Will Generation Z Lean Conservative or Liberal? It’s Not That Simple

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It might be time for the Millennial media obsession to wind down as a new generation inches up in age and takes their first baby steps into the workforce. I’m talking about Generation Z, the next demographic cohort after the Millennials. While there is no set consensus on when this generation begins, it is commonly believed that members of Generation Z were born between 1998 and 2001. That makes the oldest among them 16 to 19 years old. And the youngest? That remains to be seen because “as of yet there is little to no consensus about ending birth years.” It’s important to note that generational lines are not based on science, so clear definitions are not always available.

 

Generation Z

At 16 to 19 years old, many Americans are already working, or just getting started. Organizations are wise to start looking at their future workforce, especially because as of now Gen Z are 22% of the population and growing. Research conducted on this generation is intriguing.

An interesting question raised about Generation Z concerns their predicted political leanings. In particular, will Generation Z be the most conservative or liberal generation in decades? Let’s take a look at both sides of the spectrum:

Generation Z: Conservative?

Generation Z

  • A 2016 American study found that while only 18% of Millennials attended church, church attendance was 41% among Generation Z.
  • Polls found eight out of ten members of Gen Z considered themselves “fiscally conservative.”
  • In certain areas, Generation Z is more risk-averse than the Millennials. In 2013, 66% of teenagers had tried alcohol, down from 82% in 1991.
  • A 2016 study done by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that Generation Z had lower teen pregnancy rates, less substance abuse, and higher on-time high school graduation rates compared to Millennials.
  • Business Insider describes Generation Z as more conservative, more money-oriented, more entrepreneurial and pragmatic about money compared to Millennials. This make sense considering members of Generation Z have watched their parents live through the second worst economic decline in American history (starting in 2008), and have witnessed the aftermath of mass layoffs and rampant foreclosures.
  • One British study conducted by global consultancy firm, The Guild, found Gen Z participants ten times more likely than Millennials to dislike tattoos and body piercings.

What we see here are some hallmarks of conservatism—risk averse when it comes to drugs and alcohol, significantly higher church attendance than the previous generation, conservative about money, prioritizing stability, pragmatic, and less interested in what is commonly associated with “fringe” behavior.

But it’s not that simple. Those who want to take these Generation Z findings and blanket them as largely conservative are ignoring other key aspects of the generation. For example:

Generation Z: Liberal?

Generation Z

  • Gen Z is more diverse than any generation. Frank N. Magid estimates that Gen Z is 55% Caucasian, 24% Hispanic, 14% African American, 4% Asian and 4% mixed race or other. He also states that Gen Z exhibits positive feelingsabout ethnic diversity in the U.S. and is more likely than older generations to have social circles that include different ethnic groups, races, and religions. This makes them more sympathetic to movements regarding racism, such as Black Lives Matter, and less tolerant for institutionalized discrimination against different religions, ethnic groups or immigrants.
  • Generation Z is more liberal in areas like marijuana legalization, and transgenderissues, according to a study done by The Gild. 56% of 13-to-20-year-olds said that they knew someone who went by gender neutral pronouns such as “they,” “them,” or “ze,” compared to 43% of people aged 28 to 34 years old, according to the results of the Innovation Group’s major new study. Over a third of Gen Z respondents also strongly agreed that gender did not define a person as much as it used to. This figure dropped to 23% among Millennials who were 28 and up.
  • 75% of Gen Z support same sex marriage. They’re more likely to have grown up around same sex parents, and therefor don’t see this as unusual—or illegal.
  • 76% are concerned about global warming. This makes sense considering the amount of environmental disasters they’ve witnessed so far, including the 2013 Colorado forest fires (most destructive wildfire in history,) tornado in Joplin, Missouri in 2011 (single deadliest tornado in US history since advent of modern weather forecasting,) the flooding devastating Mississippi river valley (one of largest and most damaging floods recorded in past century,) and much more.
  • It has been reported that Generation Z are, “the least likely to believe that there is such a thing as the American Dream.”
  • Having grown up bombarded by mass shootings in their own country, and terrorist attacks overseas, this generation more likely supports gun control.

These findings paint the picture of a more liberal ideology with environmental concern, support for gay marriage and transgender rights, inherent acceptance of diversity, and supportive view of legalizing marijuana.

It’s Time to Rethink What Divides Us

Generation Z

So which is it? How do we categorize a generation that presents common ideals of both conservatives and liberals? Maybe we don’t. Maybe we need to rethink what it is to be “conservative” and “liberal” and consider that in the future the distinction will be different. This generation just might disrupt the huge US bipartisan divide we are experiencing now. And maybe we would be better for it.

