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Editorial: Generation Z has important role to play in the political landscape

Editorial: Generation Z has important role to play in the political landscape

Generation Z, the demographic of people born from 1997 to 2012, is vocal, online and constantly exposed to social media. While younger demographics have shown lower voter turnout than older generations, 1 in 10 eligible voters in the 2020 election were part of that America’s new generation — Gen Z. 

The Shorthorn Editorial Board believes that Gen Zers have the intelligence, knowledge and access to be one of the biggest influences in U.S. political history, starting with the upcoming Nov. 8 midterm elections. They have social media platforms where they can voice their opinions, make substantive changes and witness real people’s struggles through the power of posting and sharing content. 

Gen Z has the chance to end performative politics — only when they’ve realized their power. 

Amanda Jordan, advertising and social media lecturer, said in the past, political candidates were allowed to say whatever they wanted and nobody cared. Now, people are much more willing to call those false claims out due to the growth of Gen Z, whom Jordan said had “a little bit of an aspect of no fear.” 

Social work senior Sheridan Andrus said that Gen Z has greater access to information than previous generations. 

“I think one of the biggest voter demographics is Gen Z, and it is so important for us to show out,” Andrus said. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter what side of the aisle; just make sure you’re getting your voice heard.” 

In 2021, 69% of Gen Zers who used social media said they felt anxious about the future every time they saw content about climate change, while only 59% of Millennial social media users, 46% of Generation X and 41% of Baby Boomer and older social media users said the same, according to the Pew Research Center. 

That fear turned into action. 32% of Gen Zers have donated money, contacted an elected official, volunteered or attended a rally to address climate change, compared to 28% of Millennials, 23% of Gen X and 21% of Baby Boomers and older adults. 

But the fear didn’t translate to voting — arguably the most important form of political engagement. In the 2020 election, only 51.4% of eligible Americans aged 18 to 24 reported that they had voted, while every other age group saw voter turnout above 60%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

This is a sad reality, considering Gen Z is the first generation to not know what the world is like without the internet — Facebook was officially created in 2004, only seven years after the first Gen Zers were born. They have the power to read, learn and gain knowledge from the technology that’s available at their fingertips to share their experiences but also to call out any empty promises from politicians based on their records in their current job. 

Additionally, this generation has used social media for political good. In 2020, Darnella Frazier, who was only 17 years old, gained national attention when she recorded a video on her cellphone and uploaded it to Facebook. The video captured George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, being killed by Derek Chauvin, a former police officer. 

“There are political movements and political things happening that are purely because of the connectivity of social media and the fact that Gen Z knows how to use social media to their advantage,” Jordan said. 

But it’s not just about big political movements. Nowadays, a single post on Twitter where a person compares their receipts from two different months can earn multiple retweets and comments because of the increase in grocery prices. 

Those who use social media now know that they’re not alone, and that should encourage the younger generation facing similar issues to figure out how they can fix them.  

The impact is already there. This year, the first crop of Gen Zers are turning 25 years old and are eligible to run for Congress. As of July, four candidates vying for congressional seats in the national midterm cycle — two Democrats and two Republicans — come from Gen Z, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. 

With the upcoming midterms, more Gen Zers should be dedicated to taking matters into their own hands and more willing to vote for the policies they believe in. After all, they are the generation living in a post-9/11 world, enduring countless school shootings and witnessing the effects of politics on climate change, abortion and many other issues. 

And it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle they’re on; they represent a unique mindset that should want to be heard, starting from registering to vote before the deadline. In Texas, the last day people can register to vote for this upcoming midterm is Oct. 11. 

The Shorthorn Editorial Board believes that Gen Z has the ability to influence this upcoming election by using their voice. However, they shouldn’t be complacent and instead start actively engaging in voting and electing those who propose reasonable solutions to their problems rather than just complaining and letting older generations continue to exert their voting power. 

The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Hannah Ezell; editor-in-chief Dang Le; news editor Steven Shaw; Jonathan Perriello, life and entertainment editor; design editor Claudia Humphrey; news reporters Wolf Isaly and Ayesha Shaji. 

Le is a journalism senior with a minor in technical writing. He joined The Shorthorn in the spring 2021 semester. His favorite activities are music, movies, reading magazines and drinking boba. 

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