Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > Understanding Gen Z’s Political Sway

Understanding Gen Z’s Political Sway

May 29, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Gen Z has a significant influence in politics, with a large number of individuals eligible to vote in the 2024 elections.
  • Gen Z prioritizes collaboration and community engagement from their politicians.
  • The ongoing war in Gaza and rising inflation are two key issues that Gen Z will prioritize in the upcoming election.


“There are 1.8 billion young people on the planet aged 13 to 27,” Power said, opening the session. “Gen Z is in school. They’re in the workplace. They’ve created their own businesses on and offline. They’re deeply involved in social impact work. They’re dominating TikTok, YouTube, [and] Discord. They are ruthless about Millennials. They are upfront about mental health. They are making and breaking people, brands, influencers, and past ideas on the daily.”

These are the defining characteristics of Gen Z that we are familiar with. However, what we are just beginning to unravel is their power and influence—important knowledge to have as the nation gears up for the 2024 elections, with a staggering 41 million Gen Z individuals eligible to vote.

“Their imprint on elections here in Michigan is undeniable, topping the nation for Gen Z turnout in 2020 and again in the midterms in 2022,” Power continued. “Today, there are 1.5 million Gen Zers registered to vote in Michigan. And according to a poll that was done by Voters of Tomorrow, 77% of Gen Z respondents nationwide said they will be voting in November. There is a wide belief that young people will, in fact, make or break outcomes this election year.”

Clincher vs. Dealbreaker: What Gen Z Looks for in Politicians

Manning values politicians who are open to collaborating with individuals with differing beliefs.

“There are so many times, and particularly in D.C., where we see a problem that’s festering for years and years—decades even—that isn’t solved because it’s not politically convenient to solve it,” he said. “What I like out of a politician is someone who is willing to make that sacrifice, even if it is not politically convenient.”

Guerrero seeks politicians who prioritize serving their constituents and are ready to actively engage with the community.

“It’s those folks who are on the ground with people … who show up when they’re invited to one of our community meetings, who are also planting in our community gardens,” she said. “Those who follow through with their word and really listen to community and who show up for community… who are present when it’s necessary, who are going to speak for us when the time comes.”

How Old is Too Old to Be in Politics, According to Gen Z?

The panelists agreed that you can be too old and too young to be in politics, but not for the reasons you expect.

According to Manning, it’s simply “not politically advantageous to be older.”

He illustrated how older politicians experiencing “senior moments” during publicized events can alienate young voters, as they may perceive them as out of touch with the younger generation.

But on the flip slide, he shared Gen Zers would also like “some baseline of competency” from politicians.

“Life is complicated as it is,” he said. “Just growing up, I feel like I’ve been learning so much in the past five, ten years – I can’t imagine also being tasked with making decisions for people while trying to figure out how I’m making decisions for myself.”

What is Top of Mind for Gen Z as They Head to the Polls?

Guerrero and Manning predict that Gen Z will prioritize two key issues during the upcoming elections: what is happening in Gaza and the economy, particularly inflation.

On the war in Gaza, Guerrero shared it’s a top issue because “our generation is a generation of humanity that believes in humanity. We might be a little anxious of the future, but what we want to see is a bright future. We want to have an established life … [and] we have been continuously seeing since October [2023] that our government isn’t doing what it needs to solve this crisis—this huge issue that young people are really passionate about.”

Guerrero also pointed out that Gen Z is dissatisfied with the prioritization of funds towards war instead of tackling domestic issues like homelessness, inflation, low literacy rates, and expensive health care.

“[The war] trickles into inflation, into the economy,” she said. “We’re seeing our money go into something that we do not want to support, to fund. We want to fund health care … education … housing. This is where we want our hard-earned money to go – not to destruction,” she said.

Manning added to Guerrero’s point, stating that sustained inflation trickles into every part of life.

“That’s going to be pretty hard to ignore for a lot of people, particularly for those in Gen Z who are fresh in their careers, don’t have advanced salaries,” he said. “I think that it’s really hitting hard for them as their rent keeps increasing, as they’re trying to pay off their student loans, as they’re trying to pay for groceries.”

This session was hosted by The Skillman Foundation.