Gen Z Americans believe it’s their responsibility to be civically engaged, but they want more information to make decisions at the polls, a new survey finds.
Members of Gen Z, who are ages 15-25 and at or near voting age, are also less likely than members of older generations to say their schools did a good job preparing them to be “an active and engaged citizen.”
Those are the findings of a nationally representative poll conducted in December by SocialSphere, the Walton Family Foundation, and Murmuration, a political consulting organization that focuses on education policy.
Alongside that post-midterm election poll of about 2,000 Americans in various generations, the organizations conducted focus groups of Gen Z voters to determine how they approach civic involvement.
The findings offer lessons for educators interested in nurturing students’ interest in all levels of government and for issues-focused groups interested in influencing their vote, said Emma Bloomberg, the CEO of Murmuration.
“We got into this research project because we believe Gen Z has the potential to change the political landscape in the coming years, and we hope they will change it for the better,” she said.
Here are some key findings from the research.
Gen Z wants to be more informed before they vote
Of survey participants who voted in the midterms, Gen Z respondents were less likely than those in older generations to say they had everything they needed to feel comfortable with their choices. They were more likely to say they wished they had more information before voting.
Of those Gen Z voters, 36 percent said they would prefer to get more information from the internet, 12 percent from social media, and 12 percent from email. Other forms of communication and media were far less favored.
That response may help inform schools’ media literacy work, including work to help students vet proper news sources and locate reliable information that can inform their vote.
Young Americans also want more help from schools to engage in civics. Thirty-seven percent of Gen Z respondents agreed their schools did an “excellent” or “good” job preparing them “to be an active and engaged citizen,” compared to 41 percent of adults ages 26 and older.
“There’s a real opportunity, I think, in a nonpartisan and not overtly political way for schools to really help students understand what government—and local government— does,” Bloomberg said.
Gen Z more likely to report depression, anxiety, than older respondents
Gen Z survey respondents were more likely than those in older generations to report feeling depressed or anxious.
Those findings are in keeping with federal data and with warnings from the U.S. Surgeon General that the nation is in the middle of a youth mental health crisis.
Rather than disengaging because of those experiences, the youngest voters seemed to remain committed to voting and finding ways to change policies at all levels of government, the report found.
Thirty percent of Gen Z respondents agreed they had a duty to vote as Americans.
Abortion is a top voting issue for Gen Z
Asked what political issue concerned them most when they cast their ballot, Gen Z voters were most likely to say abortion and women’s rights. Voters in older generations were most likely to say the economy or inflation drove their votes.
A concern about school safety
In education, Gen Z’s top issue was safety, similar to many older voters. Just 27 percent of Gen Z respondents said “overall academic performance” was a concern, compared to 28 percent of older voters.
The chart below shows the top five education issues for Gen Z voters.
A new generation
Much of the way educators and politicians talk about young voters today was shaped by former President Barack Obama’s campaigns, which reached millennials through pioneering use of social media and the internet.
But Gen Z participants in the Murmuration focus groups distinguished themselves from their older peers.
For example, they said they value action by politicians over celebrity endorsements.
“Those plays were very effective then,” Bloomberg said. “This is a different generation, and they want to be thought of differently.”