North Texas Daily

Gen Z to play defining role in gubernatorial election

Gen Z to play defining role in gubernatorial election

Gen Z to play defining role in gubernatorial election
October 27
12:01 2022

In the 2022 Texas gubernatorial election, Generation Z voters are expected to lean toward Democratic candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke with around 54 percent siding with the El Paso native, according to a study by the University of Houston and Texas Southern University.

The study also shows that Gen Zers, especially those from minority groups, are voting for the Democratic ticket in the gubernatorial race this November. 

“If you look at it clearly, I think Beto has the upper hand with young voters,” said Michael Adams, a professor at TSU and a contributor to the study. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott leads O’Rourke by 7 percent among likely voters, according to the same study. The general consensus from political scientists is O’Rourke’s ability to win the election will depend on his ability to raise Gen Z voter turnout, Adams said.

“Beto is spending a lot of time [at universities] because he’s targeting Gen Z voters to close that gap,” Adams said. “Young people have the tendency to stay at home and not turn out in large numbers on election day.”

The economy, climate change and other issues that impact Gen Z voter decisions will be important in the Texas gubernatorial race. However, big shocks to the political system, such as the Uvalde school shooting and Dobbs v. Jackson case, may impact voter turnout, said Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, a political science associate professor at the University of North Texas.

“I think what’s most likely happening, particularly among young voters, is that those who are paying attention are recognizing that these events and these issues are important,” Eshbaugh-Soha said. “[They realize] ‘My vote can make a difference in these races.’”

Researchers are looking to see if the 2022 Texas gubernatorial election will have a similar voter turnout to the 2018 Texas senatorial election, Eshbaugh-Soha said.

The 2018 elections saw a larger turnout from Gen Z, Generation X and Millennial voters than from Baby Boomer and prior generations, with 62.2 million Gen Zers, Gen Xers and Millennials casting a vote in the midterms, according to the Pew Research Center. That same year, O’Rourke lost to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 2.6 percent, the closest Texas Senatorial race since 1978.

“We often get these indicators of voter enthusiasm but sometimes it doesn’t always translate,” Eshabugh-Soha said. “We’re in a circumstance as well where national politics drive a lot of people’s choices in election years.”

The general consensus among experts is that Gen Z voter turnout will be less than it was in 2018 and 2020, Eshbaugh-Soha said. However, according to a study by the National Society of High School Scholars that surveyed 2,300 high school students and graduates, 85 percent plan to vote in the midterms.

“Even though it’s sort of a well-known trope that young people generally don’t vote, there seems to be maybe a little breaking in that trend here,” UNT political science graduate student O’Dell Tannehill said. “I think everybody’s pretty fired up on every side at this point in time.”

Election day for the 2022 Texas midterms is Nov. 8. Early voting began on Oct. 24 and registered voters can find polling locations at https://teamrv-mvp.sos.texas.gov/MVP/mvp.do.

Featured Image: Various election signs line the grass infront of the Gateway Center on Oct. 25, 2022. Photo by Matt Iaia

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Ismael Belkoura

Ismael Belkoura

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