Durham, NH—Generation Z (Gen. Z) feels united after many voted in their first presidential election last Wednesday, Nov. 3. These young voters emerged as a significant presence in this election after not being eligible to vote in 2016.
University of New Hampshire (UNH) student Emily Vadeboncoeur said that voting for the first time made her feel euphoric. “There’s so much on the line for so many Americans and I know my vote is an extremely important part of the bigger picture.”
Pew Research Center predicted that roughly 24 million members of Gen. Z—usually described as people born after 1996—will have had the opportunity to cast a ballot in this election.
“This was a very interesting first election to be a part of,” said Abbey Stark, another student at UNH.
“It’s definitely nice to see more younger people voting,” said Eli Vannata, a senior at Oyster River High School. Vannata said that his first voting experience on Wednesday was easy, accompanied by friendly and helpful people.
Stark said that the pandemic caused a lot of stress surrounding how she was going to vote.
Stark filled out an absentee ballot. “I wanted to make sure that my vote counted and [that] it was in ahead of time.”
More than seven million young members of Gen. Z voted early or absentee, according to the Tufts University Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
“Even with the stress [of voting absentee], it was exciting to finally be able to participate in an election, especially such an important one,” said Stark.
The young voter turnout this year will absolutely be different from previous years, according to Dr. James Ramsay, UNH professor, coordinator of the Homeland Security program, and founding Chair of the Department of Security Studies.
In 2016, only 39.4% of voters were 18 to 24-years-old, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Voters aged 18 to 29-years-old are voting in record numbers this year, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
“So many young people I know are energized to vote,” said Vadeboncoeur, noting that the youth vote is a significant demographic.
In the 2020 Harvard Youth Poll from Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, 63% of young respondents said they would “definitely be voting” compared with only 47% in 2016.
Stark said she feels personally involved in this year’s results.
“I really felt like I was a part of the movement of our generation to avenge the 2016 decision,” Vadeboncoeur said. “It was so painful in the 2016 election to stand by and not be able to do anything, and then to see our country decline over the last four years.”
Stark noted that many young voters often have more progressive views, “Gen. Z has a unique perspective on politics.”
A survey in January from Pew Research Center found that 77% of registered voters ages 18 to 23-years-old disapproved of how Donald Trump has handled his job as president. Of these respondents, 61% said they were definitely or probably going to vote for the Democratic candidate for president in the 2020 election.
Vannata hopes that young voters will have a significant impact on the results, noting that it is important for the President of the United States to represent Americans of all age groups.
“I think we have become increasingly more vocal about politics during this election,” said Stark. “I believe Gen. Z will have a more established reputation after this election.”
“The energy we have as the younger generation is palpable,” said Vadeboncoeur. “The stakes are so high with the issues we’re facing today and Gen. Z has to establish themselves as the generation that will fix it.”
As a member of Gen. Z, Stark she feels like she is connected to something greater.
The strength of young voter participation depends on a commitment to uplifting youth voices and investing in infrastructure supporting youth engagement, said the Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
“Young people hold the future of our nation,” said Dr. Ramsay. “The only choice they have is to significantly and consistently engage in the political system.”
Photo Courtesy of Sarah Levine