The Iowa caucuses will officially kick off the 2024 primary season on Jan. 15, and Gen Z voters are preparing to make their voices heard. Because Iowa Democrats will be mailing in their ballots, this year’s caucuses will only see Republican voters at the polls.
ABC News reported in December 2023 that the issues they care about are driving young voters to head to the polls more than political candidates themselves. While free speech, mental health support, border security and abortion were top of mind for many young Republicans, moving away from “divisive politics” and addressing the cost of living were on the list for others.
Yahoo News spoke with young Republicans about which issues are most important to them heading into the election.
Jasmyn Jordan, a 20-year-old student at the University of Iowa, was recently appointed as national chairwoman for Young America’s Foundation, a conservative activism organization. She told Yahoo News that she’s hopeful that a new president will be elected in November.
“I am very hopeful about election season … the Biden Administration has put the country in the worst position it’s ever been in,” Jordan said. She said her ideal president would reduce the size of the government, push for the celebration of the greatness of American history in schools, address the mental health crisis affecting the country and close the Southern border. She plans to caucus for Donald Trump.
Jordan said her biggest concern is a lack of free speech on college campuses — she even testified before the House Judiciary Committee in November 2023 about those worries. Jordan told Yahoo News that she has been doxxed twice — meaning her private information was posted online — for her involvement with Iowa Young America’s Foundation, and she listed multiple times when members' property was vandalized and people protested the group's events.
Mary Weston, the 23-year-old chair of the Iowa Young Republicans, also told Yahoo News that freedom of speech is a “pressing issue” for her — especially on “very liberal” college campuses. Also a graduate of the University of Iowa, Weston said that as a Republican, she didn’t feel like she had the same right to speak her mind as people “on the left.”
“These candidates all definitely defend freedom of speech and want to make sure Republicans have that right,” she said. Weston said that most of the members of the Iowa Young Republicans supported Trump, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, according to an informal poll conducted in the organization's group chat.
Though organizers like Weston have been encouraging voters for months to prepare to caucus, record-breaking cold weather in Iowa could affect participation, which in turn could affect results.
“This caucus is really going to be for hard-core Republicans who are adamant about making it to the polls,” Logan Williams, chairman of the Southeast Iowa Young Republicans, told Yahoo News. “Right now, polls have Trump winning … but I’m not sure that’ll be true in practice.”
The 23-year-old voted for Trump in 2020, but now he’s tired of the “divisive politics” in the U.S. and wants to vote for someone he feels can unite political factions and “move the country forward.” On Monday, he’ll caucus for Nikki Haley. He said he admired how she’s “unapologetically pro-life, but she also doesn’t alienate anybody with an opposing view.” He’d like to see a candidate cut the federal gas and diesel tax and address border security.
Though many of Gen Z weren’t old enough to vote in the 2020 election — the generation’s eldest members were just 23 — an NBC News exit poll found that 65% of them voted for Biden. Gen Z for Change, a progressive activist organization, lists climate justice, workers’ rights and gender equality among some of the top issues they prioritize. According to data analysis reported by the Atlantic, a majority of Gen Z voters have sided with Democrats in blue and swing states over the past four elections. In most red states, though, Gen Z is mostly supporting Republican candidates.
Young Republicans outside of Iowa are eager for the state to kick off the primary season. Sofia Van Arsdale, a 21-year-old from Arizona, said the upcoming election feels “chaotic” already. “It seems like most people, Republicans and Democrats alike, are ready for a new leader to replace Biden,” she told Yahoo News. “I will definitely be voting for Donald Trump … he is the best-equipped for the position based on his track record and beliefs.”
Van Arsdale wants to support a candidate who is pro-abortion access, against gender-affirming care access and protective of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Like many of her peers, she mentioned concerns about security at the Mexican border. Nick Talbott, a 21-year-old Oklahoma resident, said he’s concerned about people “illegally” entering the country from Mexico with “bad intentions.” Right now, Trump has his vote, but he likes Vivek Ramaswamy.
Talbott echoed another issue mentioned by his peers — inflation and the high cost of living. He said he has a decent, full-time job, but high housing costs are preventing him from moving out of his family home. Even going out to dinner is a luxury compared to what he could afford in high school. Jordan shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s hard enough to pay for college, but now I have to worry about whether I can afford meals and gas every week,” she told Yahoo News. “And when I’m done with college, will I be able to get a job? I can’t even think about being able to buy a house.”