PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — For decades, political experts say young voter turnout has been low.
However, this year the “Gen Z” cohort is mobilizing and getting involved in politics in ways we’ve never seen.
“Gen Z has a lot at stake in this election,” said Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University.
Gen Z is considered the next generation after millennials. Age ranges for the groups can vary, but the Pew Research Center defines Gen Z as those born in 1997 or later, whereas millenials were born between 1981 and 1996.
The issues that matter most to them?
“I would say definitely COVID, acknowledging that climate change is real, the black lives matter movement and police reform,” said Miranda Ramos, a student at Kempsville High School.
“Health care needs to be improved, as well as be provided to many Americans,” said Achie Swett, a senior at ODU and a first-time voter.
With a global pandemic, civic unrest and a slew of natural disasters in the backdrop, Swett will head to the polls for the very first time.
“Oh my gosh, I can finally have a voice because before, I feel like I was on the sideline watching,” Swett said.
Watching, waiting, but ready to answer the call to civic duty.
That’s what Zion Ferguson, Miranda Ramos and Kayleigh Milstead are doing as they anxiously wait to turn 18.
“Even though I can’t vote, I’m encouraging my friends who can vote to register,” said Milstead.
They’re learning all about political activism in their social studies class at Kempsville High, but the virtual classroom isn’t the only place these young adults become informed.
Social media is the go-to place for information and one app is quickly becoming more and more popular.
“TikTok has a big influence on our generation,” Milstead said. “You’ll see a TikTok and it’s got like 300 million likes and you’re thinking wow that’s reached so many people.”
“TikTok is a wealth of fun, but also a wealth of sharing. TikTok was also used to affect the turnout of a Trump rally,” Bromley-Trujillo said. “They’re using it as a tool of activism and it’s led to these mass protests on the streets. They’re able to organize through social media.”
Reaching millions with their message, hoping to transform the world.
“Gen Z is the change that we all need,” Ramos said.
NBC News reports Snapchat has helped 1 million users register to vote. That’s significant because you’ll mostly find Gen Z and millennial users on the app.
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