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Gen Z goes to Washington: Today a new generation turns out to vote

by John Wheeler
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    Elections aren’t just showdowns between opposing political views. They’re also just as much about the push and pull between generations and their visions of what’s best for a country, state, district or city.

    The 2016 election showed the deeply contrasted political visions and values of Baby Boomers versus Millennials, the two generations that showed up that year to vote in make-or-break numbers. In contrast, Gen Z weighed in at merely six million eligible voters in 2016, and had little chance of tipping the political scales in either direction.

    But that was 2016... ancient history in the eyes of most young adults. This is 2018, and Gen Z’s presence at the polls has risen to around 14 million voters, a number that will climb exponentially over time, eventually eclipsing both Baby Boomers and Millennials. In other words, Gen Zers — and the values they hold important — will be a determining factor, both in today’s elections and in elections soon to come.

    A recent online survey of American Gen Zers by the American Psychological Association offers a glimpse into what they perceive as the defining political issues of their day. Among other key findings, the study shows a heartbreaking majority (91 percent) of American Gen Zers have reported instances of stress, sadness, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue and/or disinterest in daily activities over the past year alone. Topping Gen Z’s list of things that keep them up at night? The issue of school safety — a pragmatic (and pressing) concern indeed.

    While this might be most Zs' first time at the voting booth, it isn’t necessarily their first foray into politics. A recent UNiDAYS study presented at the Advertising Week Conference shows that Gen Z college students in the U.S. already have clearly-articulated stances on political issues, and they also believe strongly in the civic responsibilities of brands.

    The study reveals 93 percent of American Gen Zers believe brands have an obligation to take a stand on environmental issues. 87 percent of respondents feel that brands need to take a stand on gender equality. A further 76 percent report that brands ought to have a stance on economic policy. And 43 percent consider the brands they buy as an important way to express their political and societal views.

    Politicians and marketers alike will increasingly have to study the same lessons: how to best serve the needs of this up-and-coming powerhouse of a generation.

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