The Next Wave of Brown Voters

The 2020 presidential elections give us new insights into the politics of Brown Gen Z voters.

Malavika Kannan

December 16, 2020

The Next Wave of Brown Voters
(Image courtesy: Alec Perkins / Flickr)

In 2016, Pranjal Jain’s parents shocked her by voting for Donald Trump. Later that year, she discovered that her family was formerly undocumented. Then 15, Pranjal was too young to vote but old enough to experience Trump’s attacks on immigrants. She interprets her parents’ Trump vote as “a vote for assimilation.” Over the next four years, Jain became a digital organizer. This year, a 19-year-old Jain voted for Biden in New York. And so did her parents.

Gen Z — the term for those born after 1996 — is frequently underestimated when it comes to political engagement. The generation was too young to participate politically during Barack Obama’s presidency but is fiercely influenced by Trump’s. In the media, Gen Zers are equally as likely to be hailed as the saviors of America as they are to be labeled as lazy, self-centered non-voters. That is, until this past November. Amid record-high voter turnout in general, young voter turnout increased for the 2020 election.

Young people of color, in particular, supported Biden by large margins and contributed to his victories in Arizona and Georgia, despite the inroads that Trump made with Black and Hispanic youth. Data from CIRCLE, a Tufts University election research project, shows that 83% of Asian voters aged 18-29 voted for Biden, making them the most reliably Democratic demographic after Black youth (87%). Notably, only 51% of white youth supported Biden.

Some older voters, like Pranjal’s dad Pradeep Jain, attribute Gen Z’s support of the Democratic ticket — which often believes in the government’s role in helping reduce inequity — to their greater sense of establishment in the U.S. “When you don’t have food, first you think about food,” he said, explaining the differing priorities between Gen Z and their parents. “Only when you have food, you are thinking about dessert.”