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Generation Z’s surprising optimism should give the rest of us hope | Staff Columnists


It would be completely understandable if those in Gen Z — America’s youngest generation whose oldest members are now in college — were totally turned off from politics. As a politics professor myself, I have spent countless hours with hundreds of undergraduates from around the nation trying to help them understand a chaotic Trump administration, which has operated in an era of deep polarization.

Over the past four years, these older Gen Zers, ages 18-23, have experienced a constant assault on political and democratic norms and have faced crises America hasn’t seen in generations — including a global pandemic, an extreme economic downturn, xenophobia, violence in our cities, the onslaught of climate change and Donald Trump’s attack on our electoral system.

Yet despite these tumultuous events, my students have remained remarkably positive on politics and the future of the nation. They thrive in a world of differences, and seem to genuinely welcome a diversity of ideas, seek empathetic leadership and are interested in serving their communities.

It also appears that Gen Zers, having deeply embraced technology, feel empowered by using those tools in forming new political movements.

It turns out that my personal experience with college students may not be unusual at all. In fact, a new national poll conducted by the LA Times and Reality Check Insights after the November election found that Gen Zers are collectively more confident that America can move forward from Trump than older groups.



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