Political influencers: Gen Z show their power and raise the stakes online

The midterms not only saw the election of the first Gen Z member of Congress, but also showed the power of the Gen Z electoral bloc, with the youth vote attributed in part to the surprising success of Democrats in key races across the country.

Ava McDonald, the founder of Zfluence, which connects brands with Gen Z influencers, said the campaign for new Sen. John Fetterman (D-Penn.) has shown the value of engaging young voters on social media. .

“I think it’s important for politicians to meet Gen Z where they are,” said McDonald, who is also a student at Georgetown University. “We don’t take the physical logs, we don’t consume the information the way generations past did.”

As Fetterman recovered from a stroke earlier this year, his campaign stayed in the news with a shrewd and often irreverent digital media strategy that kept Republican Mehmet Oz on the defensive.

Maxwell Frost also made history last week by winning elections in Florida’s 10th congressional district and becoming the first Gen Z member of Congress.

McDonald was speaking at The Hil’s “Gen Z: Writing Their Own Rules” event on Thursday for a discussion on the generation is an emerging force in everything from politics to activism and the economy.

And the political world takes notice. Political ad tracker AdImpact estimated that $1.4 billion was spent on digital ads midway through 2022, representing 13% of overall political spending for the cycle.

White House Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty said ensuring more diverse and younger communities feel represented in distributed digital content is key.

“The reality is, in an environment where content is so personalized, you need to have diverse content creators to be able to produce content that resonates with people,” Flaherty said.

“You can’t function as a person producing content, as a team producing content, if the audiences you need to speak to don’t feel reflected in what you produce.”

Flaherty said it’s been a priority for the Biden administration to create a digital team that has a diversity of lived and professional experiences.

If the power of Gen Z voters was in doubt ahead of the midterms, a clear message was sent last week, according to exit polls and panelists at Thursday’s event, sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation.

According to a study by Tufts University’s Center for Civic Learning and Engagement Research and Information, the 2022 midterm elections saw turnout among voters aged 18-29 at the second-highest rate. raised in three decades, representing 27% of the votes cast.

In the closing panel, four Gen Z activists representing various advocacy organizations spoke about the central importance of climate change to young voters of all political stripes.

Lauren Maunus, advocacy director for the Sunrise Movement, said her group – and her generation – rejects the idea that climate change is inevitable and intends to change the status quo.

“I think we understand, as a generation, that we are dealing with the consequences of decades of an economic system that gave privilege and security to a few people at the expense of many others,” said Maunus.

Karly Matthews, director of communications for the American Conservative Coalition, said climate concerns were shared across the political spectrum.

Cheyanne Daniels of The Hill asked Reed Howard, communications director of the Millennial Action Project, why young people are increasingly involved in politics.

“Young people see there are a ton of problems and instead of running away from them, they have to run towards them,” Reed said. “They are determined to do what needs to be done and to solve the problems that affect their local communities.”

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