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Forget The 2-Party System — Gen Z Wants A *New* Party System

Her Campus is on tour! In partnership with Future Caucus and DoSomething, the Her Campus Voices: Election 2024 Tour is coming to college campuses around the country to host conversations with students to get their insights and opinions as we approach the November election. First up, Michigan State University — here’s what the Spartans had to say about the two-party system and their desire for fresh candidates.

Throughout United States history, different political parties have shaped the nation. But none are more prominent or influential than the big two: The Democrats and The Republicans. While the United States technically operates on a multiple-party system, it’s undeniable that the Dems and the GOP are so prominent, the country effectively runs on a two-party system. This, it turns out, is a problem for many Gen Zers. 

According to Statistica, many Gen Zers don’t believe in the policial binary — about 35% actually identify as independent (compared to 27% who are Democrats and 22% who are Republicans). Those who identify as independent aren’t affiliated with any political party. Rather, independent voters make their choices based on specific issues rather than partisanship, meaning they can vote for a candidate of any party affiliation, or no affiliation at all. 

Even those who do identify as a Democrat or Republican struggle with the choices they’re being given in the 2024 presidential election, with the two presumed candidates being President Joe Biden (D) and former President Donald Trump (R). Both candidates have their fair share of detractors, according to Gen Zers, including the fact that they’ve both already had their chance to win over the young vote and have objectively failed to do so. On top of that, many Gen Zers are concerned by both presidents’ ages. “I don’t want to say that it’s like we’re living in a dystopian society, but that’s what it feels like sometimes, especially since our … two presidential candidates are [77] and 81,” MSU student Charlie B. tells Her Campus.

Because it’s highly unlikely for independent or third-party candidates to win major U.S. elections, many Gen Zers are left to grapple with the decision of whether to vote for the candidate they truly support (but has little hope of actually winning) or put their votes toward one of the two major candidates on the ballot, even if they don’t like either of them. That’s why so many Gen Zers, including many of the ones Her Campus spoke to at MSU, want to see the two-party system go away — or at the very least (and perhaps more realistically), get fresh, new candidates within the Republican and Democratic parties who they actually feel confident voting for.

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Josephine Sullivan

Gen Z voters are frustrated with the two-party system, but feel trapped by it.

Many G Zers support the idea of getting rid of two-party systems, but also acknowledge that the system would be challenging to topple. Despite that, many believe that having more choices than the big two would impact politics for the better. “George Washington said the two-party system is going to bite us in the butt someday day, and it did,” Charlotte P. says.

Madison R. agrees, “Historically, third parties never work. I feel like both parties know that.”

Although many young voters feel their vote is tainted by the two-party system, some believe they have no other choice but to vote within it because otherwise their vote is wasted.

This results in a crisis of choice for many who prefer a third-party candidate: Is the right choice to vote for the third-party candidate one truly prefers, or is the better strategy to go with the Republican or Democratic nominee they hate less? It seems this is where students are divided.

“We are so deep in the two-party system that it hurts, and it’s hard to see looking for another candidate as anything other than throwing away your vote,” Charlie B. says. “I don’t think we can afford to look for a third-party candidate [in this election cycle].”

Even those who have high hopes for doing away with the third party acknowledge it probably won’t happen in time to make an immediate impact. “I think we can [move away from the two party system] … it’s just going to take years to organize that,” Charlotte P. says. “We need to find a party that is genuinely on the people’s side, but that probably will take longer than a few months — we only have a few months.”

But Belma H. notes how alarming it is to succumb to the pressure to vote within the two-party system: “If you’re not able to vote for someone and feel confident and happy about your vote, then that’s a large, large issue.”

So, what needs to change?

Gen Zers want younger, less established candidates to vote for.

Many voters are struggling to determine which candidate is the better option within the two major parties as the country moves closer to the November election — and for some, the bar for who gets their vote feels all too low. (Or as Charlie B. puts it: “The bar should not be in Hell.”) 

With the two presumed presidential candidates both being men who have already held that office (and so many of the U.S. leaders being older, career politicians, many of whom have long family histories in politics) young voters are desperate for fresh faces who are more focused on serving their constituents rather than their careers. Some of those new voices these MSU students — plus the Gen Zers who Her Campus has surveyed about the 2024 election — include Claudia de la Cruz, Justin Pearson, Jamaal Bowman, and Rashida Tlaib.

“There should be room for new voices in politics, and there should be room for new voices everywhere, because you never know what someone could bring to the table until they sit down,” Charlie B. says. 

Overall, the current vibe within these Gen Z voters is somber, but they’re still holding out hope for the future — because they’re determined to change things.

“We just have to realize that none of these people representing us are on our side,” Charlotte P. says. “We have to come together and do something about it.”

Addie Whightsil is a Public Relations student at the University of Oklahoma. Beyond academics, Addie's interests extend to the simple pleasures in life. She has an undeniable affection for juice, savoring every drop of its fruity goodness. Her fondness for Jellycats, those irresistibly huggable stuffed animals, adds a touch of whimsy to her daily life. However, what she really loves is sharing personal stories and life lessons for the internet to read.