The voices of young generations made up of millennials and Generation Z will be heard in the presidential election this year as they are given the chance to make history, holding the deciding vote in the outcome.
Young people make up the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in the history of the United States. They have the opportunity to be the most politically active generation considering issues like climate change and gun violence are a major threat to their lives.
Sarah Vonck, a lead organizer for Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), said people aged 18 to 29 are the most diverse set of eligible voters and have the potential to be the most influential voice in politics.
“Young people make up the largest generation,” Vonck said. “[Young voters] have the ability to make the largest impact, assuming they vote.”
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) found 31% of young people cast ballots in the 2018 midterms. Compared to 2014, when only 21% of young people cast ballots, there is a huge increase.
If this trend is followed by the 2020 election, young peoples’ votes could be a deciding factor in the outcome of the election. Gen Z and millennials seem to have recognized inequalities throughout society and decided that if no one will change the system, they will. The nation’s youth have taken to the streets, Capitol Hill and social media demanding change and support.
A 2018 study by Pew Research Center determined 48% of post-Millenials who were between 6 and 21 years old are of a racial or ethnic minority. A new generation with different backgrounds, beliefs and ideas are emerging into the world. This opens the opportunity for voices that have gone unheard and underrepresented to be recognized in politics.
Historically, marginalized groups have been underrepresented, but a greater population allows for more inclusive representation within politics. However, the proper representation will only occur if young people show up and vote.
Organizations such as March for Our Lives, Zero Hour, Sunrise Movement, PRIGs and Black Lives Matter (BLM) were created and fiercely supported by young people. This support caught the eye of politicians and political parties.
The Democratic Party’s 2020 platform addresses issues, such as police reform, BLM, school shootings and racial justice while their 2016 platform did not acknowledge any of these topics. The 2020 platform said police brutality is an issue that needs attention and they plan to work towards more diversity in law enforcement.
The 2020 Republican platform remains the same as it was in 2016 — addressing none of these issues.
Governments and organizations all over the nation have listened to the pleas of the youth and are creating change in their communities. Boston, Massachusetts Mayor Martin Walsh created an equity and inclusion office to “combat racial injustice and support marginalized communities in the city.”
Apple is also committing $100 million to a new initiative called the Apple Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, which will build on existing work and continue the fight towards racial justice and equality.
Gen Z and millennials have been vocal about their stance on climate change by organizing climate strikes, protests that call for policy changes that will protect the environment. As the deadline to pursue climate action is quickly arriving and not enough change is happening, young people become worried. It will be their lives at stake when dealing with the deadly consequences of pollution and increased carbon emissions.
Political strategist Emily Sussman spoke with MSNBC about issues young people care about and how politicians can gain their support.
“Candidates have to understand the real fears that Gen Z is feeling,” Sussman said. “They are truly scared of the classroom and they are truly scared of their planet burning.”
In the same MSNBC interview, director of polling at Harvard Institute for Politics, John Della Volpe said young people want candidates that value the issues that they care about.
“It's not about gun control, it’s about changing a gun culture,” Volpe said. “It’s about recognizing the anxiety and the fear that young people have and building a relationship.”
Technology and social media expose young people to more perspectives and allow them to hear new ideas. A person in Oregon can listen to the viewpoints of someone in South Carolina and discover a new perspective somebody in their hometown probably could not have given them.
The recent creation of TikTok allows influencers to produce content that caters to young audiences. Both Republican and Democrat accounts call out misinformation, answer questions from viewers and educate young people about politics. The cultural shift happening in America can influence the future of politics.
These issues give college students and young people motivation to pursue their civic duty as U.S. citizens. Candidates who value and prioritize these issues will receive the youth’s support, which may be a critical factor in the election come November.
During this election, it is crucial that everyone of voting age, especially young people, register and then vote up and down the ballot. The nation's youth has power that is unlike anything ever seen in U.S. political history, and they must use it.