Banner reading Democracy, with three figures making v signs with their hands.

With the ongoing Democratic primary elections, Team Kenan took to the couch to find out what Duke students think about democracy. Many students think democratic system is ideal. However, they worry whether with America’s current state of political polarization, socioeconomic stratification, and barriers to voting, if democracy can truly exist?

Duke students had differing views on the role of government. One student remarked, “Government involvement is sometimes too strong. It keeps us from making informed decisions.” Another student said, “Government involvement is good in theory” but was unsure of how the government would realistically function in a democracy. Generally speaking, students were quick to express reservations about excessive government involvement but did not provide specifics on how the government should be involved in housing, taxation, or healthcare. 

We then steered the conversation back to campus, specifically the Young Trustee Elections. We asked whether Duke was in any way democratic, in the way that student groups and classes are structured. From students’ responses, it appeared that few were genuinely invested in voting for a Young Trustee. The role of Young Trustee, to many Duke students who stopped by the couch, seemed more symbolic than effective in advocating for undergraduates. Yet, for any democracy to function, people must be actively engaged and people must vote.

Democracy is a loaded conversation topic–as we progress through the 2020 elections, students will likely have changing insights and opinions. Perhaps this is a topic that we will have to revisit on the couch in the near future.