Voices of a Generation
On Meaning

Move over, Gen Z is driving

BY Andrew Walther

Stock photo.

Move over, Gen Z is driving

By Andrew Walther
December 5, 2020

Gen Z is driving this bus and if you don’t like it, you can get off. This year has been nothing short of revolutionary and has left millions of people to grapple with a new world and a new reality. Consider global social movements, the coronavirus pandemic and a record-setting election for U.S. president.

In the midst of these life-changing events, it is important to consider: Have you started your revolution, or are you watching the one passing by?

As a member of Generation Z, my own personal revolution in ideas and actions was crystalized by the continuous bombardment of historic events that mark my generation, born in 1997 and later years. These are some of the events and people that punctuate our lives:

The Columbine Shooting; the 2000 election of President George W. Bush; September 11, 2000; Hurricane Katrina in 2005; the Iraq War, the Somali War; the 2008 financial crisis; the rise of the iPhone; the election of our first Black president, Barack Obama; the Sandy Hook massacre; Boston Marathon bombing; marriage equality; the Affordable Care Act; the Paris Climate Accord (entering and leaving); Ferguson Uprising; Pulse Nightclub shooting; election of President Donald J. Trump; Hurricane Sandy; Parkland shooting; Virginia Tech shooting; Las Vegas shooting; #MeToo reckoning; the Supreme Court appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh; climate strike; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg; the coronavirus pandemic; California wildfires; Black Lives Matter Movement; and $1.4 trillion student debt.

These events shaped Gen Z and will inform how our generation governs in the years to come. Here’s why we matter and what to expect from us: Our voting power is growing, according to a Pew Research study that showed how Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z was poised to eclipsed Boomers and older generations for the first time.

In 2016, Gen Z accounted for roughly 2.4 million votes in 2016, or 2% of the overall vote because only the oldest Gen Zers were eligible to vote at the time, according to Pew.  However, four years later, things looked vastly different. Instead of two year’s worth of eligible Gen Z voters, the 2020 election saw six year’s worth of eligible Gen Z voters.

Union Square, San Francisco , United States
Union Square, San Francisco. Photo by Li-An Lim.

Votes coming from Gen Z don’t look like your parents' votes because Gen Z doesn’t look like your parents' generation.

  • Gen Z is on track to be the most educated generation with nearly 57% pursuing a college degree as compared to only 52% of the previous generation.
  • Gen Z is slated to be the most racially diverse generation in U.S. history with nearly one in five saying they’re involved in some sort of activism.
  • Seven in 10 Gen Zers think the government should play a larger role in solving problems facing our country as opposed to older generations who think they should be left to smaller private industries, Pew researchers found.

The combination of diversity, education and lived experiences within Gen Z led a staggering 61% of eligible Gen Z voters indicating they favored President-elect Joe Biden over the incumbent, which is a larger margin than any other generation. Post election, it turns out 65% of this generation voted for the Biden-Harris ticket, 11% more than other generational groups, according to NBC.

Reasons for the generational landslide can be attributed in part because of the events that occurred during the past two decades. There is nuance within Gen Z as to how major problems should be addressed, however, it appears, for the first time, there is desire for legitimately progressive policies to be implemented.

Gen Z is too smart, too educated, too diverse and too connected to ignore what’s wrong in our society. Although older generations may be OK living with systems that only work for the few, Gen Z doesn’t appear to share the same sentiment.

A word of advice from someone who is likely younger than you: Whether you’ve decided to take a stand or not, it’s never too late and certainly never too early to make a change.

We’re driving this bus and we’re going to a better place.