How do Gen Z and Millennials view their relationship with politics?

Right before Tuesday’s election, we asked a group of Gen Z/Millennials about their political opinions and how they view their relationship with politics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Gen Z-ers and Millennials and now make up the majority of eligible voters.

In an increasingly polarized America, having political opinions is strongly encouraged within younger demographics because it is their opinion that will influence future elections and determine the future of America. From our group of young voters, we wanted to find out why these individuals found certain issues more pressing than others and how solidified they were in their political beliefs.

We began by asking if they felt as if they had strong political beliefs. Almost half of the responders felt as if they did have strong political beliefs. In fact, all responders claimed to hold either strong or somewhat strong political beliefs. Nobody claimed to have no political opinions.

We also were interested in their willingness to consider different political stances, so we followed up by asking about their political relationship. We offered several ways to define a relationship with politics, using VotingSmarter lingo:

  • “Single and ready to mingle.”
  • You’re not bound to any specific political agenda, you just see what you like and go with it.
  • “We’re hanging out.”
  • You’re in the early stages of doing more research on a political agenda that may interest you. No commitments yet, though.
  • “We’re in a relationship.”
  • You are/have been committed to a specific political agenda and you don’t plan on leaving it any time soon.
  • “Open relationship.”
  • You are committed to a specific political agenda, but you’re still open to the ideas of different political agendas.

Interestingly enough, although almost half of the responders claimed to have strong political beliefs in the first question, almost the same number described themselves as either “single and ready to mingle” (blue) or “in an open relationship” (green) with politics. This suggests that for some Gen Z/Millennials, having strong political beliefs does not mean a strong affiliation with any political party or agenda. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2018, “Millennials remain more likely than those in older generations to call themselves independents…”, and a 2014 survey conducted by Politico revealed that more than half of millennials described themselves as independents. It is still worth noting that almost 30% of responders did claim to be in a committed relationship with a political agenda, and 22.2% of responders were in the early stages of aligning themselves with a specific political agenda.

Next, we wanted to know what specific issues Gen Z/Millennials found to be the most important. We listed out the 16 VotingSmarter key issues, and here were the results:

Within the group of responders, the three key issues that were found to be the most important were climate change (59.3%), education (51.9%), and jobs/economy (48.1%). It isn’t surprising that climate change is the leading issue within this group. According to a 2018 Gallup analysis, 70% of Americans aged 18–34 are worried about the effects of climate change. Even more, according to 2018 and 2019 surveys conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, “…younger generations rank global warming higher in voting issue priority than do older generations.” With climate change as an issue that will have the most impact on the lives of younger voters, it is possible that they find the issues more pressing than voters whose lives aren’t as impacted by climate change.

Additionally, as many Gen Z/Millennials are still in school, it is no surprise that education was the second most voted for issue within the group. The 2020 election brings up two very different education policies, particularly concerning student loans and debt. In President Trump’s proposed 2021 budget, there are increased cuts and restrictions on student loan programs. Vice President Biden’s plan includes deducting $10,000 off of all current student debt and making two years of community college and vocational school free. For Gen Z/Millennials who are currently in, or just leaving, college, education is an understandable priority.

Along the lines of education, joining the workforce is an issue that many Gen Z/Millennials are facing or will face in the near future. With the current state of the job market and the economy being what it is, the next president’s approach to revitalizing the market will have drastic effects on many Gen Z/Millennial lives.

Apart from these three issues, abortion and healthcare together received votes from around 60% of responders, and while most other issues received a vote from an average of 10% of responders, there were zero votes for debt/budget and drugs.

Going one step further to try and determine why certain issues were more important than others to the group of responders, we asked them why they found the three issues they had voted for in the previous question to be the most important. Here are some of their responses:

The 2020 election has brought in a new wave of excited young voters, in the highest proportions in years. Gen Z and Millennial voters are the deciders of the future of America and over the next couple of election cycles that will become more and more clear.

If you weren’t able to vote in the 2020 election, there are still the mid-term elections in 2022, and it’s never too early to register. Click here to find out how to register in your state.

*Disclaimer: the opinions of the group of individuals surveyed do not reflect that of all Gen Z/Millennials, nor do they reflect the opinions of VotingSmarter.

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