CURIOUS ABOUT YOUNG AMERICANS and their politics, I’ve traveled to nearly a dozen states and spoken with hundreds of potential young voters this year.
For years, Gen Z has been at the forefront of social and political movements.”
From a Costco parking lot outside Cincinnati to a shopping center in Omaha to the campus of Georgia State University in Atlanta, it’s become abundantly clear that while young people care deeply about the issues most impacting their lives, they don’t always view electoral politics as the answer, and they rarely see themselves reflected in political news.
Political strategists, cable pundits, and even some savvy pollsters have spent years lamenting over dismal youth voter turnout, but it’s no wonder young people are skeptical of our current political ecosystem when they’re unrepresented.
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In January 2023, Maxwell Frost will become the first member of Gen Z to serve in the United States Congress. The 25-year-old Democrat, who drove Ubers while campaigning to make some extra cash, won the 2022 midterm election in Florida this November after defeating two former members of Congress in an August primary.
Like many young Americans, Frost — a community organizer and activist who formerly served as the national organizing director for the gun violence prevention organization March For Our Lives — woke up to politics after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012. His political upbringing looks a lot like that of many Gen Z activists whose lives have been colored by a series of perpetual crises: a 20-year war, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial crisis, school shootings, mass shootings, climate change, COVID-19, and movements such as Black Lives Matter.
For years, Gen Z has been at the forefront of social and political movements—from the gun violence prevention movement spurred by March For Our Lives in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, to climate strikes, and protests for racial justice in the summer of 2020. And in many ways, Frost’s victory is emblematic of the growing political power of Gen Z.
Frustrated by the status quo, scrappy, and willing to do what it takes, like Frost, Gen Zers across the country are using their passion, grit, and hustle to affect the change they wish to see in the streets, online, at the ballot box, and by stepping up to run for office themselves.
This November, for the third major election cycle in a row, young Americans showed up in relatively strong numbers at an estimated 27% — the second highest youth voter turnout for a midterm election in three decades. That number is still too low, but it indicates a trend of more youth civic and political participation than in years past.
There is still plenty of work to be done to help Gen Z realize its political potential, and in 2023, leaders like Frost demonstrate a changing of the guard. It’s critical that the political news ecosystem reflect this as well.