‘Gen Z Takes on the Midterm Elections’ panel event explores what political issues matter most to young voters on both sides of the aisle

Students engaged with panelists on abortion rights, mental health

‘Gen Z Takes on the Midterm Elections’ panel event explores what political issues matter most to young voters on both sides of the aisle

At a panel hosted by the Kennedy Political Union and the School of Communication last Thursday, students engaged with current political issues that are compelling for young voters with regard to the upcoming November 2022 midterm elections. 

The event, which was called “Gen Z Takes on the Midterm Elections” was moderated by SOC professor Jane Hall. The panel featured Associated Press White House reporter Seung Min Kim, pollster and leading Democratic Party strategist Celinda Lake and David Winston, the president of the conservative political consulting firm Winston Group. 

The event was held as an open dialogue between the student body and the panelists, with  much of the discussion centering around current voting issues. This included abortion, inflation and the economy, mental health, climate change and critical race theory. 

Both Republican panelist Winston and Democratic panelist Lake, as well as Kim, who is a reporter, agreed that the key issues going into the November 2022 election for young voters are abortion and the high inflation rate of 8.3 percent currently facing the country. Both Lake and Winston made the case for abortion and the economy as the most important voting issues for the upcoming election respectively, with Lake citing that the majority of new voter registrants have been women since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  

Beyond the issues of abortion and the economy, the political significance of mental health was one area both sides of the aisle agreed upon.

“It [mental health] is not being talked about enough politically,” said Lake, with Winston echoing the same sentiment. 

Winston further talked about finding the middle ground between different parties, discussing his view that cable news networks often pit the extreme left and extreme right against each other. 

“We need reasonable conversations and reasonable outcomes,” Winston said.

Kim discussed diversifying coverage in the newsroom and how her identity as an Asian American journalist has shaped her coverage of politics. 

“Being from a different community gives you a broader perspective, perspectives that are needed to inform your reporting,” she said. “For years [...] I would think there are a lot of stories on how campaigns are trying to court Latino and Black voters, but there’s rarely any coverage on what matters to Asian voters. ... So, I would be one that would say well I think we need a story on this, and that’s just a case why we need diversity in every aspect of any newsroom. You bring together literally a world of different perspectives to help better inform your reporter and your audience.”

Some students that attended the event brought up different topics that they thought were also important issues in the upcoming election cycle.

“I think there were some decent questions aimed at more Gen Z-related issues, like they brought up climate change which was a big one, abortion rights which was a big one and then they dropped LGTBQ rights which was another big one,” said Joe Smieya, a senior in SOC. 

“I do think that I learned some more of the Republicans’ perspective given that David Winston talked a lot, and I feel like that’s something that, given how liberal the student body is here, we don’t hear as often,” said Dan Costello, who is a senior in SOC. 

The event ended with all three panelists echoing the same sentiment encouraging young voters to go out and become engaged in the political process. 


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