Story at a glance
- Young voter turnout saw a sizable bump in the 2018 midterm election, a trend projected to carry into the upcoming presidential election.
- Many Generation Z-ers have reached voting age since the 2016 presidential election, now making up a larger portion of the electorate.
- Members of Generation Z are known for having strongly held and widely vocalized beliefs, and more members of Gen Z identify as LGBTQ+ than any generation before.
Throughout 2020, members of Generation Z have been making headlines for some pretty unorthodox demonstrations of their political views — from bombarding far-right Twitter hashtags with Korean pop (K-pop) content or rallying on video platform TikTok to promote a mass purchase of Trump rally tickets.
According the the Pew Research Center, Generation Z, those born in 1996 or later, is the most pro-government and anti-Trump generation. With that being said, they do not hold the same party alliances of former generations, choosing instead to cast their ballots depending on a specific candidate’s platform. The outspoken generation will also represent 1 in 10 of all eligible voters in the upcoming presidential election.
What Gen Z voters care about
Gen Z voters see the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement as the two most important events of their lifetimes, according to a recent survey by Morning Consult, and the stances that the current presidential candidates take on these key issues are likely to have a huge effect on who these young voters will head to the polls for in November.
Experts are also calling this presidential election the last stand of the baby-boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, and the race between President Trump and former Vice President Biden for the Oval Office will represent the first time that voting will be dominated by generations younger than 40.
“America is moving from largely white, baby-boomer-dominated politics and culture in the second half of the 20th century to a more racially diverse country fuelled by younger generations: millennials, Gen z-ers and their juniors,” says Bill Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.
In fact, voter turnout rates increased the most for the Millennial generation in the last few years, almost doubling between 2014 and 2018 from 22 percent to a whopping 42 percent. Gen Z is also set to make up more than 10 percent of this year’s electorate, finally surpassing the Silent Generation. These youngest voting Americans have only deepened many of the political trends favored by millennials, and almost half of them are expected to be non-white.
First time voters step up to the plate
“With only a few short weeks until election day — and with early and mail voting starting even sooner — it’s critical that young people are registering to vote and using their voices to lift up the issues that are the most important and personal to them,” says a representative from the Human Rights Campaign.
The LGBTQ+ advocacy group has been working with their appointed Youth Ambassadors on a series of videos to help rally excitement in young voters for the upcoming election, asking current and former ambassadors such as Armando Hernandez Jr. (he/him), Ace Auker (they/them), and MaKayla Humphrey (she/her) to share their stories and the personal reasons behind why they are dedicated to turning out to vote.
“Not only am I queer, not only am I a lesbian, I am an African American. I am a female. I don’t want to just vote for my queerness and my LGBTQ+ community, I also want to vote for all of my marginalized identities,” says Humphrey.
At only 20 years old, Humphrey is a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. “I am a very hard worker and attend college in East Texas,” says Humphrey. “There I study all levels of physical education and I aspire to be a basketball coach. I decided to be a coach because I didn’t have a coach that just focused on developing me as a basketball player, they wanted to change my sexual orientation.
“Voting is very important because we need change. We need officials who are for all people and not just some. We need officials that care about our LGTBQ+ health. And the killing of trans people every single day. We don’t need officials that have hate in their hearts. We need laws put in place to protect LGBTQ individuals. If we placed officials who would actually help the world be equal, everyone would be able to prosper and this world would be a happy and peaceful world like God intended.”
Humphrey is far from alone when it comes to her generation’s advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. In fact, more than half of Gen Zers do not identify as strictly heterosexual. Recent studies have also shown that young people who identify as LGBTQ+ have reported higher levels of engagement on seven separate measures of political and civic participation, according to The Conversation.
They are roughly twice as likely as their straight counterparts to report attending a political rally or demonstration, donating money to a political campaign or contacting an elected official, and are much more likely to engage in online political activism, whether that involved signing a petition, posting about an issue that mattered to them or following or liking a political campaign.
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