Dec 14, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Immigration is shaping the youngest generation of voters

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/Stringer

Members of Gen Z are more likely to have immigrant parents than even millennials when they were the same age.

The big picture: Gen Zers were born and are growing up in an era of booming immigration. But they are less likely to be immigrants themselves than millennials were, making a larger percentage of them automatically eligible to vote at 18.

By the numbers: 29% of Gen Z are immigrants or the children of immigrants, compared to 23% of millennials when they were the same age, according to analysis by Pew Research Center's Richard Fry.

  • 13.7% of the total U.S. population is foreign born today — up from 9.7% in 1997, when the first Gen Z-er was born. That's an increase of around 17 million immigrants.
  • The share of immigrants in Generation Z could grow as they get older and reach ages that immigrants would typically come to the U.S. As was the case with millennials, high levels of immigration could grow the youngest generation for decades.

Why it matters: The racial and ethnic diversity of Gen Z, increased by immigration, not only distinguishes the generation, but influences its political and social views, Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at Tufts University, told Axios.

  • "Some of the rhetoric of Trump, and the Republican party in general, in recent years is something that's obviously going to sort of turn off not just the young voters who are racial and ethnic minorities, but also people who are growing up with those much more diverse group of peers," he said.

Having an immigrant background also comes with its challenges. Language barriers and intimidation at polls because of race or ethnicity can prevent some from voting.

The big picture: Foreign-born people made up similarly high shares of the population in the late 1800s through the start of the 1900s. But the vast majority of those immigrants came from European nations.

  • After restrictive immigrant quotas were lifted in 1965, immigrants began flocking to the U.S. from Latin American and Asian nations instead.

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The demographic shifts disrupting the political world

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images, Banaras Khan/AFP via Getty Images, and Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images

America's identity is nearing a tipping point as demographics change, which helps explain why so many 2020 presidential candidates are testing the conventional wisdom about who can win elections.

The big picture: The irony is that the biggest changes haven't been reflected in the kinds of candidates leading the 2020 polls — most of whom are white, rich men. But they could have a big impact on the final outcome.

Trump administration restricts immigration on 6 additional countries

President Trump. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration will begin deterring immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania, the administration announced on Friday.

Why it matters: This comes three years after Trump's signature travel ban was first announced, which barred people from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S. The move serves as another sign of the U.S. closing its doors to immigrants under the Trump administration.

2024 lookahead poll: Democrats see diverse future

Data: Online SurveyMonkey poll (margin of error: ±2.5 percentage points). Chart: Axios Visuals

In a SurveyMonkey poll for Axios taking a very early look at a theoretical 2024 field, Pete Buttigieg tops a list of Democrats, with a slight advantage over Kamala Harris.

Why it matters: A poll this early can only tell you so much. But what's striking is that none of the top seven Democratic candidates are heterosexual white men — an indicator of growing diversity in the party.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 5, 2020