People who were born in 2002 grew up in the post-9/11 era, are gaining their political consciousness during the Trump presidency, and are part of the generation for whom the encroaching threat of climate change is more real than ever. This year, they are able to vote for the first time, which means this election will be a game-changer in more than one way.
We asked 18 young women who were born in 2002 and are voting for the first time in 2020 what issues they care about, how they want to change the world, and how their generation, Generation Z, is different from millennials (we got some very revelatory answers to that one).
Overwhelmingly, we found that these young women don’t feel the two-party system is working and aren’t devoted to one particular candidate. Instead, they’re issues-based voters: Climate change and student debt are most frequently on their minds, and any politician who has real plans to do something about these crises will get a fair shake.
One hundred years since the ratification of the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote (although many, particularly Black women in the South, couldn’t exercise that right until later), some of them are also worried that we're going in the wrong direction on issues such as equal pay and reproductive rights. But if anything truly unites them — from progressive to moderate to Republican — it’s the sense that this upcoming election needs to bring major change.
Read their perspectives, ahead.
Why I’m voting: I feel that it is a privileged thing to sit back because the way the country is governed does not directly affect you. I come from a single-parent, low-income, minority background, where I see the hand of the government in my daily life. So my goal in this election is to brush up on how the process works and get involved, because I refuse to stand for nothing.
How I’m involved politically: I’m a student advisor for the county’s board of education. We are currently discussing the redistricting that’s about to take place following the construction of a new high school, which will now be the largest high school in the state of Maryland. I'm the CEO of Pouchful, which sells stylish, reusable lunch bags made of recycled materials to combat paper waste. And, I have been instrumental in persuading the County Council to pass legislation that limits vape access to minors.
What issues I care about most: 1. It is undeniable that our beloved Earth is dying! Yet we have politicians in office that continue to deny the very fact. 2. I strive to make an impact on racism. People are being mistreated, profiled, lynched, and systematically sabotaged in a way that affects their living arrangements, opportunities, and even education. 3. Gun reform. “I can’t take an open water bottle on a plane, but I can walk around Nevada with an AR-15.” — IN-Q
How my generation is different from millennials: Our generation is all about activism, and we are not afraid to speak up for what we believe in. Remember the March for our Lives? Kids of all ethnicities and backgrounds literally fought for their survival in a place where we should feel safe; school. We need this energy when it comes to everything else that’s wrong with this nation, especially in the upcoming election.
What it was like to register to vote: I registered to vote online in September. The process wasn’t too hard; I just remember doing it on my phone at school because I saw that it was National Voter Registration Day on Twitter.
Why I’m voting: I remember being in eighth grade during the 2016 election and our teacher had us do one of the “I Side With” quizzes, and from that point I’ve always looked forward to voting. Also, my mom passed away from cancer last spring and that really opened my eyes to how big of an impact government policies have in my life.
Who I’m voting for: U.S. Senate: Theresa Greenfield, U.S. House: Abby Finkenauer, president: Elizabeth Warren. As an Iowa voter, I plan to caucus on February 3.
How I’m involved politically: I volunteered for Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign and I am starting to volunteer for Elizabeth Warren. I also have gone to a few rallies for climate change and women’s rights; my favorite was in Iowa City this fall. Greta Thunberg was a speaker there, which was really exciting because I admire how dedicated she is and she’s nearly the same age as me.
What it was like to register to vote: I pre-registered to vote on my 16th birthday, the moment I got my learner's permit. I found the process incredibly easy, and I constantly help my friends register because it literally only takes 30 seconds.
Why I’m voting: I cannot wait to cast one of my first votes against Donald Trump.
Who I’m voting for: Tami Gouveia for State Rep, Lori Trahan for U.S. Congress, Ed Markey for U.S. Senate, and whichever Democrat wins the primary for president.
