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Sun Devil activists sound off on Gen-Z voters and the 2024 election

These University students are taking civic engagement to the next level. Not only do they vote, they work on campaigns and in consulting firms


ASU freshman Cameron Bautista, ASU sophomores Jacob George and Clara Munguia, and ASU graduate student Isaac Humrich around Tempe and Phoenix from March 2023 to February 2024. 

Arizona is a battleground state in 2024, and the youngest activists in the Grand Canyon state are taking their civic engagement beyond voting. But these operatives all have a similar word at the top of their minds when they are working to get their preferred candidate elected: "change."

According to the Brookings Institute, young voters, or Gen-Z and Millennial voters, are set to make up the majority of all potential voters in the U.S. by the end of the 2020s. Arizona is one of about a half dozen swing states in the 2024 Election, and the last several cycles have shown how competitive the state is, from the state Legislature — barely controlled by Republicans in both chambers — to the U.S. Senate and the White House. 

These Sun Devil operatives see the path to the White House going through Arizona and are not afraid to get involved in state politics.

Jacob George — "We want change."

George is a sophomore studying political science and a Keep AZ Blue Student Coalition member, a student-founded political action committee focused on electing Democrats "up and down the ballot." The organization focuses on reproductive freedom, LGBTQ+ rights, climate justice, workers' rights, public education and gun safety.

"As a young person in politics, there's a connotation that you don't understand what is happening and that you should just stay out of it," George said. "When I saw a lack of action on the state level pertaining to the youth vote, (I) saw an opportunity to make real change."

In addition to working with Keep AZ Blue, George works on Laura Metcalfe's campaign for Maricopa County School Superintendent and is running to be on the Balsz School District Board.

George's experience reflects a growing sentiment among young activists: a determination to drive meaningful reform. 

"We want change," George said. "I feel like our generation is committed to pursuing what we believe is right, and we will find the most effective path to achieve it."

George spoke in front of the state Capitol in March to call on Democrat Gov. Katie Hobbs to sign the Arizona Starter Homes Act, which Hobbs later vetoed despite bipartisan support in the state Legislature.

In addition to affordable housing, George is focused on abortion rights and combating "far-right extremism in Arizona."

For people like George, getting involved in ballot initiatives is a great way to shape the future they envision. It ensures their voices are heard and actively considered in critical decision-making processes.

"Ballot initiatives, like those addressing abortion and marijuana legalization, have consistently led to exponential increases in voter turnout during past elections," George said.

Planned Parenthood Arizona and other pro-choice groups announced several weeks ago they had collected more than 500,000 signatures for the Arizona Abortion Access Act ballot initiative, now expected to appear in the November election.

READ MORE: Mayes says she will defend access to abortion post Supreme Court decision. What comes next? 

George said phone banking and ballot chasing—tracking down voters who received a mail-in ballot and making sure they cast their ballot—are essential strategies for increasing turnout in elections and passing ballot initiatives in the state.  

Cameron Bautista — "Arizona cannot be left out."

Bautista is a freshman studying mathematics who also works with Keep AZ Blue. He is working on campaign strategy, canvassing and fundraising events for the organization and Zeyna Pruzhanovsky's candidacy for Chandler Unified School District.

"We can see that youth in politics are change-makers who leverage tools like social media to stay informed about current events and societal issues," Bautista said. "We want to fight for our rights and for change, and the biggest way we're doing that is through civic duty, democracy and voting."

The number of Gen-Z voters becoming involved in politics has increased since 2016. A study from Tufts University's Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement in 2023 showed the generation born 1997-2012 voted at a "higher rate in its first Midterm Election than previous generations did at that age." 

"Arizona is of great importance because we are seeing this really interesting dynamic of political change where we have truly become a purple state," Bautista said.

President Biden won Arizona's 11 electoral votes in 2020 over former President Trump by a margin of 0.3%, or just over 10,000 votes in a state where over 3 million ballots were cast. 

Currently, the Real Clear Politics polling average for Arizona shows Trump up 4.5 points on Biden in a crowded field of third-party and independent candidates.

"It's going to be really interesting to see how that dynamic plays out with both conservative forces pulling and liberal forces pulling," Bautista said.

READ MORE: Election experts discuss 2024 election, young voter turnout

He said he has noticed the growing significance of social media in electoral politics. According to Bautista, it shapes political engagement and the formation of political beliefs as young people become more involved, educated and critical in their thinking.

"Social media is a great outlet for people to stay informed and stay in touch with what's happening," Bautista said. "At the same time, we also have to recognize the effects of echo chambers in social media, the effects of algorithms, and the fact that the social media sites (are) going to change what is shown to you based on your preferences."

Bautista said social media "doesn't force you to interact with people who disagree with you," which, according to him, is something "critical" to our democracy.

Isaac Humrich — "We're much less politically predictable."

Humrich is a graduate student studying public policy and also the chairman of the Arizona College Republicans State Board. He said another critical concern regarding politics and social media is the challenge of distinguishing real news from fake news.

"Social media in general has left us, as a generation, much less cognizant of propaganda in an interesting way," he said. "I think it's pretty clear that we tend to fall for propaganda, and it's something that worries me a lot."

Humrich, who works for Roosevelt Strategy Group, a conservative-leaning political and public affairs consulting team, said Arizona's younger generation is propelling the Democratic Party towards a more progressive stance on crucial issues like healthcare, abortion access and foreign policy. 

"The younger generation is more progressive than even the older Democrats tend to be in the state of Arizona," Humrich said.

Before he graduated, Humrich was president of College Republicans at ASU. He oversaw the big tent political club while controversies with another conservative student organization, Turning Point ASU, caused an uproar across campus. 

READ MORE: Students, faculty frustrated with Turning Point USA and ASU after altercation involving faculty member

Humrich said the Gen-Z voting block is not as predictable as it may appear because Trump's unique presence on the political scene makes it hard to "get a solid read on younger Americans."

Clara Munguia – "Gen-Z has been really focused on progress.”

Munguia is a sophomore studying political science and worked for Hobbs’ gubernatorial campaign through the Mission for Arizona, a "people-powered" arm of Arizona's Democratic Party, according to its website. She said she is new to the political scene but has recently become involved with the Keep Arizona Blue Student Coalition.  

Even though she is new to the political scene, Munguia said Keep AZ Blue is "moving really fast with the issues."

Although local control is important, Munguia said she is looking forward to the race for now-Independent Kyrsten Sinema's Senate seat, which may determine party control of the upper chamber in Congress.

"It's also more important to focus on the Senate and (make) sure that we're able to keep our seats blue," Munguia said.

"It's an interesting view when you start getting involved with politics at a younger age," she said. "​​As we are becoming more independent throughout college, we start to realize more and more how laws are actually influencing everything."

Edited by Grey Gartin, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.

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