Henry Kingdon is currently interning with Beatfreeks, although he can usually be found at Birmingham City University, studying Applied Theatre: Community and Education. He has a passion for theatre and youth voice, as well as a keen interest in politics.
What issues are Gen Z talking about?
1: Careers and Education
In our research for the Institutions of the Future report, we found that careers & education are the biggest worries facing young people today. Education has been massively interrupted in the past year, which the Take the Temperature report found has caused massive disparity in mental health and clarity about the future. Education and career support will have to be front and centre for candidates if they want to win the young vote in their regions.
When researching for the Time and Time Again report, we found that representation was one of the biggest issues facing young people of colour in the United Kingdom, across a range of sectors; through the same research, we found that representation in government and in our leaders were the most important forms for young people. Will this affect the way that young people vote in the upcoming elections? The representatives of the two largest parties in the London Mayor elections are both people of colour, which shows a shifting landscape for representation in British politics. On the other hand, expert commentator Amira Ismail pointed out in the Time and Time Again report that “representation in the government has had no tangible effect on policies”, despite increasing diversity in the cabinet. Furthermore, there will be no non-white candidates on the ballot in the West Midlands, leaving this question of representation for people of colour unanswered.
3: The Arts
In other recently published research for National Youth Trends, we found that the majority of young people describe themselves as creative. Arts and culture funding ought to be on the table for those running in the upcoming local elections, and a lot of young people will be looking at candidates’ policies on the issue. On the 25th of April, our Insights Manager had the opportunity to grill the candidates here in the West Midlands about support for the arts. You can see their responses here.
4: Mental Health
In the Take the Temperature report, we asked young people to sum up in one word their thoughts on the pandemic. Themes of stress and worry were central themes, which show how recent events have tested Gen Z. Will candidates take this on board to win over young voters? When mental health services are already stressed, will local authorities make the money available to ease the mental health crisis rocking the UK?
Gen Z have been amongst the most financially hard hit in the past year. In our recent research, we found that job security and economic stability rank amongst the most important issues that young people are talking about.With the threat of an astronomical rise in youth unemployment, and a lack of financial stability facing Gen Z, what are candidates saying about supporting young people? Most economic promises have been levelled at helping small businesses, which means that Zoomers will have a hard time finding the candidates which want to support them.
6: Social Responsibility
Climate change is finally on the table in government, but are local candidates taking it as seriously as Gen Z? Our research has found that young people care more and more about social issues, including climate change, sustainability and the fight against racism. When asked, eighty-seven percent of young people we spoke to said that they would take a brand’s ethics into consideration when shopping. If Gen Z holds brands to those standards, surely politicians should be held to the same standards on the 6th of May.
Will Gen Z vote this May?
Disillusionment has long been identified as one of the main reasons for so-called “voter apathy”, but are Gen Z optimistic enough to vote in the upcoming elections? Our research suggests that seventy-five percent of young people don’t feel heard by the government on a local or national level. More young people reported feeling heard by brands than by politicians. Will this lack of faith in politicians sway Gen Z not to vote on the 6th of May?
On the other hand, our research also shows that the vast majority of young people are invested in the issues of today, with ninety-three percent saying they care very deeply. There is certainly no great apathy amongst young people when it comes to the real issues which are affecting the world around them. Furthermore, when asked about ethics in the commercial industry, the majority of our young participants felt that ethics was a hugely important issue, which suggests that these are things which Gen Z take to heart. This deep interest in social responsibility, and Gen Z’s passion for social change may be the catalyst for a very loud young voice in the upcoming local elections.
According to the Electoral Commission, only around two thirds of Zoomers who are eligible to vote are registered. The disillusionment and lack of representation may account for a large portion of those not registered, amongst other issues. To learn more about the issues affecting young people, and the changes they want to see, we have a series of reports on young people available to download now.
Local elections across the country will take place on the 6th of May 2021. If you are registered, you will be able to vote from 7am to 10pm on polling day. Local authority positions and Police and Crime Commissioners will be up for election.
To get exclusive access to National Youth Trends releases (before they go public) get clued up and sign up to The DL.
You can read more a bout young people’s experiences of lockdown in out full length report Take the Temperature.
This article was written by Henry Kingdon for Beatfreeks. It draws on data collected by National Youth Trends from 2000 young people across the UK. You can read more about their thoughts, feelings and innovations by clicking here, and having a mooch about.