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The 9 Political & Cultural Characteristics that Define Generation Z

Generation Z [Gen Z, Zoomers] is the name researchers and demographers use for the age cohort born after 1996, following Millenials. One-in-ten eligible voters in the 2020 electorate were part of Generation Z. and millions more will have the opportunity to cast a ballot in 2022 and 2024. Their political clout and influence will continue to grow steadily in the coming years. In number, they have already surpassed Gen X and will soon outnumber Baby Boomers. so it's important to understand their views on political and cultural issues. As one might expect, they are quite similar to Millenials in some respects, but there are some very notable differences that will impact the nation's future.

Because I've been teaching political science for three decades, I'm often asked by friends what changes I've noticed in students during those years. Many things, like study habits, haven't changed much over the last three decades, but one change stands out; Zoomers are more progressive than the Millenials and Gen Xers I taught in the 1990s and early 2000s. Gay marriage and even gays serving in the military were still quite controversial in the 1990s, and a black president was almost unimaginable. The Zoomers I teach now don't understand what all the fuss was about.

And, what I've experienced in a college classroom is starting to show up in research concerning the political and cultural views of Generation Z. Here's what we know so far.

1 Religion: Gen. Z is much less religious than older generations. According to research by the Survey Center on American Life, 34% of those within Gen Z have no religious affiliation ["Nones"] compared to 9% of those within the Silent Generation and 18% of Baby Boomers.

The data concerning religious attendance might be even more telling. Only about 35% of those within Gen Z attend church services regularly [weekly, monthly]. A whopping 65% never or seldom attend.

This data is especially concerning for culture warriors in the Republican Party, and it gets worse. White evangelical churches, the backbone of the GOP, are shrinking rapidly because the majority of Zoomers oppose their strict views on such cultural issues as abortion and LGBT rights. Recent surveys have found that only 9% of Gen Zers identify as white evangelical Protestants compared to 18% of Baby Boomers and 23% of those within the Silent generation.

2. Diversity: Zoomers are much more comfortable with ethnic and racial diversity than their elders. They live in a multicultural world; it's all they know. As America’s demo­graph­ics con­tin­ue to shift, Gen Z will be the last gen­er­a­tion that is pre­dom­i­nant­ly white. A slight major­i­ty of Gen Zers [52%] are white; 25% are His­pan­ic, 14% are Black and 4% are Asian.

Zoomers grew up in mul­ti-racial house­holds, with a black pres­i­dent, witnessed the legal­iza­tion of gay mar­riage, and attended classes in multicultural schools. As a result, they are less fazed than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions by dif­fer­ences in race, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, or religion, and the vast majority of Zoomers supported the nationwide demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd according to surveys conducted in 2020.

3. Environment: Because of the many challenges that we face, Gen Z is much more environmentally conscience than previous age cohorts. An over­whelm­ing major­i­ty [87%] of Gen Zers report being wor­ried about envi­ron­mental issues like climate change, plastic pollution, biodiversity, and toxic chemicals accord­ing to a study by the com­mu­ni­ca­tions firm Porter Novelli/​Cone. They also believe companies have a responsibility to act on environmental issues, and they seem willing to support brands that share their values. "Beyond expect­ing com­pa­nies to fall in line, young peo­ple are also com­mit­ted to lead­ing by exam­ple, sug­gests a con­sumer spend­ing sur­vey by First Insight, Inc. The pre­dic­tive ana­lyt­ics plat­form found that 73% of respond­ing Gen Zers were ok pay­ing more for sus­tain­able prod­ucts — no oth­er gen­er­a­tion group report­ed such a high will­ing­ness to do so. In addi­tion, 62% of respond­ing Gen Zers said that they pre­ferred buy­ing from sus­tain­able brands — on par with mil­len­ni­als and 23 per­cent­age points high­er than baby boomers."

4. LGBT Issues: Gen Z grew up as gay marriage was legalized across the country and many have gay, lesbian, and trans friends and co-workers. It's simply not an issue that they spend much time thinking about. A whopping 84% believe that gay marriage is either good for society or makes no difference. Only 15% believe that allowing gays and lesbians to marry has harmed society.

NYMag: "There are some “culture war” issues, notably involving LGBTQ+ rights, in which public opinion shows really sharp generational divisions. To put it bluntly, homophobia appears largely to be a geriatric illness, born of inadequate experience with real live LGBTQ+ people and rigid views of acceptable conduct. Even among conservative Evangelical youth, hostility toward marriage equality has ebbed."

5. Gun Control: The Porter Novelli/​Cone survey also found that gun control is becoming a more important issue to Gen Z in light of the growing incidence of school shootings across the United States. Recent polling found that more than two-thirds [68%] of Zoomers favor stricter gun control laws.

6. Abortion: Generation Z is far more supportive of abortion rights than earlier generations. A Pew Research organization study from earlier this year found that 74% of adults ages 18 to 29 believe that abortion should be an option for women in most or all cases. That's 12 points higher than those aged 30 to 49 and almost 20 points higher than Boomers. Moreover, there is almost no support [6%] among younger voters for the type of abortion restrictions without exceptions now being passed in some deep red states after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.

7. International Relations: Zoomers view America's place in the world differently than earlier generations having experienced the Iraq war debacle and its spillover into the Syrian civil war.

Carnegie "Seven in ten Zoomers support the idea that “the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan were a waste of time, lives, and taxpayer money and they did nothing to make us safer at home.”

Gen Z also seems more concerned with the plight of refugees and oppressed minorities internationally. According to research conducted for the Carnegie Center for American Progress, about eight in ten Zoomers believe that America should prioritize human rights in our foreign policy, and because of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, only one-third regard that nation as our friend.

Zoomers and younger Millenials also have a more favorable view of the United Nations than older Americans.

Pew Research: "This year, 68% of Americans ages 18 to 29 have a favorable view of the UN, compared with 56% of those 50 or older, a difference of 12 percentage points."

8. Immigration: As noted above, racial diversity is a fact of life for Generation Z and 22% of them have been raised by at least one immigrant parent, so their perspective on immigration is quite different than older Americans. For instance, 56% support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] program which allows children brought to the United States illegally to gain residency status. A recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute [PRRI] found that Gen Z is more supportive of immigrants on a broad array of issues.

PRRI: "Across-the-board Gen Zers are more supportive of pro-immigration positions than Millennials and older adults. .... These attitudes are represented in their views related to the role of immigrants in strengthening the diversity of the U.S., in their contribution to the economy, and in their lack of being a threat to national security. Furthermore, a majority of Gen Zers surveyed are opposed to the building of a wall at the southern U.S. border."

9. Women's role in Society & Children: Gen Z women are joining the labor force in record numbers and they will almost certainly have fewer children than earlier generations.

Forbes: "They’re increasing female labor force participation rates, but generation Z women plan to postpone childbirth and have fewer children than Millennials. According to a recent survey of over 1,000 members of generation Z, 27% don’t want to have kids." ...
"According to the 2022 Motherly State of Motherhood Study, even generation Z working moms who have children are unsure if they plan on having more (27%, compared to just 22% of skeptical Millennials). Some cite career reasons as to why; 40% feel frustrated and want to combine a career and motherhood but need a new arrangement at work to make that realistic. They also express that their managers could better support them as a mother by proactively communicating to understand their needs outside of work better."

Considering all of the above, it's not at all surprising that only 22% of Zoomers approved of Donald Trump's presidency and favored Democratic candidates in 2018 and Joe Biden in 2020. In fact, the majority seem to fit comfortably within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.


By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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