Millennials no longer the youngest generation in politics; Gen Z candidates running in 2022 midterm elections
TAMPA, Fla. - Over the last decade, the United States has seen some of the most significant historical, social and political events of many Americans’ lifetimes.
During each election cycle, political analysts try to predict how the youngest class of voters will impact the outcome, but going into the 2022 midterms, politicos are looking at how the younger generation is impacting the field of candidates.
Members of Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012 making them 10 to 25 years old, have grown up witnessing pandemics, mass shootings, geneses of social movements and wars.
Now they appear ready to take on roles that could impact societal change by running for political offices.
So, why now?
In 2020, one-in-10 eligible voters was a member of Gen Z. But in 2022, Gen Zers are now eligible to run for office in the midterm elections.
It will be the first time in 16 years that Millennials are not the youngest generation eligible to run.
The current average age of members of the House is 58.4 years old. A potential Representative must be at least 25 when they take office.
Since 1965, the youngest person to become a member of the House is North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn, who was born on August 1, 1995, making him 25 at the beginning of the 117th Congress in 2021.
In Florida, 25-year-old Maxwell Alejandro Frost hopes to become one of the first Gen Z candidates to represent his community. Frost is running for Congress in Florida's 10th Congressional District after becoming active in politics 10 years ago.
He’s campaigning to win a traditionally blue seat which includes parts of Orlando.
Photo: Screenshot of campaign website for Maxwell Frost who is running for Congress in Florida's 10th District
Frost did not plan on starting a campaign at 24 years old. When asked if he would run, he was initially hesitant about the idea.
"First thing I said was, 'Hell no, I'm not running for office,'" commented Frost.
It wasn't until a conversation with his biological mom that his perspective changed.
"I learned that my biological mom was stuck in a cycle," shared the candidate.
Frost's mom disclosed that she was surrounded by drugs, crime and violence while she was pregnant. She did not have healthcare and was not able to see a doctor. When she had the baby, she decided to put her newborn child up for adoption.
Knowing his own birth story and his mother's experience opened Frost's eyes to the experiences of many others. That's when he decided to use his voice on a larger scale.
The candidate said some were skeptical of his ambitions at the beginning of his run for office. He wasn't widely known when he began his campaign.
"People see a 25-year-old running and people were skeptical, ‘Who is this guy?’" said Frost. "At first, to be honest, it was me and my friends. Right now, we are considered one of the front-runners in this race."
If elected, Frost would be one of the first members of Generation Z to represent Florida, and he's not letting anything stop him from reaching his goals.
"I had to quit my job at March for Our Lives to run for Congress. I'm an Uber driver now to pay for my rent," said the 25-year-old.
While his policies and beliefs are the focus of his campaign, Frost believes his generation's diligence has helped prepare him for this run.
There are several other Gen Z candidates throwing their hats in the ring across the country:
- Karoline Leavitt is a 24-year-old Republican who will turn 25 just before the New Hampshire midterms. She's running for Congress in her state's 1st District.
- Joe Vogel is a 25-year-old Democrat running for a seat in the Maryland House.
- Nabeela Syed is a Democrat running to be the first South Asian woman to serve in Illinois’ Legislature. She just graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2021.
- Ray Reed is a 25-year-old Democrat running for a seat in Missouri’s 2nd District.
One thing the candidates have in common is a desire to create change and offer new, younger perspectives.
What they lack in experience they could make up for with education. According to the Pew Research Center, Gen Z is the best-educated generation, so far.
They are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to enroll in college.
Gen Z views on social and political issues
Pew Research Center statistics revealed that 7-in-10 Gen Zers say the government should do more to solve problems. Meanwhile, 29% of Generation Z thinks the government is doing too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals.
About 48% of Gen Zers approve of same-sex marriage while 15% disapprove, according to the Pew Research Center.
A third of Gen Z members say they know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, compared to 16% of Gen Xers, 12% of Boomers and 7% of the Silent Generation.
Gen Z Republicans are more likely to say Black people are treated less fairly than whites, the Pew Research Center said. They also have differing views when it comes to climate change, compared to older members of the GOP.
The Pew Research Center also said two-thirds of Gen Zers believe it's overall positive for women to participate in politics.
In 2020, an estimated 52 to 55% of youth exercised their right to vote, according to preliminary data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
Gen Z is also one of the first generations to have grown up with technology and social media that has permanently changed social and political conventions. In 2018, an overwhelming 97% of the youngest Generation Z members – between the ages of 13-17 – reported using at least one major social media platform.
The 2022 Midterm Election may reveal whether youth provides a new advantage for candidates in an ever-changing political climate.
Election day is Tuesday, November 8, 2022.