Report Details How Gen Z Sees Themselves and Their Future; Explores Four Main Categories: Politics, School and Work, Technology and Culture, Family and Community
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 27, 2022 — Building on the growing body of work to help understand Gen Z’s (Gen Z) values, political activity and interests, Murmuration and the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) today released the research report “Looking Forward with Gen Z” to better understand and prepare for the outsized level of influence this generation will have on society. The project, conducted by John Della Volpe and SocialSphere, aims to add depth and detail to vital questions about how Gen Z sees their future, determines their values, and understands their expectations of public and private institutions.
Overall, this report identified three important themes among Gen Z: Family, Community, and Mental Health Come First; Institutions Are in Trouble, and Their Reputations are at Risk; and It’s Time for a New Social Contract As Gen Z Charts a Different Course.
Gen Z has come of age during a time of tremendous national chaos and trauma and without experiencing a unifying moment. Instead of withdrawing from public life, research has shown that Gen Z has adopted a solution-based political mindset. It has been these experiences, along with deep political divisions, close elections, concerns about income inequality, climate change, systemic racism, and other events that have led to record levels of youth participation in both the 2018 and 2020 national elections.
“Gen Z is beginning to reveal their vision for a modern society and how our nation should move forward. The deeper we look into Gen Z, the more we listen, the better we understand what they value and how they will devote their energy and resources in the years ahead,” according to pollster John Della Volpe. “What is also apparent is that what Gen Z believes should happen does not, in many cases, align with the choices and priorities that today’s decision-makers believe are important. That tension will define our politics, economy, institutions, and culture in the years ahead.”
This research was developed to help ease those tensions and focus on generating data to inform actionable recommendations. Questions asked during this project were prioritized by those that could best provide CEOs, political and government actors, academic champions, and other leaders and institutions with guidance and insight.
While economic issues related to inflation and the deeper trends associated with the cost of living weigh heavily on Gen Z, this research finds young Americans are voicing significant concerns about school shootings, and the erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms which include access to clean water and fresh air, personal safety, quality education, housing, and health care. Gen Z expects political and government leadership to address these issues, and are demanding big changes to these major problems, as is already evident from the pressure they are putting on employers, to their taking to the streets to protest gun violence or promote reproductive health, to voting.
At least two-thirds of Gen Z find the following to be very important issues facing America “right now:”
- Stopping school shootings (82% very important);
- Protecting access to clean water and fresh air (72%);
- Reducing gun violence and mass shootings (72%);
- Guaranteeing a quality education for every child (71%), and
- Preserving individual rights and freedoms (67%)
“While lots of people are talking about Gen Z, far fewer are talking to Gen Z. That has to change,” said Emma Bloomberg, founder and CEO of Murmuration. “We see tremendous potential to engage Zoomers, get them involved and work together to help reshape our society. This report provides clear guidance on what needs to happen next.”
Other findings include:
- Stressed, but not giving in: Relative to their elders over age 25, Gen Z is about twice as likely (42% to 23%) to battle depression and feelings of hopelessness.
- Demanding change, and wanting to be part of something bigger: More than four in five surveyed agree (41% strongly and 42% somewhat agree) with the sentiment that “even if we disagree 90% of the time, it is important that we find the 10% of things we agree on so that we can make progress.”
- Undervalued and heard: Gen Z says less than a quarter of global companies (24%), philanthropic organizations (26%), government (20%), and elected officials (18%) are doing an excellent or good job listening.
- Working to live, not living to work: Gen Z respondents surveyed express that the greater fulfillment they seek comes from having harmony between work and home life (61%), feeling passionate about their efforts (60%), having benefits (59%), and feeling valued (52%).
- Not adequately prepared for a successful life: Just over half (51%) of Gen Z believes that their local schools prepared them well for success at this stage in their lives – but only 16% of 15 to 25 year-olds in the survey indicated that local schools prepared them “very well.”
“Supporting youth in finding their unique path to the careers and lives they choose is only possible if we're actively engaging them,” said Romy Drucker, Director of the K-12 Education Program at the Walton Family Foundation. “This new research makes it clear that we need to better support Gen Z in developing the skill sets and mindsets to harness their own agency. We need to work together to better understand their academic and social-emotional needs. And most importantly, we need to embrace their aspirations and empower them to create new solutions.”
This research project was led by SocialSphere’s John Della Volpe, the founder and director of the Harvard Youth Poll and author of the critically acclaimed FIGHT: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America, who conducted the research in two phases: Four large, town hall-style focus groups were conducted in Houston, Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio – and supplemented by two small groups with Gen Zers living in Arkansas. In total, 60 Zoomers participated in this phase. This qualitative phase was followed by an extensive national survey, fielded May 27-June 4, 2022 with N= 3,805 Americans between 15 and 25, and N= 1,108 people over age 25 for comparison. The survey, which was conducted online, carries a 95 percent credibility level of +/-1.6 percentage points for the national sample of 15-25-year-olds and 2.6% for the national sample of adults over the age of 25.
Click here to read the full report.
Murmuration’s mission is to transform the politics of K-12 public education. We believe that electoral, organizing and advocacy work is key to creating a sustainable and growing base of voters and other stakeholders, especially in marginalized communities, and elected officials who are committed to fighting for an equitable and high quality public education system. By providing data, tools, research and strategic guidance to our partner community, we believe that we can create a sector that is best positioned to make long term, systemic changes to public schools possible. Creating an equitable and high-quality public education system will pave the way for generations of children to reach their fullest potential. To learn more, visit www.murmuration.org.
About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the Foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About Social Sphere, John Della Volpe
John Della Volpe is the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, where he has led the institute’s polling initiatives on understanding American youth since 2000. The Washington Post referred to him as one of the world’s leading authorities on global sentiment, opinion, and influence, especially among youth and in the age of digital and social media. Della Volpe is a MSNBC contributor and he regularly appears on Morning Joe. His research and insights are often found in national media outlets in the United States and abroad. He is also the founder and CEO of SocialSphere, a public opinion research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To learn more, visit www.johndellavolpe.com or on Twitter @dellavolpe.