As many Americans hold their collective breath with every explosive executive order signed by President Donald Trump over the past three weeks (yes, it’s only been three weeks since he was sworn in), don’t underestimate his staying power as was done with his star power in winning the election in last November. As purported pundits, misfiring news outlets, befuddled campaigners, and many frustrated voters got it very wrong, America’s youth presciently got it right.
I’m not talking about Millennials who voted for Hillary Clinton 55% to 37% for Trump. I’m talking about the next group up that hasn’t been studied as much as the Dead Sea Scrolls – I’m talking Generation Z (aka Post-Millennials, aka iGen, aka Plurals, aka Generation Next). Nearly 84,000 mostly-14-17-year-olds, foreshadowed Trump’s astonishing victory as they had the last three Presidential Elections through a massive MyCollegeOptions.org and Hispanic Heritage Foundation survey of high school students called Taking the Pulse of the American High School Student for the Presidential Election.
Why do a survey of kids of which many weren’t eligible to vote in this past election? Various reasons. The first being that youth have always known what’s up way before other generations (see fashion, music, language, advocacy and in this case Trump’s startling victory). Also, 100 percent of the students surveyed in the study will be eligible to vote in four short years, which means this study can be a harbinger of a significant part of the youth vote in 2020 election and Trump’s re-election bid. Lastly, it’s smarter to look forward instead of backward in terms of who are the real influencers. Youth wins every time.
The Pulse Presidential Election findings were in sharp contrast to the National Exit Polls where Millennials’ voted by an 18% margin for Clinton. But that wasn’t the case with Generation Next in the Pulse Election survey which demonstrated significant support for Trump. In the Pulse Election survey, Trump won with overall voters (34% Trump to 20% Clinton and 9% 3rd-party candidate) and first-time voters (46% Trump to 31% Clinton and 11% 3rd party candidate). In a breakdown of ethnicity and race, Trump trounced Clinton among Whites (48% Trump to 11% Clinton) although Clinton beat Trump soundly with African Americans (47% to 7%), Latinos (31% to 12%) and Asians (29% to 19%).
What is should be most unsettling from the Pulse Election findings to get-out-the-vote orgs and advocates is that nearly one in three overall participants (31%) said they would “choose not to vote” and that number jumped to 40% among Latinos, followed by Asians at 38% and African Americans at 32%. White students were least likely to say they would “choose not to vote.” There you have it, the compendious reason of Trump triumph among these high school students, the very minority students who were likely to say they would have voted against him were most likely to not vote and the White students who were most likely to support Trump were most likely to vote. Sound familiar?
Still, how young Latinos in this survey were unmotivated to say they didn’t want to vote in an election where one of the candidates disparaged Mexicans, immigrants, and even Ms. Venezuela is perplexing? That is a question for the DNC and RNC to figure out in preparation for the next election. Getting out the vote among minority youth should be a huge target, not at the bottom of the voting bloc priority list, which is where it usually ends up.
Beyond who the high school students would vote for, the Pulse Presidential Election survey also explored issues most important to them, direction of the country, level of political engagement, and what sources – media and others – they used to learn about the actual issues and not just personalities in this unorthodox election. In terms of the issue as prioritized by the students, Latinos said education was their top concern followed by the economy, immigration and racism. African American students also listed education at the top and then racism, the economy and healthcare. For Whites, it was the economy succeeded by education which barely edged out gun rights and then terrorism.
It was also found that parent played a more significant role than expected in influencing the high school students’ opinions in the study along with cable and online news. All were listed as the main sources of information on the elections which might explains why this high school-based survey reflected the actual election results that catapulted Trump into the White House. Which is why we need to heed their opinions, motivations, and visions for America.
Unlike Millennials, who adopted technology at a young age, Generation Z have mostly been born with immediate access to information and social interaction at their literal fingertips. According to Millennial Marketing More than a 25% of our current population is made up by Generation Z and by 2020 will account for 40% of ALL consumers. And 42% Gen Zers say they follow their parents influence compared to just 36% of Millennials, which these days means the opposite of traditional generational gaps between conservative parents and radical liberal youth. These Plurals seem ready and willing to disrupt just like their parents, who broke all the rules as voters and made sure for the next four years, at least, we are dealing with Donald Trump’s boisterous smile, trademark double thumbs up, and unpredictable next move.