As Gen Z headed to the polls this week, conservative commentators had a message for young voters: please stop.
Tuesday’s midterm election saw Gen Z come out strong for Democrats, including for their generation’s first U.S. representative: Maxwell Frost, a 25-year-old Democrat from Florida. The young blue bloc left Fox News personalities dismayed, with other conservative voices suggesting that the minimum voting age be raised from 18 (currently enshrined in the Constitution) to 21 or 28.
“The fact that these youth voters are coming in so strong in an off-year is very concerning,” Fox News commentator Jesse Watters lamented on Wednesday night. “It looks like they’ve been brainwashed. This new generation is totally brainwashed ’cause a lot of these single women [who] vote 37 spreads for Democrats, are teaching all of our younger generation in these schools and they’re polluting their minds and then they grow up and they’re in their twenties and then they vote for leftists.”
Exit polling shows strong youth support for Democrats, typically on issues like climate change, reproductive rights, and guns. Voters aged 18-24 (all of whom fall into Gen Z) voted 61 percent for Democrats, while the 25-29 age group, some of whom are Gen Z, voted 65 percent blue, exit polls show.
Research by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), suggests 27 percent of people ages 18-29 voted in the election. It’s the second-highest youth turnout in midterm history, Al Jazeera reported.
Frost, the newly elected representative from Florida, said his generation is fired up over the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and economic issues like student debt.
“We see that young people see the economy through a very specific lens, looking at things like crushing debt, not because we live beyond our means, but because we’ve been denied the means to live,” Frost told The Daily Beast. He pointed to President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program as a win with young voters.
Other Fox stars acknowledged the right’s weakness with young people. “We have to win over voters outside of our traditional base,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham said on her program Wednesday night. “That means young people too.”
Young voters’ support for Democrats actually softened between 2018 and 2022, exit polls suggest. Democratic support among the 18-29-year-old age cohort dropped seven points between the two elections, according to a CNN analysis of exit polls. But virtually all demographics swung right this election, with Democratic backing taking a larger hit in other age groups like 30- to 44-year-olds.
“Raise the voting age to 21,” Gabriel tweeted, immediately after noting that “We were promised a red wave and we got a red puddle.”
She went on to tweet that “Generation Z thinks doing drugs in the street should be legal. Generation Z also thinks speech that offends them should be illegal.”
Though Gabriel didn’t specify which drugs, a Gallup poll last year found that 68 percent of Americans (including 50 percent of Republicans) support legalizing marijuana. And despite a strong push by Republican legislatures to ban educational material about race and gender issues, Gen Z students overwhelmingly favor strong free speech rights, 2022 polling shows.
Not to be outdone, conservative radio personality Peter Schiff suggested cutting out current Gen Z voters altogether. “Let's raise the voting age to 28. If I was still 18 I'd support this,” the 59-year-old tweeted.
The current 18-year minimum age for voting is guaranteed by the Constitution’s 26th amendment, which passed, in part, because the Vietnam War draft was conscripting people too young to vote.
Frost said he wasn’t shocked to hear talk of disenfranchising young voters. He likened the talk to existing measures that make voting more difficult for people of color.
“When voters don’t vote in their favor, what do they look to do?” he asked. “Change the votes, change the electorate, change the people who can vote. That’s why we see these horrible voter suppression laws championed by the GOP to suppress the votes of Black and brown people, to put it bluntly.”
“I think the GOP's doing the calculation,” Frost added, “‘half these people can’t vote yet. What does this mean for us in the future?’”