Respect Equality

Economy, racial justice and abortion access among top concerns for Gen Z voters of color

A new report hopes to determine what it will take to encourage voters to cast their ballots.
(Max Becherer/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP, File)

Story at a glance


  • The Advancement Project, NAACP, UnidosUs, National Congress of American Indians and Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum each conducted polls of their community.

  • The report found that 87 percent of voters believe that abortion should be legally protected.

  • Half of the respondents believe they can positively change abortion access and the economy through voting.

Inflation, abortion access and racial justice issues are among the top concerns for Generation Z voters of color, according to a report between leading racial justice organizations released Thursday.  

The Advancement Project, NAACP, UnidosUs, National Congress of American Indians and Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum each conducted polls of their community to directly connect with potential voters, understand their values and priorities and determine what it will take to encourage voters to cast their ballots.  

Focusing on voters on the key battleground states of Michigan, Florida, Georgia and Virginia, the report conducted with HIT Strategies found that 87 percent of voters believe that abortion should be legally protected. Half of the respondents believe they can positively change abortion access and the economy through voting.  

“Young voters of color played a critical role in the 2020 elections and this midterm election is no different,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project. “The issues they care about and what motivates them to vote ultimately impact us all.”  

Overall, 40 percent of Gen Z respondents said they believe their vote has power to create police reform and 52 percent of voters believe their vote has a lot of or some power to make a change on abortion access. Forty-nine percent believe their vote has power to make a change on the economy.  

Still, young voters expressed very negative views on the state of the country today. Voters said they feel “discouraged,” “unhopeful,” “pessimistic” and “scared” about the way things are going in the country.  

For Black voters, the NAACP found that 44 percent of respondents believe racism and discrimination to be the most important issues facing the Black community today. Inflation and cost of living, plus criminal justice reform and police brutality, tied as the second most important issue. 

But Jamal Watkins, senior vice president of strategy and advancement at the NAACP, said other concerns like health care, abortion rights, voter suppression and public safety remain concerns of the African American electorate as well.  

“We realize that when you round up racism and discrimination, many of these issues actually fall as a subset of that broader category,” he explained. “So it ends up being catalytic in terms of how we capture this notion of racial equity and racial disparities because in many ways, it shows up in the job market, it shows up in health care, it shows up in ‘crime in my neighborhood.’”  

But the data also showed gender disparities within the Black community as well. 

Young Black voters and Black women in particular bore the brunt of the economic downturn from the pandemic more readily than even Black men, Watkins said.  

The result means women are looking at threats to their family and community and Black men are looking at what there is for themselves and the community to gain. 

One Black woman in Michigan identified the overturning of Roe v. Wade as a major concern because of what the future may bring.  

“As a Black woman, that’s very, very, very scary. I just want to see what else is going to come after this major thing that’s happening,” she said. 

Meanwhile, one man in Florida said gun violence is one of his top concerns.  

“I still have little brothers and sisters that are in grade school and stuff and I shouldn’t feel scared for them to go to school,” he said. “These are babies that are dying over guns. That’s not okay. If there was some type of voting or any type of protest or anything like that, I would definitely look into taking part in that.”  

What this shows, Watkins said, is that Black people are not a monolith. 

“Although we’re experiencing the world in similar ways, how we experience the solutions … may be nuanced,” he said. Therefore, messaging to turn out Black voters must be nuanced as well. 

Meanwhile, Clarissa Martinez, vice president at UnidosUs Latino Vote Initiative pointed to data that showed a majority of Latino voters believe abortion should be legal. 

“While there’s been … mistaken assumptions that Latinos are either opposed or divided on the issue, the reality is that 76 percent agree that no matter their own personal beliefs, it’s wrong to make abortion illegal and take that choice away from everybody else,” said Martinez. 

That number includes 76 percent of Latino Catholics and 68 percent of non-Catholic Christian Hispanics. 

The report also found that Hispanics are more aligned with the Democratic Party on most issues. Only about one-third of Latinos favored the Republican Party, which is generally in line with how Latinos have historically voted.  

Still, Martinez said, there’s been a narrative Latinos are apathetic, and that’s not true. Instead, she said voters feel there has been a lack of continued investment by either party into the community. 

“It doesn’t matter what party they’re in, they both do the same kinds of things,” said one Latina voter in Georgia. “There’s no real distinction between candidates.” 

It’s a trend that continues into the AAPI voting community.  

More than 50 percent of AAPI voters said they have not been contacted by either party in the past year, said Juliet K. Choi, President and CEO of Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. Despite this, nearly 75 percent of registered AAPI voters are motivated to vote.  

Health care is the No. 1 priority for the AAPI community, with nearly 90 percent of respondents identifying it as top of mind. Health care included access to women’s health care and abortion rights. Inflation and the economy ranked second and crime third for AAPI Gen Z voters.  

But the conversation around crime is nuanced and multidimensional, said Choi. 

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t underscore that in our conversations since George Floyd’s murder, racial equity and particularly this horrible modern chapter of anti-Asian hate, over 85 percent of our voters are looking for federal agencies, elected officials to do more to mitigate against anti-Asian hate,” she said. 

“Bottom line, our communities are eager [and] very enthusiastic to vote. However, our voices are underinvested, undercounted and we need to make sure we uplift not just AANHPI community voices but all of our voices in this multiracial democracy,” she concluded.