Generation Z speaks on political divides and educating themselves on the issues

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Voters filled Wilson Whitty Way as they arrived to vote in the Nov. 3 election. Staff Photo/Max Bowen

By Mia Gomes-North Star Reporter Intern

As social media becomes more widespread and impactful, politics and social issues have caused a larger divide than ever before, especially with all of the crises that have occurred in the past 10 months.

Arguably the most opinionated generation yet, Generation Z has become quite vocal in the world of social justice and activism. It’s hard to say what has driven these easily-influenced adolescents more than anything else, but it is clear that they are not backing down anytime soon.

While many members of self-proclaimed “Gen Z” are too young to have a serious amount of involvement in the world around them (and most are not yet allowed to vote), volunteer work and extracurricular classes about political policies and government have picked up a wide interest among this age group.

Jonah Manso, a 17-year-old North Attleborough resident, has volunteered as a member of Ed Markey’s campaign and took multiple online classes on public policy and citizen politics during his quarantine.

I am very passionate about my political beliefs and I love researching information on congressional legislation, important court cases, and elections.” said Manso. “I believe that my involvement and interest in politics has made me more aware of the world around me and it has made me a more educated citizen and eventual voter.”

Even if volunteering isn’t necessarily an option, this generation has done their best individually to educate themselves on the current political climate. Amelia Coates, a 16-year-old Canadian citizen living in Montreal, stated that she is “pretty involved in politics.” She added, “I try my best to keep up because I know that women weren’t always allowed to vote. I feel as a young woman that voting and staying current in politics is very important.”

After collecting responses from teenagers of various beliefs, it seems that the most prominent issue that Gen Z has hyper-focused on is the debate surrounding social justice and intersectional equality. Manso said that “I wholeheartedly believe that racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and gender equality must be strongly protected by federal law, and I don’t respect people who disagree with any of those things.”

Even for some who have different views on more exclusively political matters, this take on the current human rights argument remains popular among this specific group. “I am a constitutionalist libertarian, so I’m pretty right [leaning] although I’m more liberal on social issues than most people think. For instance, I believe in the protection of gay marriage,” said 15-year-old William Shannon, who attends North Attleborough High School. 

One of the most prominent feats of the modern-era teenage population is that they are generally not afraid to change their views or go against what they see as the societal “norm”. When asked about this ideology, Coates said “My family runs a landscaping company and the majority of my family members are conservative, and growing up I always just agreed with what they said. However, in the past two years I’ve done a lot of my own research and found that I am more left-leaning rather than right.”

During the heated 2020 Presidential Election, every interviewee has acknowledged how divided our country has been recently. “It’s no secret that the country is far too divided,” said Manso.

No matter what party they associate themselves with, Gen Z knows that this is an issue. On this topic, Shannon stated, “The 2020 presidential election was always going to be odd, especially with the pandemic looming overhead. Fact of the matter is that it’s not going to be over for quite some time.”

Whether a Democrat or a Republican (or neither), the fate of the United States remains uncertain. Although she lives in Canada, Coates admitted that she was “happy with the results” when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris became the projected winners of the election. She said that “Kamala Harris actually went to high school in Montreal, so we as a community feel a little extra proud. Not only is she the first female VP, but she’s the first woman of color as VP.”

Shannon said that in the coming years, “I see the United States slipping away from democracy as the political divide continues to grow and tensions continue to rise.” He doesn’t think there will be a civil war, but he does believe that “tolerance is at an all time low for differing political opinions.”