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Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who will face President Joe Biden with Democratic nomination in November. Election polls show that their fight for young people's votes is even.

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Gen Z’s opportunity to shape America: The current state of the 2024 US Elections

17 year-old Emily Dorman explains Gen Z’s position on this year’s US presidential election and provides a guide to all the remaining candidates

This November, Americans will cast their votes to determine who will serve as president for the next four years, marking one of the most polarized election cycles in the nation’s history.

A poll, conducted in December 2023, revealed that 62% of adults think democracy in the US could be at risk depending on who wins.

The majority of Democrats (72%) and Republicans (55%) feel the same way, but for different reasons. The same poll revealed that ‘most U.S. adults overall (56%) would be “very” or “somewhat” dissatisfied with Biden as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024, and a similar majority (58%) would be very or somewhat dissatisfied with Trump as the GOP’s pick’.

However, that is the most likely scenario, with the latest primary polls projecting a rematch between the 2020 presidential contenders, Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

All of Trump’s rivals – including right-wing Florida governor Ron DeSantis, ex-UN ambassador Nikki Haley, and the youngest candidate, 38 year-old multimillionaire Vivek Ramaswamy – have dropped out. Meanwhile, Biden has only one rival left, Marianne Williamson, but she’s trailing massively in the polls, at 3.7% to Biden’s 76.1% (as of May 1).

However, Trump’s extensive list of indictments (and one ongoing trial) and Biden’s challenge in appealing to young voters contribute to the difficulty in predicting the outcome of the election.

The result holds crucial implications for the future of ongoing controversies, including issues such as abortion, immigration, and the economy.

Adding a layer of complexity, a new wave of more than 8mn Gen Z voters since the 2022 midterms has the potential to substantially impact this year’s election.

The pivotal question remains whether they will turn out to vote on Election Day, as their participation could significantly shape the results.

Extensive media coverage and political party marketing targeting presidential candidates could motivate more young individuals to develop a vested interest in the election, boosting voter turnout.

Organizations such as High School Democrats and the Young Republicans are actively working to enhance youth civic engagement.

On March 11, the Biden-Harris campaign launched its Students for Biden-Harris initiative, designed to mobilize student voters on campus and online by touting the Biden administration’s achievements on the issues they care about most.

“Gen Z is definitely more politically aware and active than previous generations,” says Rhea Maniar, the president of Florida High School Democrats.

She highlights the “record-breaking youth turnout across the nation” but warns: “Organizers like me know that it can’t be taken for granted. We’ve implemented different programs through so many organizations both internally and externally to contact thousands of young people in the state to make sure they turn out in November.”

In the 2020 election, 65% of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted for Biden; and where that vote goes this year has the potential to reshape American politics.

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But support for the president has dropped substantially among young voters, especially concerning Israel’s military action against Gaza: 70% of Democrat voters aged 18–34 disapprove of Biden’s handling of the war.

This has raised concerns among Democrats about a potential lack of youth support leading to reduced turnout at the polls, especially as young people are already less likely to votethan older people in the US.

Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson asserted that “the biggest danger for Democrats in 2024 isn’t people voting for Trump; it’s people staying home and not voting at all.”

Speaking to Jahnavi Rao, president and founder of New Voters, an organization dedicated to mobilizing young people, Rao raised the point that “while Gen-Z was largely responsible for the increase in youth voter turnout in the past election cycles, they continue to vote at half the rate of older generations.”

“Concerningly, polling indicates that Gen Z’s engagement might decrease in 2024. We should ensure that Gen Z engages as voters, researchers, and activists, rather than retreats from democratic participation.”

Harbinger’s has provided a guide to all the remaining presidential candidates that Gen Z has to choose from.

Republicans

Donald Trump

Ex-president Donald Trump, 77, is running to retake the office he lost in 2020 to Joe Biden, which ultimately led to his false claims that the election was stolen, and a mob of his supporters raiding the US Capitol on January 6.

He has obtained a strong base securing his Republican primary spot, despite numerous recent indictments and not attending any of the Republican primary debates.