What candidates I like most: I am strongly supporting Pete Buttigieg because of his strong stance on democracy reform. His first goal when he assumes office is to fix our broken system: electoral college, gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc. Mayor Pete's approach sticks out to me because he is laying a groundwork for future Democratic leaders.
Which party I align with: Although I tend to lean left, I am registered as an unenrolled voter, so I can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries. I strongly support almost all liberal policies, but working at the Massachusetts Democratic Party left me with a strong disdain for partisanship, so I decided to leave my options open.
How I’m involved politically: I am involved locally, on a state level, and nationally with High School Democrats of America. Currently, I am interning for Reclaim Our Vote, which seeks to fight voter suppression, and volunteering for the Ranked Choice Voting campaign in Massachusetts. Since I live close to New Hampshire, I spent the summer visiting candidates’ town halls and house parties to prepare for the presidential primary. I most likely will take a gap year before college and work for a progressive nonprofit or think tank in D.C.
What issues I care about most: I, along with many of my peers, suffer from climate anxiety. The mere thought of envisioning my future scares me because of the terrible changes we will endure in our lifetime. I hope to vote for politicians with bold proposals to not only fight climate change but prepare us for the impending changes.
How my generation is different from millennials: My generation is mobilizing in much greater numbers than millennials. We are awake, paying attention, and ready to fight back against a society that is seemingly rigged against us.
Who I’m voting for: If I could vote in the primary (I won’t be 18 yet), I would most likely vote for Elizabeth Warren. She's an inspiration, and I would love to see a woman as president. In the general election, I will vote for the Democratic nominee. For the U.S. Senate, I'll be supporting either Jon Ossoff or Sarah Riggs Amico. For the U.S. Senate special election, I'm supporting Tamara Johnson-Shealey.
How I’m involved politically: I am the president of the Young Democrats at my high school, I've held voter registration drives, I phone-bank a ton, I worked for Planned Parenthood Southeast, I volunteer and canvas for local politicians whenever I can, and I was on Kirsten Gillibrand's Young Leaders Council during her run for president.
What frustrates me about politics: I'm not a huge fan of the two-party system because I think it leaves a lot of people along the political spectrum feeling isolated just because they don't confine to a binary.
What issues I care about most: I love it when a candidate is feisty about their climate-crisis policy plans. The planet is on fire; we need radical change now, so any candidate that has an actual plan to implement effective policies to combat the crisis really excites me. Also, as a proud Jewish woman, anti-Semitism poses a real threat to me and those I care about. Since Trump's election, American Jews are arguably in the most vulnerable state they've been in in the U.S.
How my generation is different from millennials: Our addiction to social media and our palpable fear of gun violence.
What it was like to register to vote: Our high school had people come in from the courthouse to register us.
Why I’m voting: If we want to see a change in our nation, we need to catalyze the movement by standing up for what we believe in and exercise our rights. Don’t be complacent. Always strive to make things better.
Who I’m voting for: I’m not sure who I am voting for yet, but I will vote against President Trump, as I am unhappy with his demeanor and attitude toward current issues.
What issues I care about most: Climate change should not be a political matter, but it is. Our home is in danger, and the fact that politicians are making this detrimental issue a political statement is frankly disheartening. I also care about gun reform. During my sophomore year, Marshall County High School (a high school down the road from my house) fell victim to a school shooting. Even though many locals’ lives were affected, we have not taken any stance against guns, and I find that disheartening. I believe that guns should be harder to access and purchase.
How my generation is different from millennials: I was born in a post-9/11 world. This has set the course of our childhood — with school shootings, bag checks, and metal detectors.
Severna Park, Maryland
Who I’m voting for: My favorite presidential candidate is Bernie Sanders. I think he has the passion to fix some of the deep-rooted problems America has. But in the end I will vote for whomever wins the Democratic nomination. The only local elections in my district are for our representative in the U.S. House. I will be voting for Anthony Brown (Democratic incumbent). The midterms in 2022 will be more exciting for Maryland.
