The Youth Vote: How Gen Z Will Shape This Election

We’ve all heard it before: young people don’t vote. This is the message many political leaders, journalists, analysts, and Boomers constantly send out when asked about the impact Millennials and Gen Z will have on politics. And usually, they’re right. In the 2014 midterms, only 22% of Millennials voted. Even though 18-29 year olds make up 22% of the voting population, they were only 13% of the 2018 electorate -- and that was a record high. Even though 80% of eligible Millennials and Gen-Zers said they planned to vote, hurdles such as the often confusing and time consuming process to register to vote and ever-changing school and work obligations, along with the usual struggles of adjusting to adult life, created many barriers to young people trying to vote. Voting in this country is not as simple as many people make it out to seem, especially if you have to send in an absentee ballot, like many college students and recent graduates have to do. Young voters have to jump through several more hoops than more established, older voters, and this in turn affects how many of them vote. However, there are several indicators in terms of the youth vote, the 2020 election will be different. 

According to recent statistics, young voters are set to make a major impact on the 2020 election. The number of Millennials who voted in 2018 was nearly double that of 2014, up to 42%. The 2018 election also showed 30% of eligible Gen Z voters coming out to cast their first vote, and nearly 15 million more are eligible since the 2016 election . With 47 million 18-29 year olds eligible to vote this election, and an increase in both voter participation and encouragement to vote from celebrities and on online platforms, it’s clear that Gen Z has a chance to play a large and rather unexpected role in this year’s election. 

Original Illustration Created in Canva for Her Campus Media Gen Z will also make up 10% of eligible voters this election, surpassing the Silent Generation, the generation before Boomers, and making their voice even more important . And they certainly have a lot to say! Issues like climate change, health care, student debt, and the Black Lives Matter movement are at the top of the list when Gen Z voters are asked what’s most important to them, and their answers on what to do about such issues largely lean left. In fact, two-thirds of voters 18-29 supported Democratic candidates over Republicans in 2018, creating the largest political gap in 25 years. The impact Gen Z has the potential to make on the election is historical, not just in numbers, but in their ability to change the direction this country is going in politically. Over the last four years, we’ve seen many members of the younger generations step up to speak out against the injustices they see in this country, and the flaws they see in our government and it’s officials. The momentum behind these movements within Gen Z and Millennials is clearly building, and we will see that come to a head in November. 

November is coming protest signs Photo by Rosemary Ketchum from Pexels The importance of getting Gen Z out to vote can not be stressed enough. Gen Z, you have the power to change the course of this election! And while voting is important in any election, I think we can all agree that in 2020, the stakes are significantly  higher. With the coronavirus response, rapid climate change action, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, and more on the line, voting is the only way to ensure the beliefs and values you hold most important are listened to and acted on. Make sure you and your friends are registered to vote - you can find out in under a minute at https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/ - and check your state’s rules for early and mail-in voting. So much of Gen Z didn’t have a voice in the last two elections. Now’s your chance to make sure your voice is heard, and heard loud. GO VOTE!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Photos: Her Campus Media