More members of Generation Z — age 18 to 25 — are politically left-leaning than right, the environment is the issue of their greatest concern, and a large majority plan to vote in the 2020 election.
These are among the findings of a new survey conducted by Generation Z expert Corey Seemiller, associate professor of leadership studies in education and organizations at Wright State University, and generational researcher Meghan Grace, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University.
The email survey was conducted from Oct. 9 through Nov. 26, 2019. Responses to the questions ranged from 821 to 1,213.
“This report highlights insight into the hearts and minds of those in Generation Z while also offering a blueprint for enhancing their political participation,” Seemiller and Grace write in their report, titled “Gen Z Voices on Voting.”
Members of Generation Z, born from 1995 through 2010, have been generally characterized as open-minded, compassionate and responsible. These qualities and life experiences are believed to play an important role in shaping their political views and potential voting behavior.
“Gen Z is ready to vote, but there are unique motivations, issues, and strategies that might help encourage them to do so,” said Seemiller. “This is the second presidential election for the oldest in Gen Z. As more turn 18, this bloc has the potential to have an even larger influence on the outcome of our elections.”
Key findings of the study:
- The majority of Gen Zers have clear political ideologies although fewer than 30% strongly identify with a party and 20% do not identify with a party at all.
- Far more Gen Zers are left-leaning than right-leaning. A total of 44% lean left while 22% lean right and 22% consider themselves in the center.
- Most Gen Zers believe candidates should be focusing on the environment, finances, health care and immigration. A fewer number list inclusion and equality, personal safety and education as issues of concern.
- Gen Zers use social media more than any other source to get political news. But friends, online news sites and parents are also important sources. A fewer number of Gen Zers rely on local and cable television, online news aggregators such as Google News, podcasts, online forums, blogs and local and satellite radio.
- Among Gen Zers eligible to vote, 86% said they plan to vote. Those who don’t plan to vote (4.4%) voiced feelings that their vote doesn’t matter.
- Gen Zers would be more motivated to vote if they believed their vote counted, voting was incentivized, more unbiased political information was available, if voting was easy and accessible and if they had support from friends and family in a nonjudgmental way.
Seemiller recommends that candidates connect directly with Gen Zers over things that matter, not just promise such things as free college tuition or student loan forgiveness.
“While these are important, this generation also has much broader concerns about other issues such as the environment, health care and the economy,” she said. “Most importantly, however, this generation wants to see authenticity, integrity and transparency in their leaders.”
Seemiller and Grace have written four books on Generation Z.
Their most comprehensive book, “Generation Z: A Century in the Making,” has chapters devoted to Gen Z views on education, politics, physical health, mental health, spirituality and religion, romance, risky behaviors, societal concerns, career aspirations, family and entertainment.
Their first book, “Generation Z Goes to College,” was largely for a higher education audience as Generation Z was just coming to college. The second, “Generation Z Leads,” is a handbook for designing leadership and service learning for Generation Z students. Their latest book, “Generation Z Learns,” is a handbook on best practices in teaching and learning with Generation Z.