Democrats

Joe Biden

Incumbent president Joe Biden, 81, is the leading Democratic candidate, alongside his current vice-president Kamala Harris. His key promises include the protection of abortion rights, a tax reform, a commitment to safeguard Social Security and Medicare, and ongoing support for Ukraine.

If elected, he would be the oldest president in US history, which concerns many Americans. Still, the Democratic party is dedicated to supporting him as the primary candidate, as they believe he has the best opportunity to beat Trump.

 

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson, 71, is an author and former spiritual advisor to Oprah Winfrey.

She describes democracy today as being ‘under assault by combined forces of corporatism and autocracy’. Williamson withdrew from the presidential race in February but unsuspended her campaign less than a month later.

She posted a video on X to express her dissatisfaction with both the major parties. “What’s going on here? Well, I’ll tell you what’s going on here. ‘We the People’ basically don’t own this country right now,” she said, adding that presidential politics have become corrupt with corporate interests.

Although unlikely to win against the Biden-Harris campaign, Williamson represents an entire population of young voters who disapprove of Trump and Biden.

 

Jason Palmer

Jason Palmer, 52, is an entrepreneur who pulled off an unexpected win against Biden in the American Samoa Democratic presidential caucuses – a win that the Biden campaign called “silly news.”

Palmer, who has never held political office, describes himself as having “little chance of winning,” but wants to spread his ideas and entrepreneur-centric approach to “upgrade the American dream.”

Independents

Traditionally, the US political system places the two major political parties, Republicans and Democrats, on a pedestal during election season, but independent candidates should not be outright dismissed.

A survey from the Pew Research Center in 2023 found that younger Americans were more likely to hold negative views of both the major parties than older Americans, with weaker partisan political stances than older generations.

Early 2024 polls show voters are much more willing to vote for third-party candidates and a lower approval rating for Republican and Democratic candidates.

Many contribute these statistics to the new wave of Gen Z voters. Young people and their perceptions of independent candidates could reshape the 2024 election.

 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr

Aside from his membership in the famous Kennedy family, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, 70, is most well known for being an environmental lawyer, author, and anti-vaccine activist who claims childhood vaccines are linked to autism.

Despite his controversial views and being kicked off numerous social media platforms for misinformation, Kennedy’s polling points remain high for an independent candidate. The New York Times/Siena College poll showed him getting up to a quarter of the potential vote in some key swing states.

 

Jill Stein

Jill Stein, 73, is a physician and environmental activist running with the Green Party under the slogan ‘People Planet Peace’.

She hopes to develop an Economic Bill of Rights, including the right to a living-wage job, housing, food, healthcare, education, and more; implement the Green New Deal; and reform US foreign policy.

She has run for governmental positions numerous times but without success.

 

Cornel West

Best known for his roles as a progressive activist, author, and philosopher, 70 year-old Cornel West gained recognition for his critique of former president Barack Obama.

In his campaign, West emphasizes key proposals, including the protection of abortion rights as a constitutional mandate, the establishment of a $27 national minimum wage, and an immediate halt to all oil and gas leasing projects on federal lands and waters.

Many observers perceive West as the most formidable challenger to Biden.

Written by:

author_bio

Emily Dorman

Contributor

Florida, United States

Born in Orlando, Florida, in 2007, Emily is a high school junior with passion for current events and research.

She has aspirations to pursue a career in journalism and plans to major in political science and international affairs in college. Emily has gotten an early start to her career by volunteering with non-profit organizations and on political campaigns locally. She has also participated in the Model United Nations for four years.

Emily is currently studying both Mandarin and Turkish and enjoys learning about the cultures of the world. She has visited Taiwan and hopes to one day to visit Turkey.

In her free time, Emily likes to create digital art, read, and learn new tricks on the Chinese yoyo.

Ultimately, Emily’s main goal is to make the world a better place through activism, art, and writing.

Edited by:

author_bio

Christian Yeung

Society editor

Hong Kong | United States

politics

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