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Class Project Predicts Leftward Shift for Young Democrats

Erika Liberati

For some college students, Super Tuesday was a day with a slightly-more-than-usual emphasis on politics. But for those in Professor Otis Sanford’s Opinion Writing and Reporting class at the University of Memphis, it was Debate Day.

In room 208 of the Meeman Journalism Building, the 16 students in Sanford’s class were tasked with deciding who they'd endorse for the Democratic presidential nomination if they were writing for the Op/Ed section of a newspaper.

The class split into four groups, each discussing their favored candidate. The leader of each team then presented their candidate to the class. The goal was to reach a consensus.

Results were divided at first. Two teams chose Bernie Sanders, one Joe Biden, and the last Elizabeth Warren.

When Professor Sanford asked the class why no one chose Bloomberg, the class erupted in laughter. 

As may be expected from a group of college students, their main concerns were healthcare, jobs and student debt.

For Jordin Jackson, who expects to graduate with debt, Biden’s proposed plan of two free years of college resonated with him.

“For me having so much debt, that’s huge,” Jackson said. "Just having any amount of time with free college, that’s crucial to me.”

Thirteen of the students said they had jobs while in college, while the same number were planning to incur more than $10,000 in debt.

For others, healthcare was at the top of their priorities list. Luke Chapman, an international student from London, U.K., isn't able to vote here. But having free healthcare in his country makes him wonder why Americans pay so much for it.

“I have a friend who’s $700 in debt because she had an MRI scan that didn’t even help her and that's sad to see, that’s difficult," he said. "And coming from a place with free healthcare, I could never see that."

Chapman was for Warren. So was his classmate, Sarah Johnson. She advocated for Warren because of her passion for the environment and urban development. She said she sees a lot of herself in Warren. 

“Just the more I read, the more I felt like she was the right candidate and I wasn’t able to be swayed by anything from Bernie or Biden,” Johnson said.

The class ultimately decided their consensus candidate would be Sanders, who won four states on Super Tuesday including a big one: California. But Biden won the night, along with the state of Tennessee.

One question is still up for debate: whether the former Vice President will ultimately win the youth vote.