What does Gen Z care about? We surveyed 200 high schoolers

BY HALLE SHAEFFER & ANNA WOLFINGER

As the trip to the Iowa Caucus begins, many students have formed opinions on what they expect to see from the 2020 presidential election. Generation Z voters have formed ideas of what is most valued in the upcoming election. With this generation being the future of American voters, candidates will be able to see what is most important to them. 

“We are inheriting this country,” said Marcus Hoekstra, member of Joe Biden campaign.  Many students from Wadsworth, Lordstown and Newbury High School have claimed their stance on issues and candidates. 

Over the course of the next few days, those who are on the trip will be immersed in the reality of each candidate. This comes from both attending rallies as well as working alongside campaigns. These experiences may cause a change in the way students view each candidate due to the online perceptions versus one-on-one interactions. 

The Bruin staff conducted a poll asking close to 200 students what they were searching for in candidates and policies. 

The majority of students who took part in the questionnaire said they would vote for Donald Trump if they were asked to vote today; 74 out of 174 voted for Republican Trump. Though the Republican party is mostly unified in support of Trump, the other 100 voters preferred scattered Democratic candidates such as Sanders, Buttigieg and Biden. Many students felt that they resonated with Trump’s leadership style and found common ground on his policies. 
“I believe that Trump has the best intentions for our country and its future,” said junior at Newbury high school, Jeny Dabek. 

Bruin staff members posed in front of Amy Klobuchar’s bus. Klobuchar’s team is staying in a hotel across the street from where the Bruin staff is staying. Photo by Axel Mueller.

Most of the students from all three schools had the most unified vote for Trump with a total of 40 percent of votes. 

“I believe that he is the strongest fit to be president because he has done good things since he has taken office,” said Jena Clark from Newbury High School, 11. “I would like to see what he could continue to do in the next term.”

Answering the same question, Bernie Sanders came in second place to Trump, with 40 votes. 

“I agree with a lot of his views, but not all of them,” said senior Hannah Boyle from Lordstown High School. “A candidate is not supposed to be perfect, they are meant to be a step in the right direction. I believe that’s Bernie.” 

Students agreed with the policies and plans of Sanders if he were to become the future president.

“He is for equality which is huge to me,” said Ryan Brown, 12, of Newbury High School. “He’s pretty progressive, to say the least.” 

With the Iowa Caucus just days away, many are unsure of the projections of the voters.

“Going into the first days of the caucus, we can’t really have many expectations,” said Sarah Scobee, 12, of Wadsworth High School. “You could think one candidate is ahead, but then a group who’s candidate has dropped all vote for a different person and now that person’s ahead. That’s what’s confusing about caucuses and that’s why you can’t anticipate anything before-hand.” 

Chris Steele, 12, examines the itinerary for the Iowa trip. Steele will be following the Bernie Sanders campaign while he is in Iowa. Photo by Axel Mueller.

Generation Z has deemed many policies important when determining ideal candidates including climate change, college tuition, the economy and gun control. These specific ideas being the top four from the questionnaire. Environmental issues with the nation polled as the number one issue with Generation Z voters based on our survey from 174 students ranging from different grades and towns. 

“The environment affects people on an international level, not just as a national level,” said Ariala Ramirez, 11, of Newbury High School. “By doing what we can involving the environment, we are doing our part in helping the world.” Ramirez has favored candidate Bernie Sanders. 

Many students alike feel passionate about the environment and its future, as this is a generation that will have to live with the consequences that we provoke today.  

“Climate change is real and if it’s not addressed it will kill the planet,” said Jess Hess, 12, of Lordstown High School. Hess also stated that she would vote for Sanders if asked to vote today. 

Another popular topic among Generation Z is the issue of student loan debt. The U.S. student loan debt is currently scraping $1 Trillion, so many students are concerned for their futures. 

“Being college-bound I fear the extreme debt,” said Axel Mueller, 11, of Wadsworth High School. Mueller was adamant about his support towards Donald Trump. 

Due to the majority of high school students pursuing higher education after high school, affordable college is important to this generation. With an 8% college inflation rate, tuition doubles every nine years which is concerning to students who seek the higher education route and plan on graduating with little to no debt at the end of their college careers. 

Kate Messam, 12, high fives Joe Biden representative, Marcus Hoekstra, after discussing some of his beliefs for the countries future. Photo by Axel Mueller.

“I cannot be paying extreme prices for college,” said Chris Steele, 12, of Wadsworth High School. Steele stated that if he were asked to vote today, he would support Sanders in the upcoming election. 

Many new voters will be affected by economic changes, even after college and into their adulthood and career paths. 

“Economy is the thing that keeps the country running,” said Madisen Millward, 11, of Newbury High School and supporter of Joe Biden. “It is most important to me.” 

As our generation becomes more independent, the economy has become more important to voters. 

“If the economy tanks, our workforce tanks,” said Anita Sarkisian, 11, of Newbury High School. “It is important to sustain a capitalistic way of running things.” Sarkisian shared that she is hopeful for Donald Trump to begin his second term in office. 

Aside from the economy, students showed an interest in gun control. This being a very pressing issue for many teens today as school shootings have become more eminent over the past few years. 

“The threat of gun violence is prominently on my mind,” said Mackenna Lago, 11, of Lordstown High School and Bernie supporter. 

Gun control can be expected to be a crucial issue for Gen Z voters in 2020. 

All of the policies put into place by elected officials are beginning to affect our generation, in turn, we have established what we value. If the presidential candidates do not take into account the new voters’ opinions and values, they will lose a large group of voices and supporters. Generation Z will be a powerful force in the presidential election.

Make sure to keep up with the story on all of The Bruin’s social media accounts. Follow The Bruin on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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