By Olivia Bousquet
Move out of the way Boomers, it’s time for Generation Z to flood the voting booths and mail-in sites Nov. 3.
The 18 to 23-year-olds account for one-in-10 potential votes cast in the General Election. But will Gen Z finally use their growing numbers to vote after years of having the lowest voter turnout?
In the 2018 midterm elections, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z accounted for 62.2 million votes casted, which surpassed the 60.1 million votes casted by Boomers and prior generations. According to the PEW Research Center, a non-partisan think tank, Gen Z voter turnout was only 4% of all votes or about 4.5 million votes. However, they should account for about 10% of the 2020 votes — if young people actually go out and vote.
“Older voters in 2016 supported Donald Trump and then back to 2012, the older voters also supported Mitt Romney. So, if the older voters are a smaller percentage, that would affect the election. If the younger voters were a larger percentage, that would affect the election as well,” SUNY Plattsburgh political science professor Harvey Schantz said. “The age composition of the electorate can make a difference in the outcome of an election.”
According to Schantz, polls this electoral season have shown “an erosion of support” from the older generations toward Trump, after his lack of action against preventing COVID-19 spread in the U.S.
With Republicans crossing political alignments, Trump is in trouble.
However, those polls also show more people believe Trump would be able to recover the economy better than Biden. This election is no longer about economic prosperity, but about an opportunity for the American people to decide on the moral standpoint the government will take.
The voter turnout of young people plays an important role in how the government’s party lines fall beyond the White House. As the Trump administration propels the environment toward irreversible damage, the future for Gen Z’s children looks bleak.
The election gives people the chance to stop the current administration from further harming the environment and repealing rights from its citizens. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Treaty Agreement, a global framework of 192 countries that is set to avoid dangerous climate change quickly after his 2016 election.
Why should old people get to destroy the environment when they won’t be alive for the repercussions of their actions? But how can young people worry about the environment when they are fighting for fundamental rights? A conservative Supreme Court will be a driving factor in overturning rights minority groups fought for. A retraction of Roe v. Wade, the right to an abortion, will take away women’s freedom over their own bodies, which is something men have never experienced. It’s important to learn about how the government works and the policies for candidates to understand the impact they will have on citizens.
“People are taking the opportunity to educate themselves and so many people are putting stuff out there on different platforms that people can’t just rely on what their parents tell them about politics and different views,” Abby Bone, a childhood education senior, said. “[Young people] see beyond their parents and older generations’ view of things, and they’re making up their own mind.”
Gen Z is already “more racially and more ethnically diverse” than other generations, according to a PEW study. The youngest generations’ make-up consists of 55% white and 45% nonwhite individuals. The diversity of Gen Z makes their dislike toward Trump and his administration unsuspecting. He has made racist, sexist, ableist and homophobic remarks against marginalized groups on more than one occasion.
On Nov. 25, 2015, Trump made inappropriate hand and verbal gestures to mock Serge Kovalski, a reporter with disabilities, at a campaign event. On June 16, 2015, Trump called Mexicans rapists and responsible for bringing drugs and crime into the United States. In 2019, Trump proposed to eliminate existing standards requiring oil and gas companies to monitor and repair methane leaks.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the new policy could lead to an additional five million metric tons of methane emissions per year. On June 12, 2020, the Trump administration finalized a Department of Health and Human Services administrative rule that would allow health care providers to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. At the first 2020 presidential debate, Trump told a white supremacist group to “stand back and stand by” after given the opportunity to denounce white supremacy.
There is not enough space in this entire issue of Cardinal Points to detail all the terrifying remarks and reforms Trump and his administration have done over the last four years. But, the majority of Gen Z is fed up with Trump’s immature behavior in office. This January, a research poll by PEW found that 61% of Gen Z voters were “probably or definitely going to vote for the Democratic candidate for president.” This was three months before Trump decided to do nothing about COVID-19 or the start of protesting against police brutality.
Biden may be another old white man in power, but he would be a step in the right direction. The young generation needs to understand the implications for the future that are based on the election. Scientific evidence of climate change is currently being denied by Trump and his continuation in the White House would further remove protections around the environment than his administration has already done.
COVID-19 will not resolve itself anytime soon with a president who denies the harm of the virus and will not implement mask mandates in order to protect Americans. And if Trump wins, he will pull back more freedoms and rights from minority groups by selecting more conservative judges. This means a threat to marriage equality, harsher immigration policies and a woman’s right to choose.
Unlimited access to information is right at Gen Z’s fingertips. They just need to be willing to research to further inform themselves.
“Gen X and Millennials did not have the access to social media and knowledge as easily and quickly as we do today. You see 24-hour news sources like the New York Times, Washington Post and NBC that we didn’t have 20 to 30 years ago,” Erica Haley, a public relations junior said. “While Gen Z has these resources that are allowing them to know what’s going on more, and be more educated.”
Gen Z has expressed their thoughts about the current state of this country by protesting against police brutality, restrictions on women’s rights and discrimination of the LGBTQ community. Boomers and other generations have scoffed at the overconsumption of phones and social media, but this has only empowered Gen Z and brought them closer together.
The true problem is how polarized the United States has become. Every issue is a political one – left versus right, blue versus red. Human rights should not be fought in courts or on the streets. There is no liberty or happiness in a country that will strip you of your rights to fit their political agenda. All Gen Z needs to do is vote to remove Trump out of office.