The Significance of the Gen Z Vote on the 2020 Presidential Elections: Prep Students Speak

Kelly McGarry, Staff Writer

The 2020 Presidential elections are just around the corner. Republican candidate, President Donald Trump, will be going against Democrat and former Vice President, Joe Biden. In a country where political beliefs are more divided than ever, many are advocating the importance of voting in this election.

This year, Generation Z will be voting for the first time.  One in ten Gen Zers is eligible for voting. This demographic represents people who were born after 1996, the oldest eligible voter being 23 and the youngest being 18. According to studies by the Pew Research Center, Gen Z is “more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, and they are on track to be the most educated generation yet.”

Pew Research Center added that Gen Z’s political views are quite similar to those of Millennials as they are “progressive and pro-government… and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations.”

Political polarization is a great issue in the nation. According to Professor of Policy and Government Bill Schneider at George Mason University, the country “is the most divided we’ve been since the Civil War.”

A two-day study was recently conducted with 82 Prep students. They were asked who they were voting for, or if they were not of voting age, who they would like to vote for. 76.8% said Joe Biden, while 14.6% expressed their support for President Donald Trump. 6.1% were unsure of who to vote for, and 2.4% of students supported or were voting for another candidate.

Biden is said to be leading national presidential polls at around 51% (BBC). At Prep, 70% majority believed that Joe Biden will win the upcoming election.

86.5% of Prep students were also either moderately or actively engaged in politics. This was through social media, reading articles, watching debates, and educating friends or family on political issues. When asked if their close friends and family have similar political beliefs as they do, a slim majority of 56.1% agreed, 39% claimed they had some similarities in beliefs with their friends and/or family, and a 4.9% minority had differing beliefs.

30.5% of students did not feel comfortable publicly voicing their support for a certain candidate or party at school. When asked why a majority claimed that they feared judgment and losing friends. Numerous students claimed that there is a lack of tolerance for differing political ideologies between students, and there is no way to have civil discourse and debates.

One student who identifies as a libertarian went on to say that they stopped being politically vocal because they have “lost many friends” by doing so. They later added that it is vital for teachers to challenge Prep students and their political opinions so that “so said student can expand their thinking or learn how to debate more effectively.” On the other side of the spectrum, a student who identifies with the far left felt as if they frequently get ‘hated’ on at school by their peers.

28% of students believed that they cannot voice their political views on social media. This is due to the ever-growing prevalence of “cancel culture.” A student expressed their worries about losing friendships, while another claimed they did not have good experiences online with far-right individuals. Other students went on to talk about their experiences of being threatened, doxed, or had rumors spread about them due to having conservative beliefs that did not align with others on social media.

In these unprecedented times where anything seems like a possibility, the election is no different. 93.9% of Prep students surveyed were either mildly to severely concerned with the upcoming election. Students on both sides of the spectrum had arguments. Many believed that a Trump re-election will spark riots and violence on the streets. Some spoke of their concerns on female and immigrant rights under a Trump administration. Others believed that Biden was a dishonest candidate and feared for their Second Amendment rights. A small minority argued that a Trump or Biden presidency are both equally worrisome.

In a country split apart by differing political and social ideologies, the Gen Z vote is more important than ever, and the vote of Seattle Prep students is arguably no different