Do you have personal experience with members of Generation Z? What have you noticed about them? I’d love to hear your perspective. Leave a comment below, send me an email, or find me on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

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19 Comments

  1. Diego
    August 26, 2017

    As a Hispanic Male of Generation Z and also an observer of my fellow schoolmates I have noticed, although we do enjoy ethnic diversity, we strongly dislike groups Black Lives Matter and feminism. We as a majority have deemed them as racist, sexist, hypocrites and “Cancer”. I know I can not speak for every single high schol but the one I attend is more right leaning. Everyday I am happy to discuss with my classmates on how stupid the ANTIFA movement is and how “Tolerant” they really are. We bring up Winston Churchill’s quote “The facists of the future will be called anti-facists” We are more focused on money I will agree with you on that

    Reply
    • Anne Loehr
      October 11, 2017

      Hi Diego, I appreciate you sharing your perspective and experience here. Very interesting, and always great to hear directly from the generation I am writing about!

      Reply
      • Maryam
        October 16, 2017

        Hi,
        I am also part of Gen Z and we are definitely socially liberal. Not sure where Diego goes to school, but at my school most people support BLM, feminism, LGBT rights, etc… And on the internet as well, Gen Z kids are, without a doubt, more aware of political issues than previous generations and more liberal, at least socially. I will agree that we are more fiscally conservative because of events like the Great Recession.
        Thanks.

        Reply
        • Anne Loehr
          October 17, 2017

          Hi Maryam, I’m happy to hear a different perspective on your generation. It’s pretty amazing what the Internet has done for political awareness, isn’t it? Thanks for your valuable comment– looking forward to seeing how Gen Z entering the workforce will impact the future of work– and society!

          Reply
          • Anthony
            November 9, 2017

            I know that growing up watching my news from mostly independent sources like Steven Crowder, Ben Shapiro, and Paul Joseph Watson, my outlook is much further right than my millennial counterparts. He call them SJW’s and crybabies. We are the first generation to discover these truths as we hardly got ANY of our information from the mainstream outlets. BLM and Antifa are seen rightfully as terrorists and we aren’t apologetic about our history. We aren’t just here in America, we are almost more relevant in Europe where we experienced the Eurozone crisis and Migration Crisis. Terrorism, financial hardship, and depraved culture has shaped us into what we are and given us a great role model: How not to run our lives.

  2. Sean Kraus
    October 19, 2017

    I’m a Gen Z college freshman and despite being close in age to many sophomores and young juniors I feel extremely marginalized when it comes to social and political opinions. Fiscally I’m a firm believer that hard work enables (not entitles) people and that the beauty of the United States is that you can go from having nothing and slowly build yourself up from the dust. I’m also less likely to support social justice, the ridiculous idea that there are more than two genders, and that “socialism is the future of American economics.”

    I’m constantly butting heads with millennials because they are on the far-left extreme and can’t seem to shut up and hear out other people’s arguments and beliefs, essentially creating an idealogicql echo chamber where nothing gets solved.

    Somebody mentioned above that our generation finds social justice groups and third wave feminism to be obnoxiousand I completely agree, and I believe that we think that way because diversity and classical gender equality theories have become so integrated in social media that in our minds it’s an afterthought that is less important than the individual. I’ve never seen blatant racism in my age group and when asked how many black/white/hispanic friends I have I have a hard time counting because to me individual friendships are more important than filling a race quota (which I’m sure I’ve filled for those who ask.)

    In my mind Gen Z is the most moderate generation in a long time and probably will be a significant milestone in creating a nation that would make Thomas Jefferson shed a tear.

    Reply
  3. Abraham Frost
    October 20, 2017

    I think the rise of conservative counter-media in the form of highly intelligent conservatives and classical liberals like Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, and their ilk has pushed Gen-Z to the right. It’s “cool” to be a conservative.. I go to a very liberal school, but our conservatives are very strong and outspoken. Part of it is learning how to make intelligent arguments on their own, and part of it is probably factors we’ve grown up with (the economic things you mention in your article). I’d also make the argument that Gen-Z conservatives are far more open minded, just based off my experiences. At my school we’re exposed to liberal POVs every day, so we understand the roots of the thinking of the liberals. Many/most of our friends are probably libs too. The reason I say open-minded is that b/c we see the issue from so many POVs, whereas it’s far easier to stay inside a liberal bubble in our area. You can just have liberal friends and be fine. This leads to going from THINKING they’re right to KNOWING they’re right, b/c no one has ever challenged their beliefs. I’m in a Gov class right now, and I seriously heard the phrase “white men need to sit down and shut up” directed at me. At the same time, many of the libs in my Gov class are coming around to my side on a lot of issues, which showcases THEIR open-mindedness. All in all this is a pretty great article. I think you hit a lot of good points, but I’d put my money on gen-Z being conservative.

