CityBright’s Gen Z & Millennial Political Survey in South Carolina

As you probably know, here at CityBright we’re really interested in how millennials and Gen Z in South Carolina think — especially when it comes to politics and the issues. In the midst of one of the “most consequential elections of our lifetime,” we wanted to see where young people stood on the issues, for both research purposes and historical context. We conducted this survey among young people in South Carolina throughout the month of October. For the purposes of this survey, we considered Gen Z and Millennial people those ages 15–40.

We surveyed 193 folks with ages ranging from 15–40 across South Carolina, covering more than 30 zip codes in the state. We heard from young people in Aiken, Lexington, Charleston, Pickens, Spartanburg, Richland, Greenville, Dorchester, Bamberg, Horry, Darlington, York, Clarendon, Florence, Fairfield, Cherokee, Orangeburg, Chester, Georgetown and Greenwood counties.

Both the average and median age surveyed was 26 years old.

More on demographics:

Now, on to the findings.

Policy issues

When asked what three policy areas they cared most about, participants chose the following.

As you can see here, the top issues to young people in the state are civil & human rights (62.3%), education (36%), health (33.3%) climate & environment (32.5%) and women’s rights (29.8%). Following closely behind were student loans (21.9%), criminal justice (18.4%) and COVID-19 (17.5%).

As compared to other generations

We asked how well young people see eye-to-eye with those in other generations on the issues. We found that overall, people under 40 generally are either neutral or do not agree with those in other generations on the issues.

Issues specific to Gen Z & Millennials

We asked an open-ended question of folks regarding what issues specifically affect Gen Z and Millennial Americans. We got dozens of responses but wanted to highlight a few:

  • Sharing a more progressive mindset during a time where liberal and conservatives are being divided more than ever.
  • Taxes, student loans and CLIMATE CHANGE!!!!
  • Mental health. Every millennial/gen z is faced with so much information (social media and news) and over stimulated. I believe these generations live in so much more anxiety.
  • Student loan debt , increased cost of living with stagnant income levels, healthcare, political representation, environmental issues , social security, apathy toward engaging in the political process
  • The outrageous cost of higher education. This effects the economy, job opportunity, education opportunity, and has numerous trickling effects on various issues in the United States. Making education more accessible would create a positive domino effect for further improvements.
  • Financial instability (economic policies)
  • Racial injustices
  • Global climate change, racism, sexism, poor educational infrastructure, student loan debt, home ownership
  • Connection to political candidates, understanding political lingo
  • Mainstream media not being as informative about HOW, WHERE and WHEN to vote. They assume everyone knows what is going on and how to navigate this time.
  • Social media influence
  • NOT! VOTING!
  • Not being taken seriously by other generations. That and civil/human rights.
  • Lack of corporate regulation on emissions, pollution, is causing irreparable damage to our climate. More should be done in terms of limiting allowed emissions and providing incentives for corporations to make positive changes to manufacturing and supply chain processes. Additionally, public school education and funding is lacking. School choice is not the solution; fixing the schools that are broken by providing more support to retain teachers and by reforming the way in which schools are primarily funded which widens the opportunity gap (property tax).

Interest in national politics

On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being “completed uninterested” and 10 being “it’s all I think about”), respondents self-identified with the following ratings in their interest in national politics:

The news

We asked respondents to let us know where they get their news:

Liberal or conservative?

We asked respondents to “grade” their political leanings, particularly interested in learning if young people are more liberal or conservative. In this case, 1 was “far left (extreme liberal)” and 10 was “far right (extreme conservative)”.

Change over time

That being asked, we wanted to know if folks’ ideologies had grown more liberal or more conservative over the past 12 months. 2020 presented unprecedented challenges and experiences, so we were interested in knowing if it made young people more liberal or more conservative in their views. We found that people overwhelmingly grew more liberal over the past year or had no change in ideological views.

Political party

Similarly, we wanted to know what (if any) political party they most identified with.

Attributes of ideal political candidate

Finally, we asked what qualities they looked for in political candidates (they were able to choose as many as they liked). We found that the most common/popular attributes were “cares about the same issues as me” (92.5%), “has good character” (87.7%), “has experience in policy/politics” (66.7%) and “has a college education” (46.9%). Some write-in responses also included “ties to the state,” “is competent” and “does not pander.”

We certainly learned a lot through this survey and appreciate each person who took time to complete it for us. As we continue to share information about South Carolina politics, how to get involved in local government/politics and voting, we hope to see more and more young people actively engaged and influencing South Carolina politics.

For more information about our engagement with Gen Z & Millennial voters in South Carolina, please email us at info@citybrightllc.com.

CEO of CityBright, LLC. | South Carolinian Politico + Public Servant