Democrats appeared to have staved off a Republican “red wave” as the dust settled from Tuesday’s US midterm elections—and numbers show that younger voters are to thank for this. Exit polls from the National Election Pool (NEP) found that younger voters aged 18-29 were the only voter group by age to overwhelmingly support Democrats in the elections. According to the poll, 60 per cent of voters in that age group voted for Democratic House candidates, while 35 per cent voted for Republicans.
“The role of young people in this election cannot be understated. Turnout delivered on many of these races,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning after the impact of the youth vote became more clear. “By 2024, millennials & gen Z voters will outnumber voters who are baby boomers and older, 45/25. We are beginning to see the political impacts of that generational shift,” she continued.
President Joe Biden also recognised said “generational shift” during a White House event held on Wednesday where he hailed better-than-expected results. According to the President, the support shown by lower millennials and gen Zers can be attributed to a desire to see urgent action taken on climate change and in support of a livable future.
“I especially want to thank the young people of this nation, who I’m told—I haven’t seen the number—voted in historic numbers again. And just as they did two years ago, they voted to continue addressing the climate crisis, gun violence, their personal rights and freedoms, and [for] student debt relief,” said President Biden.
“It was a good day, I think, for democracy,” he concluded. Republican strategists had been hopeful of sweeping victories, given that inflation is at a 40-year-high and Biden’s approval ratings are relatively low. But recent numbers suggest that voters—more specifically, younger voters—may have punished the Republicans for their efforts to restrict access to abortion.
44 per cent of young voters listed abortion as their top issue in the campaign, according to exit polls. And in races where the issue was on the ballot directly or candidates made it a main talking point, voters swept Democrats to victories. This was the case in Pennsylvania, with the victory of John Fetterman, in New Hampshire, with the victory of Maggie Hassan, and in Michigan with Gretchen Whitmer.
“We saw that abortion certainly was a top issue,” Jack Lobel, a spokesperson for gen Z-led group Voters of Tomorrow, told NPR. “I think young voters recognised that, when Roe fell, it may have been the first of many rights to fall.”
Lobel also went on to suggest that the country’s economic issues—such as the costs of healthcare, education and housing—influenced the younger generations’ votes. “We want to build a better future for ourselves. We want to build a better future for our families as much as anyone,” he added.
Up until now, it was a well-known fact that younger voters have some of the worst turnout rates of any demographic, and technically, this year was no exception. According to The Independent, voters aged 18-29 made up about 12 per cent of the electorate, a historically common share.
But age was not the only factor that played a part in saving the Democrats’ asses—racial and gender divides were also important to their success. Exit polls indicate that the party won with women, black voters, Hispanic voters and Asian-Americans (though the latter two categories were demographics that broke for Democrats by much lower margins than they have in previous years, The Independent noted).
Last but not least, one of the biggest victories of the night was won by 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, who is set to take Madison Cawthorn’s spot as the youngest member of the US House of Representatives and now holds the title of the first member of his generation elected to Congress.
“Half of gen Z isn’t even old enough to vote yet. Over the coming years, we’ll see the youth vote become even more of a force to be reckoned with. What we want is bold transformational change,” he tweeted following his victory.
For a few years now, many have described the generation Z as sensitive, lazy and addicted to social media. While some of it is most definitely true, we’ve recently started seeing gen Z as the one that will change things. Now, as the Black Lives Matter movement carries on protesting in the US as well as in the rest of the world, we wonder if gen Z could actually be the generation that tackles systemic racism.
To answer this, we asked the gen Z live platform Yubo to share a few of our questions with its users. The poll was conducted between 9 June and 15 June and had Yubo survey over 13,000 people aged 13 to 25 years old in the UK. This allowed Screen Shot to get gen Zers’ opinion on the movement of protest that followed George Floyd’s murder in the US.
From the poll’s results, 7 statistics stood out as clear signs that gen Z could well be the generation of change.
In order to achieve any kind of change, we need to accept that there is something wrong in the first place. That’s why we asked Yubo’s gen Zers residing in the UK whether they felt like black people were treated differently than white people. In other words, we wanted to see if they could admit the existence of white privilege.
In response, 4 out of 5 gen Zers said they believe that black people are treated differently, compared to only 2 out of 3 of their parents sharing the same belief. For many, denying white privilege comes from misunderstanding the concept.
Not fully grasping how society privileges white individuals has led many to believe that black people who have suffered from police brutality somehow deserved the blame. In comparison, the new generation has been helped by social media and the internet in understanding where white privilege comes from and how exactly it benefits certain people.
While certain news outlets have made it their mission to depict the many protests that followed George Floyd’s murder as violent, many protesters have testified against these statements. We’ve discovered that, in the UK, 4 out of 5 gen Zers believe that peaceful protests are necessary to facilitate change, confirming that most new gens intend to protest peacefully and not violently. Half of their parents hold the same belief.
With the current movement still going strong, we’ve seen the protesters’ resilience and willingness to sacrifice their time and energy in a cause that is more than worth it. Despite the risk of getting arrested by the police, new gens have admitted they would be prepared to take that risk in order to make their voice heard.
While previous generations have been quick to point the finger at the US, as we’ve seen Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis do last week in an interview with George the Poet, gen Z is also calling out the UK and other countries as being responsible for systemic racism, too. Ignoring the UK’s denial of its own racism is as disingenuous as ignoring the US’ police brutality and racism, and doing so only further perpetuates white privilege in the UK.
These statistics portray gen Zers as strong protesters who are aware of systemic issues as well as willing to take action. But admitting and fighting these don’t come without its toll on new gen’s mental and physical wellbeing.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against racism and injustice couldn’t wait. While staying home as much as possible is still strongly recommended by governments, protesters have had to make do with their best tool in order to make their voices heard: protesting.
Just yesterday, police officers in London urged Priti Patel to impose an emergency ban on all protests during the coronavirus pandemic, warning officers were being put at risk by a wave of mass demonstrations. Although wearing masks, gloves, and keeping a two meters distance from other protesters are the best ways to avoid risk of getting COVID-19, many protesters are still concerned about their health. The situation, however, has not discouraged the Black Lives Matter movement from fighting back.
Protesting has never been easy. But now, more than ever, with the constant flow of graphic and harmful content our brains receive through social media platforms, we find ourselves on edge frequently. This has had an impact on gen Z’s mental health. As an activist, looking after your mental health is a necessary step in the fight against systemic racism.
This statistic highlights how much more effort we need to make as a generation. Protests must carry on, yes, but we also need to provide more information to anyone that might feel the need to research how to take action. Only by doing so will we start tackling systemic racism.
These protests are made of passionate, non-violent young leaders fighting for a brighter future. Those who previously criticised the new generation for being too connected, too woke or even too sensitive will be compelled to reconsider their stance soon enough.