News and Commentary

GOP Tsunami Looms As Generation Z Skews Republican

You know all those teenagers with their face plastered in their iPhones, the ones skateboarding everywhere and whiling away their free time playing video games? Turns out they’re actually paying attention to politics — and they aren’t big fans of the only political party they’ve known up until now, the Democrats.

A new national survey by My College Options and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation gathered info from a whopping 50,000 “Generation Z” high school students ages 14 to 18 to gauge their political attitudes on the 2016 election. In what will surely be a surprise to the older generations yelling at Gen Z to get off our lawns, the survey found that a majority identify as Republican.

While all these kids will be able to vote in the 2020 election, let’s take first-time voters alone to start. The survey found that 46 percent of the 18-year-olds surveyed voted for Trump; just 31 percent went for Hillary Clinton. Sure, 6 percent said they “would choose not to vote in this election,” but just 11 percent went third party.

The survey, which began in September 2016 and continued through the election, found that 73 percent of respondents are engaged or “somewhat engaged” in politics. And among the entire group of first-time voters, the economy was the top issue (44 percent), followed by education (39 percent), gun rights (28 percent) and health care (18 percent). Nearly half (47 percent) said they get their news from social media sites or online news sites.

“Our findings shocked us and clearly state that the Trump effect was not only felt by adults and can have an impact going forward with Generation Z,” said Jose Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. “It’s also an important message that youth can’t be taken for granted as to how they lean politically by either side of the aisle.”

The overall findings — which include all of the 14-to-18 year olds surveyed, so some numbers point to whom participants WOULD vote for — found that 34 percent picked Trump, 20 percent Clinton, but 31 percent said “I would choose not to vote in this election.” Fifty-five percent said the direction of the country was “not positive” and 54 percent said they were engaged or somewhat engaged in politics.

“It’s critical to understand what the students’ priorities and preferences are, as we found out in the Presidential Pulse Study, to better engage this potentially powerful subset of the electorate at an early stage for the 2020 elections,” Tijerino said.