Since the Parkland shooting, we’ve seen the media push the idea that it will be the younger generation that finally forces the government’s hand on gun control. Younger voters are going to save the day as they save us from ourselves.
We hear that a lot, and yet three years after the shooting, most of the kids who were in high school when it happened are now old enough to vote, yet we don’t really see the huge swings we were promised.
That’s because, in many cases, gun control is one of the issues that’s actually keeping younger voters away from the Democratic Party.
Mack Bair, 24, supports same-sex marriage. Matthew C., 22, backs marijuana legalization and Luke T., 22, is solidly pro-abortion rights, (both of whom asked to not use their last names out of fear of retribution for their political views). John Henke, 20, says he believes climate change is happening — and that humans are playing a role.
At first blush, these young men might seem like progressive voters. But they’re not: All four voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020 and, for those old enough, in 2016 as well.
They’re all also part of Generation Z, America’s youngest adult generation, which is more ethnically and racially diverse than any generation before it.1 And similar to millennials, who are now in their mid-20s to early 40s, members of Gen Z are more liberal on a number of key social issues than older generations. According to Pew’s 2020 verified voter survey, millennials and Gen Zers also backed Biden over Trump in that year’s election, by a 20-point margin.2
But despite the generation’s overall progressive bent, this hasn’t translated into overwhelming Democratic support. In fact, some research suggests that Gen Zers are no more likely to identify as members of the Democratic Party than registered voters in the overall electorate, and a plurality are unwilling to identify with either political party. That means that, despite their overwhelming support of Biden in the presidential election, there is also a small — but, so far, solid — chunk of Gen Z that identifies as Republican.
To better understand who these voters are and what motivates them to align with a party that has remained conservative on many issues important to Gen Z, I looked at polling data and political science for clues. I also spoke with six Gen-Z voters who voted for Trump and either identify as Republican or lean Republican. What I learned is that most of them break with the mainstream of the Republican Party on many social and cultural issues, but solidly agree with the GOP’s stances on the economy. They also think the Democratic Party, as it is now, has veered too far left, specifically with its stances on immigration, gun control and race.
In other words, the demographic that was supposed to help deliver gun control to America actually seems to find the push for gun control as unattractive.
Honestly, it’s kind of funny.
So what happened between Parkland and now? Why would so many avoid the Democrats over something like gun control, among other issues? Especially since so many took part in student walkouts shortly after the shooting.
Yet at the time, I pointed out that a lot of students participated out of a number of factors, one of which was just an excuse to skip class. No one was allowed to walk out and counter-protest, after all. Those who didn’t walk out in support had to stay in class, so a lot just bolted to avoid that horrible fate.
Further, people change as they learn more. Some of them looked at the data or looked at the Constitution and changed their minds.
Regardless of why, though, these young people who the Democrats are convinced should be lining up to vote for them aren’t really fans of the party. As we can see, for some, it’s because of things like gun control.
Frankly, I find that funny.
Granted, these are Republican voters, but I think you’ll find gun control as one of those issues that independents in this age category also find as going too far to the left.