Alyssa Ahlgren : The Effects of COVID-19 on Generation Z

Not only has the outbreak radically shifted livelihoods, the economy, and our social and political landscape, but it has the potential to alter the already radically progressive nature of the upcoming young electorate.

Generation Z, or those born after 1996, will be making a large voting debut in the upcoming 2020 election. The oldest among them are only turning 23 this year, still making a significant portion of the generation ineligible to vote. However, one-in-ten of the 2020 electorate will be a part of this new generation. 

Unlike Millennials, Gen Zers did not come of age during the Great Recession or experience life without a smartphone. This new generation was set to inherit a booming economy and record-low unemployment. This is a generation that came into the world with such incredible opportunity that “social media influencer” is not only a career choice but a six-figure one. 

The tides have drastically turned for the world’s most fortunate generation, with the pandemic being a catalyst for the government to incite Depression level unemployment and economic despair. The unparalleled freedom and prosperity that Gen Zers have only known has crashed into a roadblock. According to a Pew Research survey, half of Gen Zers ages 18-23 responded that they, or someone in their household, had taken a pay cut or lost their job due to the pandemic. This was significantly higher than the percentage of respondents in every other generation who stated the same. 

Not only has the outbreak radically shifted livelihoods, the economy, and our social and political landscape, but it has the potential to alter the already radically progressive nature of the upcoming young electorate. Like the Millennial generation before them, Gen Z is notoriously liberal with some differences. Members of Gen Z are more racially and ethnically diverse than any other generation before them and they’re on track to be the most educated—two factors that have distinct correlations to voting habits. 

How Gen Z views major issues is on par with Millennials’ views with some noticeable differences. According to Pew Research, Gen Z is the most likely to want an activist government with 70% of Gen Zers arguing that the government needs to do more to solve problems. Support for Trump is also less among Gen Z than Millennials. A January survey from Pew Research showed than 61% of Gen Z eligible voters said they will vote for the Democratic nominee in the 2020 election with 22% saying they will support President Trump. This compared to the 58% to 25% of Millennials who said the same.

What is more telling of this generation’s progressive tendencies are the views of those who identify as Republicans. Within the GOP, Gen Z and older generations clash on key conservative principles. Gen Z Republicans are more likely to say that blacks in the U.S. are treated less fairly than whites today, they are more likely to desire an increased role of government rather than a small government approach, and they are less likely to attribute climate change to the earth’s natural patterns. 

With socialist progressives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leading the charge of what is now the ideology of a majority of today’s youth, the pandemic has acted as a trial period for their regressive top-down authoritarian policy goals. The economic shutdown has brought about financial hardship, the destruction of the world’s largest and strongest economy, and massive unemployment numbers but rather than blame government overreach in reaction to a black swan event, what does the progressive left blame? Capitalism. 

A government-induced recession and the thought leaders of our youth blame the underlying economic system with no factual rationale in sight. Rather than rally behind anti-big government that created the economic disaster, most Millennials and Gen Zers want to see an even more active role of government to come up with solutions to the problem that the government itself created. While older generations view the reaction to the pandemic as a gross abridgment to freedom, the youngest among us view freedom as a disruptor to safety. It’s enabling an abusive cycle of governmental power that leads to the dependency of the people required to keep the cycle going.

How does this impact the 2020 election? It solidifies political priors, something we absolutely do not need in this extremely polarizing time. Major events tend to heighten tribalism and strengthen ideological group think. Everything becomes a Rorschach test. You see what you want to see, and you hear what you want to hear. If you believe Trump botched the COVID response, no amount of data will sway you otherwise. 

We have never seen this level of infringement on our individual liberties in my lifetime or even my grandparents’ lifetimes. For the minds of Gen Zers, which haven’t even reached full development, it’s a pivotal moment of growth in political and societal beliefs. How the youth view our country and the role of government will ultimately shape the future of our nation. If the reaction to this pandemic from Gen Zers is to blame capitalism and advocate for stronger government then we do not have self-governance. But if we see young people wake up to the destruction that is top-down government control from our little trial run of socialism then we may have hope. 

To my fellow Millennials and to the generation after me that hold the socialist progressive viewpoint, look around you. Look at yourself, your loved ones, your friends, your fellow Americans that lost their jobs. Look at the spiking addiction, relapse, and mental health problems. Look at the businesses you’re not allowed to enter and the house you’re not allowed to leave. These are not the fault of capitalism and everything you stand against. They are the result of the system you thought you wanted.

Alyssa Ahlgren

Alyssa has her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and currently works as an analyst in corporate finance. She grew up in northern Wisconsin and is a former collegiate hockey player. Alyssa is pursuing her passion for current events and politics through writing and being an advocate for the conservative movement.