Political science professor Dennis Chong invited his Public Opinion and Voting Behavior class out for pizza at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria Tuesday night to unwind after taking their midterm earlier that day. Politics were still the focus at dinner, though – Chong wanted his students to watch the results roll in from Tuesday’s primaries in Indiana and North Carolina.
“This is one of the most exciting elections in recent years,” Chong said. “It’s quite unusual that primaries have lasted this long and that it has attracted a lot of new voters.”
About 20 students headed to the restaurant at 1850 Sherman Ave., and early in the dinner, CNN announced Senator Barack Obama’s victory in North Carolina and CBS News projected Senator Hillary Clinton’s win in Indiana.
Weinberg sophomore Asrar Khan said he was not surprised by Clinton’s win in Indiana but wanted to hear what his fellow students thought about the close Democratic race.
“This was something I wanted to be able to discuss with other people,” Khan said. “I took this class because of what’s going on right now.”
In between news updates, several class topics carried over to dinner as Chong’s students discussed who they support, their predictions for the November election, the role of race in presidential politics and their assessments of the candidates’ campaigns.
“After this class, it makes you more skeptical about polls,” Communication senior Leah Nelson said. “But so many Americans take them for granted and read too much into them.”
When Obama’s victory speech was broadcast, nearly everyone present was fixated on the TV screen. Even diners from other tables gravitated toward the students’ area to get a better view. There was little conversation aside from a few comments hastily whispered to neighbors.
NU’s political science department held a similar event the night of the Illinois primary earlier this year. Undergraduate and graduate students mingled with faculty and American politics buffs in the department, ate pizza and watched the primary results, said Peggy Graves, administrative coordinator for the political science department. Chong coordinated Tuesday night’s event independent of the department.
College Democrats President Lily Becker, said this year’s presidential primaries have overshadowed discussions of other political topics.
“Over the past few months the primaries have been an essential issue that we talk about,” the Weinberg junior said. “Even if we have other topics we usually revert to that.”
As the delayed results from Indiana trickled in, only a handful of students remained. Late into the night, major news networks like CNN reported that the race in Indiana was “too close to call” before projecting a Clinton victory. Most students left to finish homework or study for other midterms.
“In American politics, young voters are generally less interested and turn out at low rates,” Chong said. “But the Democratic primaries this year have sparked interests in these groups.”
Across campus on Tuesday evening, students tuned in to watch the primary results from North Carolina and Indiana. Communication freshman Lauren Kudsi, a member of the “Northwestern for Hillary” Facebook group, was in class Tuesday evening focused on her laptop and the primaries. She said Hillary supporters plan to get together on May 20 to watch the results from the next big round of primaries: Kentucky and Oregon.
“Exact plans aren’t set yet, but we’ll do something,” said Kudsi, who is interning for Hillary’s campaign this summer in Washington D.C. “We’re all watching the primaries but unfortunately not together (Tuesday) night.”
Nelson, the campus coordinator for the official chapter of NU Students for Barack Obama watched the primaries at Lou Malnati’s with her class. A fellow Students for Obama member, Chenault Taylor, spent Tuesday night on the couches in her sorority house with her eyes trained on a television. The group didn’t organize an event to watch the primaries, but several group members spent this past weekend knocking on doors and canvassing in Indiana.
“I’m sure everyone will continue to stay involved through the general election,” said Taylor. Taylor usually spends the nights of primaries in downtown Chicago at Obama’s headquarters.
Emily Glazer and Karina Martinez-Carter contributed to this article.