2022 Was the Year Gen Z Changed American Democracy

Midterm elections rarely draw the youth vote, but Gen Z showed up and broke the mold.

5 mins read

Forget the pre-election hype about suburban soccer-moms and Rust Belt swing voters. The decisive voting bloc in the 2022 midterm elections was Gen Z. 

Young voters proved pivotal in razor-tight races for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and governorships across the country. And while it’s true that Gen Z voters tended to support Democratic candidates over Republicans — by a nearly two-to-one margin, according to some exit polls — there’s a bigger story at play. 

Scores of headlines declared that Gen Z “held off the Red Wave.” But, more than any one political affinity, Gen Z showed that the youth vote is here to stay as an electoral force. We now have definitive proof that, if you want to get elected in 2024, you’ll need Gen Z’s support. 

Young libertarians and conservatives fought hard for their favorite candidates in 2022, and leaders on the right are fighting just as hard to connect with more young voters. As the youth vote gathers momentum and continues to gain electoral clout, the issues that matter to young Americans — gun control, climate change, job creation, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, book bans — will be the issues that decide elections.

The fight for Gen Z’s votes in the 2024 general election has already begun. Following the midterms, Fox News pundits Harris Faulkner and Liz Peek said that the Republican Party needs Gen Z’s support in order to succeed.

“If the GOP wants to win in 2024 it’s time to stop ignoring Gen Z voters and start persuading them,” Peek wrote in an op-ed.

Never content to merely achieve, Gen Z burst onto the political scene and immediately made its mark. Maxwell Frost, a 25-year-old who came of age as a student leader in the gun control movement, became the first member of his generation elected to Congress. Genre-defying young conservatives also led competitive races for the House of Representatives and local office across the country.

With their first vote in the rearview mirror, young people already have ideas for how to make the voting process more transparent: According to a survey by the Campus Vote Project, they want more face time with their elected officials, clearer instructions on how to cast a ballot, and more convenient options for voting. 

Gen Z has destroyed the tired trope that young people care about issues but don’t turn out to vote. An estimated 27 percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 25 cast ballots in the midterm, the second-highest youth turnout for a non-presidential election in nearly 30 years. 

Looking closely at what’s driving the youth vote can be a crystal ball for future elections. That is to say, candidates of tomorrow will center their campaigns around the issues Gen Z cares about today.  

We created Kidizenship as a non-partisan media platform to support and amplify the voices of young citizens as they come of age in our democracy — a space where they can ask questions, share opinions, listen to each other, open and change minds. We know that there are countless ways to make an impact in your civic community that have nothing to do with politics. That’s why in this issue, which celebrates 22 All-Star Youth Leaders of 2022, we’ve spotlighted young leaders who are playing definitive roles across many categories — not just in electoral races and activism, but also in news media and entertainment, science and technology, and international diplomacy.

There’s no question, though, that 2022 is the year that Gen Z officially arrived in the American political arena. It will never be the same.

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