With the 2024 election season in full swing, voters everywhere are deciding which candidate will best represent them as the next president of the United States.
The College Fix spoke with a handful of Gen Zers from the swing state of Pennsylvania to find out what matters most to them, asking them questions about their most important issues and Gen Z’s role in the 2024 election.
Pro-life, border control, and education policy among the top issues
Kyra Kishore, a Republican student at the University of Pittsburgh, told The Fix the issue most important to her is abortion. “This has and will always be the most important to me,” Kishore said. “The death of little humans is something that is still happening in so many places and needs to be stopped.”
In addition, Kishore revealed that indoctrination when it comes to gender ideology is also an issue that matters most when looking for a candidate to vote for.
“The indoctrination needs to stop, especially in the elementary schools. And I believe there should be laws everywhere protecting children from being transitioned,” she said.
Kale Ogunbor, a Republican student at Pennsylvania State University, also listed pro-life policy as one of her priorities in 2024. Ogunbor is also looking for policies that will fix the border crisis and strengthen the economy.
Similar to Ogunbor, Ryan Klein, president of the Pennsylvania State University College Republicans, is interested in strong economic, border, and education policy.
Carsen Brunn, an independent student at Point Park University, shares similar priorities with the Republican students who spoke with The Fix. “I think the issues that matter most to me in 2024 are the southern border, free speech, and polarization,” Brunn said.
To Brunn, securing the southern border is a must because things have spiraled out of control, in his opinion.
“Even the government doesn’t know how many people are coming over,” Brunn said. “I’m not anti-immigration, but I do think coming in legally should be required.”
Shifting over to the importance of free speech, Brunn believes “it’s our most fundamental right as Americans, and I see it coming under attack from big tech and some areas of government.”
Democratic student Baybars Charkas, who also leads Pennsylvania State University’s College Democrats chapter, is more focused on electing a president who is focused on democracy.
“The issue I fret about the most is the state of American democracy,” Charkas told The Fix. “The apparent leader of the Republican primary [Donald J. Trump] denied the validity of an election for the sole reason that he lost. Because of this man, a substantial minority of Americans have abandoned faith in democracy as an organizing principle of American life. That terrifies me.”
Voters share what candidates need to do to win their vote
“I’m already decided on Joe Biden,” Charkas said. “The U.S. needs a hero right now, a person with good sense and magnetism, but most importantly it needs a competent helmsman to steer us out of the mess.”
Charkas said that Biden was not initially the candidate of choice, but “he’s the one I got, so I’ll make do.”
On the other hand, Republican students across the state are still on the fence about who they are supporting. However, these students know what a candidate must do to win their vote.
Kishore of the University of Pittsburgh expects the Republican nominee to have experience.
“It shows that the candidate has done something before, and that it worked, and that they can do it again,” she shared.
Klein of PSU is looking for someone who will “stand for conservative principles” and “demonstrate a willingness to address the issues from start to finish and deliver on their promises.”
Independent voter Brunn expects his candidate of choice to focus on the issues rather than “the fighting.”
“I want someone intellectually humble and honest, and someone who believes in the American experiment,” Brunn said.
Samuel Fiely, a Gen Z resident of Crawford County who entered the workforce after graduating high school, agrees with Brunn’s assessment.
“A presidential candidate must prove that they are authentic and America First to win my vote,” Fiely told The Fix.
He added, “Prioritizing what’s best for the everyday men and women of our country is a must.”
How Gen Z can play a role in elections
Fiely said Gen Z has tended to lean Democrat in prior elections, but he is ready for that to change during this election cycle.
“Gen Z has helped elect Democrats in 2020, 2022, and so on,” Fiely said. “Whichever party they support is going to make an important difference, especially in battleground states” in which Pennsylvania is one.
Klein, the Penn State student, believes Gen Z will play a “huge role” this year.
“We need student groups to register Republicans on college campuses. We need our generation to turn out for the party. If we don’t target young voters, we’ll lose,” Klein said.
Charkas, the Democrat, only thinks Gen Z will play a role if they step up to the plate, saying, “Gen Z will be as important as Gen Z wants to be.”
“If Gen Z decide to come out in full force, then they have the potential to determine hundreds of elections across the country. If Gen Z decide to sit this one out, then obviously their presence won’t be felt and the issues that preoccupy them in particular (climate change, free college education, and so forth) will remain untouched by politicians,” Charkas said.
University of Pittsburgh student Kishore also believes that Gen Z will play not only a significant role in the 2024 election, but also a part in shifting away from older candidates.
Data from the 2024 Iowa caucus shows Gen Z picking for younger candidates like Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy over the older Donald Trump.
Out of voters in the 19-29 age bracket, Ron DeSantis received 30% of the vote, Nikki Haley received 25%, Donald Trump received 22%, and Vivek Ramaswamy received 21%, according to analysis by The Washington Post.
The younger Republican candidates did not receive as high of a percentage of voters from the older age brackets.
“More of us are not only realizing what is right and wrong but also starting to care about politics and what’s going on around us,” Kishore said. “I feel as though Gen Z is going to both turn away from very, very old candidates and also start doing more research and looking for the truth.”
IMAGES: Photos provided to The College Fix