A New Voting Bloc Emerges: Tracking Trends Among Gen Z Voters

Ellen Jordan ’26 in Opinions | May 26, 2024

Come November, many members of Lawrenceville’s Class of 2024 will head to the polls to vote in the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election. The ballots of young people, akin to our Lawrenceville peers, will play a role in determining who will win the race for the White House this year, whether it be the incumbent Joe Biden (Democrat), former President Donald Trump (Republican), or an outsider: such as leading third-party candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (Independent). Indeed, a Tufts University survey has found that over 41 million members of Generation Z (of which Lawrenceville’s V Formers are a part) will be eligible to vote in the upcoming election. 

However, while members of Gen Z made waves in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election with an incredibly high turnout, some political analysts are already predicting significantly lower turnout than that of 2020. Indeed, it already seems likely that far fewer Gen Z voters will head to the polls this fall. The logic behind this prediction concerns who will be on the ballot come November, as the U.S. prepares itself for a Biden-Trump rematch, which appears to frustrate Gen Z voters, especially those at Lawrenceville. Indeed, a poll recently conducted found that some V Formers are reluctant to choose between Biden and Trump. 

However, this is not a viewpoint that is unique to Gen Z: a Reuters poll found that nearly 70 percent of American adults do not desire a Trump-Biden rematch. Rather, what truly separates Gen Z from its preceding generations is its exposure to technology. A key example concerns sources of information, as polls have found that Gen Z voters are far more inclined to get their news from social media platforms. 

This sentiment is echoed on Lawrenceville’s campus, as the poll found all respondents claiming to obtain news through some type of social media platform, whether it be TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube. 

However, regarding the general views of the candidates, specifically Biden and Trump, there remain contrasting views on campus. One respondent of the poll, when questioned on who she will be casting her ballot for, explained that her impetus for voting for Trump was specifically her disapproval of Biden, as she believes that he does not have the “stamina to act as an effective leader.” Indeed, Biden’s age remains a key cause of ridicule across the political aisle: Biden already remains the oldest ever acting President, and if victorious, on inauguration day he will be 82 years old. 

However, the poll found that a majority of respondents claim that they will be voting blue in the fall—yet not necessarily because they view Biden as a strong candidate. One respondent explained that it was her distaste for Trump, rather than her support of Biden that will compel her to cast a blue vote in the upcoming election: “Overall I think I am voting against Trump more than voting for Biden- I do feel like Trump is an existential threat to democracy. I am also upset with how Biden has handled the crisis in Gaza, and also the border, but there is no issue that I think Biden mishandles that Trump wouldn't mishandle more. The choice became clear after realizing that.” 

Recipients of the poll additionally were questioned on the chief topical issues that will influence their vote in the upcoming election. The poll found abortion to be the most pressing matter for its respondents, with the runner-ups being foreign conflicts (such as the ones currently unfolding in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip) and climate change. 

This prioritization of abortion, foreign conflicts, and climate change is not the norm for American voters nationwide: general economic issues remain king, as a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that strengthening the economy to be the chief objective for 73 percent of Americans. By comparison, in the same poll only 45 percent of Americans selected climate change. Indeed, this gap between selections made by Lawrentians (who represent Gen Z) and the conventional views held by American voters across the nations may suggest that members of Gen Z place social issues on a higher pedestal than economic ones. Thus, the disconnect between President Biden and Gen Z remains stark, but the Biden campaign can still make inroads with Gen Z by appealing to their concerns about reproductive rights and the climate. 

The evidence for this claim is not just limited to the poll conducted on Lawrenceville’s campus- take the recent college campus protests that have erupted across the U.S. as an example. Since late April, universities across the United States have been engulfed in student protests relating to the current conflict raging between Israel and Palestine. At many elite institutions, protestors have stormed academic buildings, set up encampments on campus, and have demanded university administrators to cut both academic and financial ties with Israel. The campus protests have become defining moments for the young generation, as they have come to symbolize Gen Z’s deep commitment to social justice. 

Participants in the poll finally were asked whether or not they believe that their experiences at Lawrenceville have in any form shifted their political views. 

This question certainly generated the greatest variety of responses out of all the questions in the poll. One respondent explained that their experience in classes at Lawrenceville has led them to become “much more centrist and even left-leaning,” while before becoming a student at Lawrenceville, the respondent had been more conservative due to the political views held by their parents. However, on the flip side, one respondent disagreed that their campus interactions have caused them to change their political viewpoints, writing: “I feel like Lawrentians are scared of political discourse, which sometimes has the effect of creating political echo chambers, where we only discuss politics in spaces where we feel "comfortable" and insulated from any retorts or criticism.”

From the prominent use of social media as a news source to the stark contrast between the political priorities between Gen Z and previous generations, it is clear that the over 41 million members of Gen Z will shift upcoming elections as Gen Z defines itself as an emerging voting block. However, those 41 million votes will not come easily to Biden. Since Gen Z shares the same voter apathy amongst older generations, the Biden Administration will face an added barrier towards reelection as they attempt to appeal to many groups simultaneously, Gen Z chiefly among them. To successfully mobilize this critical demographic, the administration must address key issues such as climate change, social justice issues like abortion, and the economy, which resonate deeply with younger voters. That being said, leveraging the use of digital platforms to engage with Gen Z on their terms will be most crucial in overcoming their disengagement and getting them to vote in the first place.