How I’m involved politically: I went to my first protest at 14 and have been to multiple each year since. I am one of two leaders of Fridays for Future Annapolis, which is focused on the climate crisis. I plan school strikes in my state’s capital. We strike from school on Fridays and hold a march and rally. I also lobby in my local government. In a few weeks, I am speaking in front of the state delegates from my county.
How my generation is different from millennials: We have grown up with social media. Our mindsets are different, and we feel a lot of pressure from comparing ourselves to others.
Palos Verdes, California
What it was like to register to vote: I pre-registered to vote online, actually! It was super-easy and I would absolutely recommend any and all 16- and 17-year-olds do so, too. Text FUTURE to 644-33 to get started.
What candidates I like most: For now, I really like Elizabeth Warren. I also pay a lot of attention to Andrew Yang because he is a unique candidate who has a strong base of supporters. I really miss Kamala Harris because I think that she was a great candidate who just faced some flaws internally within her campaign. But, of course, I am willing to vote for whomever gets the Democratic nomination.
What issues I care about most: Gun violence. I have served on the national Students Demand Action advisory board for about two years. Having had the opportunity to work with Everytown for Gun Safety so closely, I have been able to learn a lot about the cause and develop intimate relationships with survivors. I am only interested in candidates who, at the least, support background checks on all gun sales. Additionally, I support efforts to end mass incarceration.
How my generation is different from millennials: I think our generation is filled with more doers (sorry, millennials). I see so many Gen Z activists, artists, athletes, and scholars who are unapologetically pursuing their passions. We are not afraid to let the world know how we feel about things and share our creativity. We are also a lot more tech-savvy. We combine that fearless ambition with our advanced utilization of modern technology to start and fuel trends and movements.
I think our generation is filled with more doers (sorry, millennials).
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Why I’m voting: I'm voting for the first time this year because I have firm beliefs, so I feel as if it's my duty as an American citizen to vote for what and who I believe in.
Who I’m voting for: State Rep. Dave Heine, State Sen. Dennis Kruse, Congressman Jim Banks, Gov. Eric Holcomb, and President Donald Trump.
How I’m involved politically: I started and am the president of Allen County Teenage Republicans (TARS). I have given a speech at the Lincoln Day Dinner; I have been on the local radio station multiple times; and I have door-knocked, phone-banked, and walked in parades for various local, state, and national candidates. Starting January 26, I am working as a U.S. Senate Page under Sen. Todd Young this semester in Washington, D.C.
What candidates I like most: I strongly care about President Trump because his passion and drive for our country inspire me. I've never seen a man who loves and cares about our country so much. His views also strongly align with my conservative and Republican views, especially as he incorporates God so much throughout his presidency.
What issues I care about most: An issue that is extremely important to me is being pro-life. This issue decides who I will vote for in an election, and President Trump is currently the most pro-life president we’ve ever had.
How my generation is different from millennials: I feel like the millennial generation appears to be a little overly sensitive to everyday issues, and I think my generation has realized that doesn’t always work and we can’t have effective communication if everyone is not able to express their beliefs. It seems like social media was used as a more fun or entertainment platform when the millennial generation was younger, but now, people are not afraid to use social media to speak their opinion. This has resulted in a lot more controversies, however, it has also allowed for members of Generation Z to express themselves more freely.
What it was like to register to vote: I registered to vote in 2019 through HeadCount.org. The process was really simple and the website had everything I needed. Since I am currently under 18, it redirected me to RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov, where I filled out a couple of other registration forms, so I am currently pre-registered.
Why I’m voting: I feel really lucky that I even have the option to vote, as many other people in the world are not given the same opportunities as me. So I feel like not taking advantage of the ability to cast a ballot in my name is a waste. I spend a lot of time thinking about the future, and I feel like in order to live a life I am satisfied with, I want my voice to be heard.
