On Nov. 8, at the age of 25, Maxwell Frost became the first Generation Z congressman-elect in the country. Representing Florida’s 10th District, Frost will take his seat in the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, 2023, for the 118th United States Congress.
Students tended to say that a younger representative can offer greater representation.
“Hearing the news of Frost’s election really excited me because I do feel more represented with him being the first Gen Z congressman,” said Notre Dame first-year Mac Johnson.
In addition, the impact of the congressman’s election offers a voice to a different perspective on pressing issues, another student said.
“It’s so important for Gen Z to gain representation in Congress because our generation offers a fresh perspective on divisive issues,” Saint Mary’s sophomore Mari Prituslky said.
Tommy Rafacz, a first-year in O’Neill Hall, seconded that the congressman-elect offers a new voice in the House.
“I think it’s good to see fresh voices and perspectives that should come with a new generation,” Rafacz said.
David Campbell, professor of American democracy at Notre Dame, said that age does not get as much attention as other identity factors.
“But it should, because when you look at public opinion, young people often differ from older people in many of the positions that they take and those views should be represented in the system,” he said.
Campbell also said that a younger representative is more likely to lean toward the extreme positions of his party.
“A younger person coming up in either party is more likely to be on the extreme wings of the party,” he said. “And that’s because they have come of age in an era when the parties are highly polarized.”
Although there is a difference in age brackets between younger and older politicians, Campbell does not believe that there will be a significant change in political representation.
“I’m not sure that it does represent any kind of dramatic change, in that it’s still a relatively small number [of younger candidates],” he said.
Nonetheless, certain issues on both parties will become more important as younger candidates become elected.
“We know that this is a group — and this is actually true on the left as well as on the right — that are far more accepting of LGBT people,” Campbell said. “We also know that young people in general are more concerned about the environment than their elders… I would expect both parties actually to take the environment more seriously than they have.”
Mike McKeough, a junior in Alumni Hall, emphasized how Gen Z representatives can better reflect the values of young people.
“We’re getting different viewpoints that reflect a different demographic of the population,” McKeough said.
Finally, Campbell believes that younger politicians are more inclined to use social media as a means to facilitate communication with their voters.
“We usually think of younger candidates as being very media savvy, much more so than their elders,” he said. “[So] I’d be interested to know whether or not there’s any evidence that Frost was more adept at using social media or communications strategy than either his immediate opponent or other candidates in that same area.”
Contact Sam Godinez at firstname.lastname@example.org