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Gen Z Is Starting to Feel Differently About America

Gen Z’s views on American are changing—and so are their political leanings…

The year 2020 is leaving its mark on Gen Z. Our most recent survey of young consumers focused on their views on America, touching on everything from the pandemic to the protests. We found that the generation is feeling activated and passionate—and that their views of the country are shifting significantly in the wake of the historic events of this year. Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to say they support the #BlackLivesMatter protests, with 92% of 13-18-year-olds saying they support the movement, compared to 76% of Millennials. They’re also more likely to say that they have been participating in protests or awareness in some way.

But while they’re feeling positive about the changes that they believe their generation will make, their views of the country are becoming more negative. We compared 13-18-year-olds’ feelings on statements about America in October of 2019 to their feelings in June of 2020, and found some significant shifts:

While the majority still say that they’re proud to be an American, the number has decreased from 85% in 2019 to 75% in 2020—and the number who say they are embarrassed to be American has increased slightly. The biggest change though is in the number who consider themselves patriotic, which has fallen from over three quarters last year to just 54% today. We know that racism is the biggest problem Gen Z believes they face, and young activists continue to take to the streets to protest for racial justice—but their activism and awareness is also impacting their views of their country, and their feelings about patriotism.

Of course, these shifts could potentially influence the way young people vote in the upcoming election—and we are currently seeing significant changes to their political party affiliation:

In the fall of 2019, YPulse’s Special Report on the Election found that Millennials were far more likely than Gen Z to consider themselves Democrats, and Gen Z were more likely than Millennials to consider themselves Republicans. Now, Democratic leaning has evened considerably, with 34% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennials saying they affiliate as Democratic. But Republican leanings have switched: Millennials are now more likely than Gen Z to say that they affiliate Republican, with 22% of the older generation saying they do compared to 12% of the younger.

But the serious change that we see is Gen Z’s shift to declaring themselves unaffiliated with either party. The number who say they are neither Democratic nor Republican has increased from 30% in October of last year, to nearly half today. It should come as no surprise then that 70% of 13-18-year-olds agree with the statement “Both Democrats and Republicans are too extreme in their beliefs.” The upcoming election will be the first that some Gen Zs vote in, and currently, neither party is winning over this generation. That said, when we ask 13-18-year-olds who they would vote for if the election was tomorrow, 76% say they would vote for Biden.