Out with The Olds!

March for our lives
Gen Z students at the March for Our Lives rally. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Peter Hamby
June 22, 2022

By 2028, Millennials and Gen Z will combine to become the largest voting age population in the nation. In just six years, today’s middle and high school students—often dismissed and patronized by the country’s gerontocratic political leadership—will be casting ballots for president. They will be joining the workforce, paying taxes, shaping media and entertainment, defining consumer trends and pushing aside older millennials and Gen Xers who must finally come to terms with the fact that they are no longer cool. 

Even with that massive generational shakeup looming, there remains precious little research and in-depth analysis on how younger Americans think about politics and society. The lack of insight is particularly acute when it comes to Gen Z. Sure, ad agencies and brands release consumer surveys, trying to figure out how companies can market themselves to Zoomers. And while trend pieces about young Americans in the press often go viral, they frequently center the voices of people who grab attention on social media, not the majority of teenagers who go unseen by reporters in New York or Washington. Pollsters are rarely asking the right questions of that generation, and most polls don’t even survey Americans under the age of 18 in the first place. That kind of sampling is difficult and expensive to do, of course. But it also means that most polls claiming to explain how “young people” vote, shop and use media are ignoring a huge chunk of American teenagers—including the millions of 17-year olds who will be of voting age by November. 

A major new project, funded by Emma Bloomberg’s education nonprofit Murmuration, in partnership with the Walton Family Foundation, is trying to fix that knowledge gap by releasing one of the largest and most in-depth surveys ever completed on Gen Z. “Everyone is talking about Gen Z, but not enough people are actually doing anything different to try to more deeply engage with this generation, to really think about what their orientation around the world actually means, for action on issues that we all think really matter for this country,” Bloomberg told me. The full results of the project, formally titled “Looking Forward With Gen Z,” were provided exclusively to Puck before being made public this week.