to have a political discourse in a structured way,” said Kiana Stockwell, a junior political science major president of PSA, and senator of SG. “We figured the debate was a good way to do that.”
The attendees arrived early to take advantage of the free pizza and mac and cheese, but they quickly shifted their attention once the debate began.
“Now that I’m actually watching it, it’s a lot more interesting than I thought,” said Michael Paolella, a freshman interactive multimedia major.
The debate was one of the last in the democratic primary, making it pivotal in shaping viewers’ and voters’ opinions. According to a FiveThirtyEight poll, 12.5 percent of voters were undecided on Election Day in 2016, and over 100 million didn’t show up to the polls.
“It’s so important that students are politically informed,” Paolella said. “I think in the last election, a lot of people didn’t vote, which was a big contribution to the result. It’s important to know who you’re voting for and why you’re doing it. Events like this help with that.”
Despite the debate being between Democrats, students with varying political beliefs came to watch.
“I personally like the community it brings together,” Stockwell said. “Even though it is a Democratic debate, there’s really no tension in the room, and (PSA and SG) would be open to sponsorships with both TCNJ Dems and TCNJ Republicans. It’s to foster political discourse and watch the debate in a community that cares about politics.”