Latest News

Survey provides Gen Z insights into advocating for top issues

Written on Dec 9, 2022

A survey of 13- to 18-year-olds is offering insight into Gen Z’s attitudes and behaviors around activism. 

American Student Assistance conducted the survey reveals Gen Z's level of confidence in their ability to effectively advocate, sources of information about and inspiration in social causes, impact of their interest in social causes on career choices, and where teens stand on various social causes, including which causes they most advocate for. 

Key findings: 

  • Around three in 10 teens say they don't have enough information to make change or have tools to make change. Three in 10 are confident that the causes they support will see changes/improvement in the next five years, and between 30-42% of teens feel petitioning elected officials will lead to change on each of these issues. 

  • Over half of the teens said that their friends (54%) and social media (52%) provide them with information and inspiration about the causes they care most about. Half (50%) of the teens said that their parents and older family members provide them with information and inspiration. Half of the teens also said their friends influenced them to take an interest in the causes they care most about, while 46% said their parents and older family members and 44% said social media influenced them. Teens also rated the degree to which their parents or older family members showed them how to advocate for causes on a scale of one to 10 at a 5.6, with 28% giving it an eight or above rating. In addition, most teens who use social media channels to get information on causes/charities use YouTube (69%), followed by TikTok (66%) and Instagram (55%). 

  • A larger share of middle schoolers (45%) than early high schoolers (38%) or late high schoolers (40%) say that celebrities, athletes, or other influencers provide them with information and inspiration about the causes they care about most. 

The survey also revealed that a quarter of teens say the causes they are interested in have highly influenced their career choices. 

Where Gen Z stands on specific social causes and issues: 

Causes Teens Feel Their Generation is Most Able to Advocate For: On a scale of 1-10, teens feel they are most effective at advocating for mental health and racial justice issues (6.4 each), gender equality (6.2), and LGBTQIA+ rights (6.1). They feel they are least effective at advocating for climate change (5.0), while teens feel their peers are only somewhat likely (5.0 on a scale from 1-10) to take action and advocate for the environment. 

The Future of Global Warming: Only about half (49%) say they know the steps they and their families can take to reduce their carbon footprint, but only 24% are taking action steps to address the crisis. 

Bridging the Reproductive Rights Divide: Nearly half of teens (49%) are [still] unsure whether they'll get involved in reproductive rights in the next year, regardless of whether they are pro-choice or pro-life. Only 29% of teens plan to get involved while 22% do not plan on getting involved in this highly charged issue. 

Views on Gender Equality: A full 60% of teen respondents feel that women in the workplace have either somewhat fewer (36%) or far fewer (24%) rights than their male counterparts. 

Mental Health Concerns: Gen Z's feel their peers are afflicted by anxiety (more than four in 10 feel this way), followed by depression (28%), and drug/alcohol abuse (13%). They feel that more than other parties, healthcare providers should be primarily responsible, financially, for addressing mental health issues. Nearly half (46%) feel their peers do not have adequate access to mental health support services. 

How/Who to Grow Advocacy: They say more high-profile LGBTQIA+ leaders and female leaders speaking out will make a difference in addressing LGBTQIA+ discrimination and gender equality, while more and different education in school will impact change around mental health (58%), racial equality (55%), climate change (52%), gender equality (50%), and LGBTQIA+ rights (51%). Between 30-42% of teens feel petitioning elected officials will lead to change on these issues. 

Schools Taking Action: Nearly two thirds (63%) of high school juniors and seniors say more or different education in school can inspire Gen Z students to support and address mental health problems – while just over half (53%) say social media can help awareness and advocacy.