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  • Writer's pictureAudre S

Financial Instability and Government Distrust: Young Voters of Color and the 2024 Presidential Election

When my grandparents were my age, they already had a house, two kids, and a life ahead of them. As young adults with a young family, they were able to afford much more than I can or will be able to in the next 10-15 years. When my parents were my age, they were in medical school, struggling with debt and drowning in studies, but again, they were saving for a future they knew would arrive; a future they somewhat understood. There was a future of stability and hope. Both my parents and grandparents faced systemic issues, of course, sexism, racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, racial discrimination, and economic inequality, but the future seemed finite. My generation, Gen Z, cannot see what’s ahead, and we often feel like we don’t have a future. My parents can plan for retirement; but we can only attempt to plan for the way the world will change as the climate crisis, economic inequality, and social injustice continue to plague our society.

My work centers on young people of color. I work each day trying to reach them or make sense of the data that surrounds them. I take bits and pieces from the GenForward survey and try to make sense of it. For the last three years, inflation has been a top issue for young people in the United States. My generation, especially Black and Brown young adults, are worried about paying an unexpected bill as we feebly try to keep up with the cost of living. This is something I feel each month as the first approaches. I watch as my rent takes half my paycheck, my bills pilfer a quarter, and I’m left with figuring out how much longer my car can wait to be serviced, my cat can wait for her vet appointment, or I can wait to see my doctor. This is the reality many of my friends and peers face, and I make nearly double the minimum wage, both federally, statewide, and locally. 

To me, it comes as no surprise that the majority of young Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. In fact,  62% of Black, 65% of Latinx, 57% of AAPI, and 73% of white young adults believe the country is “off on the wrong track,” However, when examining the data further, we find that Republicans are much more dissatisfied with how our country is moving than Democrats. The vast majority of Republicans, 88%, believe this country is “off on the wrong track” compared to 52% of Democrats. However, it is important to note that only 18% of Black, 16% of Latinx, 19% of AAPI, and 15% of white young adults believe the country is “generally headed in the right direction.” This illustrates young people’s general discontent with the government and might foreshadow how young adults feel about their future. 

With inflation top of mind for many young adults money, or lack thereof, is a constant concern. The vast majority of young adults are worried about being able to pay an unexpected bill of $1,000 right away. In fact, only 12% of Black young adults and 10% of Latinx young adults are not at all worried about having to pay an unexpected bill. This highlights both the disparity in savings and how close many young adults struggling financially to keep up with the rising cost of living. Moreover, this trend does not stop at Millennials, as older Black and Latinx generations, such as Gen X and Baby Boomers, also worry about unexpected expenses. These findings highlight the racial wealth gap and illustrate just how many Black and Latinx adults still struggle with paying unanticipated bills. 

Another key finding is the issue of abortion. Many young adults see abortion as an issue that affects which candidate they cast their vote for. Most young adults disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe Vs. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion. In fact, 62% of Black young adults, 61% of Latinx Young adults, 71% of AAPI young adults, and 62% of white young adults disagree with the Dobbs decision. 

The issue of abortion does not just impact young people’s everyday lives, but it also impacts how they vote. When asked if abortion will have an impact on who they vote for, 31% of Latinx,  32% of Black, 32% of Asian Americans, and 36% of white young adults responded that they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion. To highlight this phenomenon further, we see that only 20% of Black, 19% of Latinx, 18% of AAPI, and 16% of white young adults say that abortion has no impact on how they cast their vote. 

When GenForward asked respondents: “If the 2024 presidential election were being held today, and the candidates were Donald Trump, the Republican, and Joe Biden, the Democrat, would you plan to vote?” They found that 65% of Black, 64% of Latinx, 69% of AAPI, and 81% of white young adults said they would vote. However, we we look at just Gen Z, we see that only a small majority of Black (56%) and Latinx (57%) voters said they would vote.

For context,  in February 2020, we asked young people, “How likely are you to vote in the presidential election being held in November 2020?” We found that 74% of Black, 68% of Latinx, 72% of AAPI, and 79% of White young adults said they would vote in the 2022 midterms. This shows a decrease in the participation of young voters, especially young Black and Latinx voters. 

Young voters, and in particular Gen Z, were a crucial voting bloc in combating the so-called “Red Wave.” Their vote remains critical today. Their importance should not be limited to their voting power in the upcoming election but should reflect their growing claim to American democracy. As more young people voice their opinions and become politically active, it is important to listen and amplify their voices because the future of democracy is theirs.

As young adult myself, I often feel hopeless because we are the generation that will deal with wildfires, droughts, polar vortexes, hurricanes, and every other type of extreme weather event due to the ongoing climate crisis. We are the generation that will process the trauma of mass shootings, state violence, and oppression while constantly worrying about paying rent, because a mortgage feels out of the question. As we continue to stare at the chaotic storm in front of us, we also stare at an ineffective government that can barely agree on a house speaker. It is hard to have faith in these elections knowing that it will be more of the same, with partisan fighting, attempted insurrection, and financial bailouts at the cost of our future.

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