Amplifying Gen Z Voter Voices

As a young Gen-Z American voter, I am immensely concerned with what is occurring in the United States government. Similarly, the people in my age bracket and the younger generations hold opinions but choose not to act. Why is that so?

In this miniblog, we will endeavor in this inactive voter phenomenon among young people.

First, today’s young American populations with the ability to vote, ages 18 to 30, are either attending school or attempting to start their professional careers. They have not fully experienced the direct effects of the shifts in the economy, public policies, and our tax system. Opportunities such as volunteer work, internships, and jobs are ways for young voters to become exposed to governance elements and partake in the electoral processes. However, schooling and living at home with the family has shielded youth from the realities of political involvement.

Upcoming elections will entail and determine so much of their futures. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 43% of college graduates face underemployment, which means they work jobs that do not require an educational degree. The U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau data has shown that college students are less likely to be working while in school compared to previous years. Throughout the years, the economic conditions have consequently affected opportunities available for young voters and their participation in politics. I have surveyed various young voters who share the common belief that “no changes” will occur.

Second, the options presented for candidates do not reflect their interests or the average Joe’s interests. Many young people mentioned Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two former presidential candidates, who gained avid support from independents and youth. Young voters expressed that the political “establishment” undermine their voices. Also, young voters interviewed believe that change would not come since older generations of voters and “big money” interests are the ones who decide what happens. The idea to counter corporatism is what young folk feel is a losing battle. Big money companies act in an unethical manner and support individuals who protect their interests. Meanwhile, the older generations openly support capitalism’s belief, “the free market,” since their pensions, 401k, and stock successes depend on deregulations and outsourcing jobs.

Third, young people who do participate often do so blindly. They don’t learn about the issues and candidates as much as older voters do. In most cases, young voters also refrain from voting to avoid seeming partisan and keeping their neutrality. The power of societal pressure to conform to what seems one ideology is a stressor that discourages many to go vote. Additionally, the young individuals who do vote do so for reasons like household influences stemming from tradition or popularity shared by family and friends. Other young voters vote because they have learned and experienced government through financial or public service internships where they interacted with government agencies and officials.

The matter of the issue is that no one wishes to become ostracized for doing the right thing in fulfilling their civic duty. It is hard for many to find an ideal candidate who represents the common folk’s beliefs and does not jump to extremes but seeks balance and middle ground reasoning.

As Borough President, Kim Watkins will present a new political style. Kim knows what it’s like to feel like she has no voice. As a mom to a middle schooler, she also understands how high the stakes are. Kim will not blindly jump onto political bandwagons that jeopardize Manhattan’s youth, essential workers, and most vulnerable. Kim’s goal is to resolve a broken system of city governance in Manhattan through education, affordable housing, justice and responsibility. During these strange times in the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been able to reflect and focus on various social topics while at home. Young voter turnout should increase now more than ever before and alongside grassroots movements like the Watkins Campaign.

Adair Martinez
Watkins Campaign Team