Penn Biden Center engages students in The Democracy Project

About 25 students took part in the first of four national events aimed at deepening the understanding of young Americans' attitudes about democracy.

The Penn Biden Center’s director of programs, partnerships, and strategic planning Ariana Berengaut (far left) and strategic consultant Jeffrey Prescott (second from left) lead student focus groups on campus as part of The Democracy Project.

Members of The Democracy Project, a joint enterprise of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, Freedom House, and the George W. Bush Institute, were at Penn Oct. 16 to launch the first of four events aimed at engaging college students in the Project’s bipartisan initiative to strengthen support for fundamental democratic values. 

Antony Blinken, Penn Biden Center
Antony Blinken, managing director of the Penn Biden Center, conducts a focus group.

About 25 students took part in discussion groups led by Penn Biden Center staff Ariana Berengaut, director of programs, partnerships, and strategic planning; Antony Blinken, managing director; and Jeffrey Prescott, strategic consultant, along with Lindsay Lloyd of the Bush Institute and Sarah Repucci of Freedom House. The focus group was one of a series of events planned at university campuses across the country to deepen understanding of young Americans’ attitudes about democracy. 

Together with Jeffrey Green, professor and director of Penn’s Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, and Scotty Reifsnyder, lecturer in the Penn School of Design, the three organizations hosted an in-depth discussion on the health of American democracy. The students shared insights that challenged conventional thinking and raised questions, particularly on the long-term consequences of heightened political polarization. During the fall semester, students in Reifsnyder’s PennDesign class will work on transforming messages in support of democracy into posters.

Student-holds-The Democracy Project-report-in-her-lap-during-student-engagement-event-offered-by-the-Penn-Biden-Center
Students reviewed and shared insights on The Democracy Project report. 

During the next three weeks, the Penn Biden Center will co-host discussions at Arizona State University, Florida International University, and Southern Methodist University. The events are intended to make the survey findings available and understood to various audiences and to continue to expand the report though further engagement with various populations.

The Democracy Project, a polling research study released in June 2018, drew its findings from 10 focus groups and a nationwide telephone survey of 1,400 adults. The findings revealed that Americans consider it important to live in a democracy, but a clear majority see U.S. democracy getting weaker. 

By Ariana Berengaut

Students review The Democracy Project survey findings.