    Reply
    • Anne Loehr
      November 17, 2017

      Hi Abraham,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. It’s really thought provoking. I was surprised to read it’s “cool” to be conservative. I had no idea! Also really interesting to read your perspective on the conservatives you know being more open-minded because it isn’t as east to stay in your own little bubble. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

      Reply
      • Dan Dan
        November 24, 2017

        Yeah, I feel alot of people from my generation feel like its ‘cool’ to be a conservative. I know quite a few liberals and quite a few conservatives. From what I’ve seen honestly, traditional conservatism seems to be dying and libertaranism seems to be on the rise. But yeah, I think alot of people just find it ‘cool’ to disagree with liberals

        Reply
  4. Garry
    October 25, 2017

    Born in 1998, I’m not exactly sure which generation I should be considered to be a part of. Having recently graduated highschool, I can say that the environment in the school I went to was highly divided. On one hand, we had the administration, which was definitely very left leaning. And some students hopped on board with the administration’s approach, and flourished. Other students, mostly white males like myself and some minorities (also mainly males) felt forgotten. So, we rebeled. (If you’ve ever herd of Milo Yiannopoulos, he was our hero.) We liked being “edgy” and being provocatuers as opposed to “the other side” which pushed to continue what Millenials had done before us. The only similarity between the opposing groups was that they wanted to provoke social change. The only difference was our methods. (As a side note, I do not condone 12 year olds who say they love Hitler just to offend people.) But now, looking back, I can’t fully align myself with either side. Both ends of the spectrum twist and exaggerate the other side’s position to “expose” them as haters or hyppocrites. And I still can’t decide whether or not I regret my decision to vote for Donald Trump.

    Reply
    • Anne Loehr
      November 17, 2017

      Wow– thank you so much for sharing your perspective.

      Reply
  5. Quinn
    October 31, 2017

    Yeah, there is not very people in my generation who I know at least that are socially liberal.

    Reply
  6. Caleb
    November 1, 2017

    I’m pretty sure what you have just described can be called libertarian. They are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. It seems to me that many in generation z hate political correctness and feminism but also generally pro LGBT rights. Maybe it’s different where you are but that’s just my two cents.

    Reply
  7. Elvis
    November 10, 2017

    I think it’s too early to say whether gen Z are more liberal or more conservative than millennials. Most gen Z are still children under the age of 18 and thus their political and social views are highly affected by their parents (who are mostly gen X individuals who tend to be more conservative than millennials). I predict that they will be liberal just because it seems that every generation is more liberal than the last. However, we won’t know until at least half of gen Z are adults who live independently whose political and social views are not as influenced by their parents. Maybe in 5 or 10 years we’ll have a better idea of which way that generation is leaning.

    Reply
    • Anne Loehr
      November 17, 2017

      Hello,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree with you… life experience definitely influences political and social views, so the more life experience the younger generation has, the more they will evolve. It will definitely be interesting to think back in five or ten years to these comments, and what was predicted.

      Reply
  8. Isaac Chang
    November 28, 2017

    My personal experience is that in my school, we have a pretty politically active population who voted like this in our class election. 44% Clinton. 34% Trump, 18% Johnson, 3% Stein and 1% Other/Decline to State. I cast mine for Other. Our liberal base is made up of a mainly Asian population of nerdy kids who follow the news. Our Conservatives are more mixed and like Trumps populist appeal. Majority of us are appalled by his tweets. We believe in fiscal responsibility, but want Medicare of All, and in Government, we decided that we should cut military spending.

    Reply
    • Anne Loehr
      November 29, 2017

      Hi Issac,

      Thank you for your insight. This info is great– and definitely speaks to a generation that is changing the traditional distinction of liberal vs. conservative.

      Have a great rest of the year!
      Anne

      Reply
  9. Lili
    December 7, 2017

    Hi Anne,
    I found your article very interesting – it’s always fascinating to read about different perspectives on my generation. I’m not from the US, so I thought it’d be good to offer my view on the matter (as my friends and I generally keep up with global politics and debate on global social issues). I personally go to a school whereby we are largely aligned with liberal ideologies, though this may differ in other schools. For instance, we are in support of feminism, same-sex marriage (even though it’s currently illegal here), and generally accepting of people who identify as a gender different from traditional norms. Although, this could also be attributed to our country’s beliefs and values. We are brought up to believe in racial equality as our racial divide is not as strong as in other countries, so this could have played a part in the values we hold dear to us. As with Asian countries, my parents are generally more conservative – maybe even more than those in western countries. As a generation, I would say we have the most equally-balanced number of conservatives and liberals, and it’s going to be hard to tell at this point of time.

    Reply
    • Anne Loehr
      December 7, 2017

      Hi Lili,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. It is really valuable to hear from someone outside of the U.S! I appreciate your perspective. You reference your country’s values. What do you think are the top three values of your country? It’s interesting to think about that for the U.S. as well.

      Have a wonderful week/weekend!
      Anne

      Reply

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