Which party I align with: I align more with the left wing because I am geared toward equality, human rights, and climate change. There isn’t one candidate I necessarily care more about.
What I think will motivate young people to vote in 2020: Probably support or endorsement from celebrities. When influential people speak about something they are passionate about and want changes, it has a sort of trickling effect.
How my generation is different from millennials: Gen Z likes to poke fun at all the horrible things going on around us. Humor is like a coping mechanism and we use memes on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok more than any other generation I’ve seen. I’ve also noticed that we don’t usually have conversations with one another where we can be open and vulnerable. Most of the time, humor is involved in some way to take off the tension.
Humor is like a coping mechanism and we use memes on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok more than any other generation I’ve seen.
Gabriela Aviv Becher
What it was like to register to vote: The day of my 16-and-a-halfth birthday, I pre-registered online, and it took close to no time or effort.
Why I’m voting: As a poll worker during the midterm elections, I watched people get turned away from the polls because of language barriers and registration mistakes. I am currently conducting research on disenfranchisement and voter registration through data analysis of the North Carolina voter file. I believe it is my duty to vote on behalf of myself and all of the people whose voices are blocked out of elections — through voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, and more.
Which party I align with: I am growing up in a political household. One of my most distinctive childhood memories is getting picked up early from preschool to go sit on my mom’s shoulders at a rally for President Obama before 2008. But, I’ve recently been trying to figure out why I consider myself a Democrat. I’ve realized that simply, it is because I believe in human rights and opening doors of opportunity for everybody, no matter their background. The party is rooted in optimism and willing to evolve, which I respect.
How I’m involved politically: In ninth grade, after realizing that people with strong political opinions had no way to take tangible action, I started a club at my school called Right to Assemble. We host postcard-writing events for issues we care about, train students to text-bank on behalf of campaigns, and lead field trips to register new U.S. citizens to vote at naturalization ceremonies. Leading up to the primaries, I am working to educate all of my voting-age classmates on voting and planning a school-wide mock election.
What candidates I like most: There is no presidential candidate that I am wholeheartedly supporting as of now, but I am drawn to Elizabeth Warren’s labor plan, tax on the ultra-wealthy, support of the Green New Deal, and overall extremely clear-cut policy plans.
What issues I care about most: My grandparents, aunts, and uncles came to the U.S. from Iran as refugees, and I feel a personal connection to immigration. I believe immigrants should be able to enter the U.S. and feel safe, welcomed, and able to thrive and find opportunities, as my family was able to do.
How my generation is different from millennials: A sense of urgency. People are in fear for our futures and those of generations to come.
Who I’m voting for: I’m not sure yet. There is no candidate I particularly care about as of now. I'm currently unaffiliated with any political party, but I know I'm leaning toward being a Democrat because the Democratic Party seems to care about minorities like myself.
How I’m involved politically: I’m the sales director of Pouchful, which sells eco-friendly lunch bags to combat waste. (Shoutout to Adjo Evonlah, the CEO, whom you heard from above.)
What issues I care about most: I think the most important issue is climate change because the Earth won't be able to sustain life if these changes keep happening. The wealth gap is very important to me because I'm a minority woman. Another very important issue to me is incarceration rates. Black men are the leading percentage of the incarcerated because of institutionalized racism.
How my generation is different from millennials: Generation Z is full of people who will take action to make a change. We're not scared about the consequences or backlash when we stand up for something we believe in. We find solutions to problems now, so it'll benefit us and our descendants.
Why I’m voting: In my family, voting is extremely important because African-Americans have been facing voter suppression for decades. My mother constantly talks about the importance of voting, as it is one of the few times we can be heard.
Who I’m voting for: At the moment, I can’t decide between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The more research I do, the more flaws I find. For example, Warren has supported reparations for descendants of slaves, while Sanders has not. However, Sanders has a more progressive student-debt cancellation program. At the moment, I am leaning toward Sanders as I believe he is better at rallying the youth.
