Gen Z Students Say Abortion, Gun Policy Are Top Election Issues

A new BestColleges survey suggests Gen Z students are planning to vote their values this November, though their trust in politics remains low.
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Data Summary

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    Gen Z students are most concerned about abortion (37%) and gun policy/control (33%) heading into the midterm.
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    Only 31% of Gen Z students are concerned about the economy, employment, and inflation, compared to 49% of millennials.
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    Over 3 in 4 (77%) of Gen Z students who are registered to vote, or who plan to register before November, intend to vote in the midterm election.
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    Just a quarter (25%) of Gen Z students trust the U.S. political system compared to 39% of millennials.
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    Over half (54%) of millennial students think this midterm election will be free and fair compared to 37% of Gen Z students.

In the wake of the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, and with school shootings continuing to fill headlines, Gen Z students may be bringing their distinct agenda to the ballot box this year.

In a new BestColleges survey of over 1,000 current or prospective undergraduate and graduate students, Gen Z students selected abortion (37%) and gun policy/control (33%) as their top issues heading into the midterm election.

Well over half (62%) of Gen Z students aged 18-25 say they are registered to vote, with 19% more saying they plan to register before the November midterm election. Of this group, over 3 in 4 (77%) actually plan to vote.

A significantly smaller percentage of students in this same age range were registered to vote four years ago. According to the Census Bureau, just half (49.8%) of students between the ages of 18-25 were registered to vote in the 2018 midterm.

Gen Z Less Concerned About Economy Compared to Millennials

Nearly half of millennial students (49%) say the economy, employment, and inflation are a top concern this year. In contrast, only 31% of Gen Z students say it's a top concern, and it fell below both abortion and gun policy/control.

Millennials were also more concerned about healthcare than Gen Z students (36% vs. 24%) and less concerned about gun control (24% vs. 32%).

In the fall of 2020 — as college students navigated pandemic uncertainty and racial tensions in the United States — a BestColleges survey found that Gen Z students were most concerned about those two issues leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

Racial and ethnic inequalities/rights remain an important issue for Gen Z students this year. However, only 31% consider it a top election issue in 2022 compared to 40% in 2020.

Only a Quarter of Gen Z Students Trust the Political System

Gen Z students may feel particularly disillusioned with politics — both this year and in past elections. Only 1 in 4 (25%) current or prospective Gen Z students trust the U.S. political system in 2022 compared to 39% of millennials.

A previous BestColleges survey shows trust in the U.S. political system among Gen Z students was about the same (26%) in 2020.

Gen Z vs. Millennial Student Trust in the U.S. Political System

Just over one-third (37%) of current and prospective Gen Z students believe that the upcoming election will be free and fair compared to 54% of millennial students.

Compared to Gen Z students, millennials also felt more represented by national elections, felt that election outcomes have a more significant impact on their everyday lives, and trusted the U.S. political system more.

While a majority of Gen Z students feel that voting matters (64%), that number also falls below millennial students (70%). It remains to be seen whether Gen Z's strong values will be enough to overcome their political skepticism and drive them to the polls this November.


The survey was conducted from September 28-October 3, 2022, and was fielded by Pure Spectrum. Survey participants included 1,002 respondents nationwide who were currently enrolled in or planning to enroll in an on-campus or hybrid undergraduate or graduate degree program at a college or university in the next 12 months. Respondents were 16-59 years of age and currently pursuing or planning to pursue an associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, or professional degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.