November 29, 2022


Taking Gen Z Voters Seriously

By: Julia Canzano

With the conclusion of the 2022 Midterms, the anticipated red wave that Republicans had described for months was no more than a trickle. With only a few competitive districts, governorships, and senate seats up for grabs, the United States still has a deeply divided government and country. Republicans have gained a slim majority in the House, and even with the Georgia Senate race still to be decided, the Senate is mostly in the same position it was after the 2020 election with Democrats holding a majority. Even the Governors’ offices are split 26-24, with the majority in favor of Republicans. Some may point to the Republican Party not offering quality candidates, not spending money in crucial districts, and typical low voter turnout rates in comparison to the General Election as the reason for an absent red wave. Yet one important area that the Republican Party has to spend more time and effort understanding, and failed to in the 2022 Midterms, is Gen Z voters. 

The right has spent significant time talking about inflation, critical race theory and gender ideology in the classrooms, pushing strong anti-abortion legislation, securing the border, and opposing decisions made by the Biden Administration. While these are all important issues, most of them aren’t issues Gen Z voters are concerned about. Most members of Gen Z aren’t working full time, have little experience with their personal finances, or are still living under the safety net of their parents – they aren’t trying to support a family, buy a house, or know how much their paycheck needs to stretch to meet their basic needs. They aren’t parents worried about what their children are learning in school, and they likely attend colleges where it’s the cool thing to come out as LGBTQ and the expected thing to apologize for one’s white privilege. They didn’t grow up during the Cold War, with constant messaging around the battle for democracy and how destructive socialism and communism are – instead they grew up during the Obama Administration, with the president embarking on an apology tour in the first few months of his administration. 

Even for issues such as anti-abortion legislation, climate change, and 2nd Amendment legislation, Gen Z leans heavily liberal. In the 2022 Midterm election, 18-29 year-olds voted D+28, compared to 45-64 year-olds that voted R+11 and 65+ year-olds that voted R+13. In House races, 63% of Gen Z voters voted for Democrats. By 2024, Gen Z and millennials will make up 45% of the electorate and will replace the Baby Boomers. Democrats seem to have figured out ways to connect with and appeal to Gen Z voters, while Republicans are severely lagging. 

Gen Z voters lean heavily liberal because of social media, efforts to shut down free speech on college campuses, and cultural shifts in attitudes toward marriage, religion, and traditional family values. Instead of accessing traditional forms of media to be updated on current issues, almost 40% of Gen Z uses TikTok as their main news source. 34% of Gen Z say they are not religiously affiliated, which is larger than any other generation. Often people will say that younger voters will vote for Republicans once they’re married- and while much of Gen Z is too young to be married to have good data on this, many Gen-Zers are not prioritizing marriage and many are planning on getting married later in life. Almost every college campus has story after story of right-leaning groups bringing a speaker on campus, only to be met with protests, petitions, and in some cases, violence. The message on some college campuses is that it isn’t enough to be bipartisan, it’s left-leaning speakers or nothing. Almost 80% of students say they self-censor at least some of the time. It’s no wonder that the bulk of Gen Z votes Democrat and why it’s so difficult for Republicans to sway them even towards the center, let alone towards the right.

There is hope for the Republican Party, but only if they begin the process of appealing to Gen Z voters now. Most political donations come from the Baby Boomer and Silent Generation, which leads candidates to spend a significant amount of time meeting with these donors and listening to their concerns, but with this generation slowly disappearing from the electorate, conservatives need to turn more of their attention to Gen Z and millennials. The country is deeply divided at the moment, and with current voting patterns the next few decades may see a shift to a left-leaning electorate. But unless conservatives become more social media savvy, choose better candidates, connect with Gen Z voters in a relatable way, and explain why it’s important to vote for conservative candidates, they’re likely to lose a lot of potential voters and only ever see a deep Blue Wave.