What candidates I like most: Honestly? None of them. Politicians haven’t proved to be the most reliable people. Especially in the age of social media, you can find something “problematic” about any candidate. All I can do is vote for progressives and hope that they keep their promises.
How I’m involved politically: I did a project on the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) for my AP Government class. I found the organization interesting and agreed with most of their policies. I followed members of the organization on Twitter, and I plan to become a member.
What issues I care about most: Climate change is rapidly degenerating our atmosphere and nothing is being done about it. We need to stop using fossil fuels, immediately. Poverty is another important issue. Living in California is expensive and, as a result, there is a large homeless population. So many families are barely scraping by because our social safety net is incredibly weak. There should not be mega-billionaires while people are on the street starving. It’s villainous. And of course, student loan debt. As a senior in high school, I have to find ways to pay for college, and I am terrified. At the end of this year, I have to sign my life away to capitalism just so I can get an education. Why is the cost of college rising exponentially while the job market for graduates decreases?
How my generation is different from millennials: From what I’ve seen on social media, millennials are nihilists. Many of them have accepted this way of life and have given up. I understand why they are discouraged, but it is harmful. I am going to do everything I can to change our system. Our country was built on slavery and war, so it’s no secret as to why there is a huge power imbalance. But we can reshape it. We can do anything.
Who I’m voting for: In the upcoming Iowa caucus, I will be supporting Elizabeth Warren, and I will vote Democratic down the ticket in November.
How I’m involved politically: I have done some volunteering for Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.
Which party I align with: I have always been a Democrat. One of the most important things to me is generosity. I feel like most of the policies the party supports will help so many people, and that wealth should not be the deciding factor for whether you live a dignified life.
How my generation is different from millennials: Our generation has grown up in a lot of turmoil and divisiveness, and we see the fight before us as extremely urgent because we have to. The struggles millennials have dealt with showed us a lot about the problems in society that need fixing, and hopefully our generation will fix them.
What it was like to register to vote: I pre-registered last month. The process was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be.
Why I’m voting: It’s my first time to officially feel like a part of something bigger than myself.
Who I’m voting for: For the presidential election, I plan on voting for Donald Trump. Despite the media and his big mouth, there are some really great things he has done; for instance, the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in a long time.
How I’m involved politically: I am a representative for my school's Teenage Republicans (TARS) Club, and I really enjoy discussing politics with my peers.
It’s my first time to officially feel like a part of something bigger than myself.
Which party I align with: I most relate to the Republican Party. True, I was born and raised in Oklahoma, which is predominantly Republican, but you also have to decide things for yourself.
How my generation is different from millennials: As a member of Gen Z, I think growing up with technology has a big effect on our personalities. We can see for ourselves what the world (and other generations) are like and then make our generation what we want. We are big dreamers; we are the future.
Fayetteville, North Carolina
What it was like to register to vote: I registered to vote while volunteering at a Donald Trump rally in Fayetteville to register other people to vote. It was much easier than I expected it to be.
Who I’m voting for: In the presidential election, I plan on voting for Donald Trump. In the U.S. Senate election, I will vote for Dan Bishop. In the election for governor, I will vote for Dan Forest. For NC House (District 45), I will vote for John Szoka. I’m still deciding about the other elections.
How I’m involved politically: I am the president of my high school’s chapter of the Teenage Republicans (TARS) Club and try to represent the values of the Republican Party within my school. We are going to meet with our district's current representative in the NC House, John Szoka, in a few days, which is amazing!
Which party I align with: Although I never base my opinion on party only, I usually agree with those of the Republican Party. Being independent in thought is most comfortable and reasonable in my opinion, which is why I am always willing to look at things from both sides before making decisions. If I were to strictly identify as anything, it would be as a Constitutionalist.
Which candidates I like most: There is no candidate from either party who truly reaches my standards in this upcoming presidential election, but Donald Trump aligns best with my values. Although I cannot say I always support what he does, particularly the way he sometimes acts or speaks, I have to ignore that and look at the core values he represents.
How my generation is different from millennials: From my perspective, my generation is more politically polarized than millennials. The millennials seem to be more on the same page, but also a bit more stubborn when it comes to looking at topics from an opposing point of view.
Santa Ana, California
What it was like to register to vote: I registered to vote the first semester of my junior year in high school. The process was fairly simple and easy, especially for someone just starting to participate officially in the voting process. I had my government teacher and another student there to help me if I needed any help.
What candidates I like most: I particularly care about Bernie Sanders because of the mass dedication that has been projected all throughout his career and his attention to topics that specifically help people like me.
What issues I care about most: When considering a candidate, I focus on their plans and concerns regarding immigration the most because I am personally touched by the issue and would like to see progressive change within the current structure in the immigration system.
What I think will motivate young people to vote in 2020: Young people in 2020 will be most swayed by environmental concerns.
How my generation is different from millennials: We have a greater advantage in, adaptation to, and knowledge of technology and what it can provide for the political process.
What it was like to register to vote: The process of registering was extremely easy for me; when I went to get my license at the local DMV, the clerk asked if I wanted to register, and I checked my political party choice!
Who I’m voting for: In the primary, I plan to vote for either Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar, because women’s rights and female empowerment are both passions of mine, but my political views seem to line up best with Biden. Then, in the presidential election, I will vote Democrat.
How I’m involved politically: I am a high school senior in the midst of finalizing college and scholarship applications, all while trying to balance sports, extracurriculars, and academics — to say life is chaotic right now would be an understatement! But I definitely make time for organizations such as Student Council and National Honor Society. Another passion of mine is DanceBlue, a six-hour dance marathon to raise funds for pediatric cancer, for which I serve as co-chair. A dear family friend was diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago, and since then I have strived to support the cause in any way I can. Last year, we raised over $26,000!
How my generation is different from millennials: One of the standout qualities of my generation is that we are unafraid to question societal norms or governmental systems. We are unafraid to shake things up and bring in new, innovative ideas. This comes with a willingness to be vulnerable, allowing us to seek knowledge and expertise from previous generations. This will set us apart by allowing us to make visible, positive changes in the world.
Rochester Hills, Michigan
What it was like to register to vote: I registered to vote a few months back when someone on social media reminded me to. The process was much simpler than I had imagined. I thought it would be more like applying for a passport or getting a driver’s license, but I could do it all online, it only took me three minutes, and all the information I needed was already in my head or in my wallet.
Why I’m voting: I’m voting for the first time because it is my first opportunity to do so! I’m excited that my first year voting coincides with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
I’m excited that my first year voting coincides with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
Who I’m voting for: In the upcoming Michigan primary, I plan on voting for Bernie Sanders. So far, Bernie has stuck out to me as a candidate who most aligns with what I would like to see for our government. His advocacy for immediate action regarding climate change gives me hope that we could see real political action on this issue in the coming years.
Which party I align with: Although technically I fall under the Democrat category, I don’t like the slim options of blue or red. I think there should be a purple option, or green, or orange.
How I’m involved politically: I’ve participated in protests to make my voice heard, the most recent one being the March for Our Lives in Detroit against gun violence.
What issues I care about most: I believe taking better care of our planet is pressing, the threat of gun violence should be eliminated, and we need to support immigrants in arriving to the States through immigration reform. I also wish for a future where America adopts the example of other countries and introduces healthcare and higher education for all its citizens. But the most pressing issue for me this year is action to reverse climate change.
What I think will motivate young people to vote in 2020: In 2020, I think young people will show up to the polls because of the resurgence in political involvement, which I’ve seen in my peers at school and all across the world through social media.
How my generation is different from millennials: I don’t know if I can articulate what I find most different between my generation and my older siblings’ besides TikTok (i.e. social-media-related literacy).