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For the past few years we have been leading the way in Gen Z research so that we can better understand this important voting bloc and better engage these voters to become education champions. To help our partners target the right voters, we have also created the first-ever set of education-specific issue scores and have begun researching ways to move beyond partisanship to garner support for education. That is why we are excited to share that several of our submissions to the 2024 South by Southwest® (SXSW) and SXSW EDU conferences have made it to the community voting round.
Please take a few minutes to vote for the following submissions so that we can continue to expand the audience for these important conversations and affect positive change through civic engagement:
The nation saw near historic levels of youth participation in the 2022 elections and can only expect the impact of younger generations to grow as more and more join the electorate. But determining how to interact with and motivate young voters to turn out at the polls requires us to better understand and engage this cohort. Murmuration, in partnership with SocialSphere, has been conducting research on the impact of Gen Z for several years, which includes polling to help understand what motivates this voting bloc and how they want to envision their future. This discussion will feature Rachel Janfaza, a seasoned journalist covering this issue who herself is a member of Gen Z, and Rep. Maxwell Frost, the first Gen Z member of Congress, who was also the National Organizing Director for the historic March for Our Lives in 2018. They will join John Della Volpe, who will provide the most recent Gen Z findings/data. This panel will be moderated by Emma Bloomberg and will provide unique insight and analysis about the issues and concerns of young voters ahead of the election and what youth engagement will look like in the years to come.
Moderator: Emma Bloomberg, Murmuration; Panelists: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere; Rachel Janfaza, The Up & Up; Rep. Maxwell Frost (FL - 10)
Examining audiences via partisanship alone is too simple and reductive. While partisanship can prove useful, it fails to capture people’s experiences with social systems because most of these experiences do not happen exclusively in the context of politics or elections. This is especially true for an “issue” like education that is at its core deeply personal and is experienced over and over, every day, over the course of many years. That is why Murmuration, in partnership with Harmony Labs — a media research organization — is conducting a multi-phased research project to understand the existing narrative around education and craft a new target narrative that takes into account the values of a wide range of different groups. This approach will allow us to map the values, beliefs, political behavior, and media consumption patterns for each audience to better understand the stories that matter to them, provide guidance on how advocates can shift opinion and behavior through targeted media strategies, and develop a set of tools for delivering these insights dynamically to advocates and groups in communities across the country. Murmuration and Harmony Labs will present key findings from their research and representatives from partner organizations BrightBeam and LostDebate will be available to share how this research can help their local campaigns.
Moderator: Sarah Stamper, Murmuration; Panelists: Riki Conrey Harmony Labs; Chris Stewart, BrightBeam; Ravi Gupta, LostDebate
To support our partners’ work in local elections, Murmuration creates custom issue scores, like the Charter Support Score, to give partners an edge in identifying individuals who are likely to support a given education issue. By providing this key voter information, Murmuration supports partners efforts to run data-driven campaigns to deliver targeted messaging and spur turnout in traditionally less salient races, like school board elections. This panel will take a deep-dive into how advocates can use tools such as voter scores to run data-driven campaigns in their local communities. It will also examine how Murmuration’s latest issue support score, the Big Changes in Education Score, can help identify voters most aligned with key issues and can change the way local organizations view the impact education issues have on the campaign trail today, and will continue to have in the 2024 presidential election and beyond.
Moderator: Gregory Hatcher, Murmuration; Panelists: Jiwon Seo, Murmuration; Anthony Wilson, Equity in Education; Amanda Aragon, NewMexicoKidsCAN
Voting is now open and ends on August 20, so please take a moment to vote for our submissions today. Please note that you will need to create a SXSW account if you do not already have one – it takes less than two minutes and will help us make these important conversations part of this year's event.
Building on our research to better understand Gen Z and elevate their voices, we are excited to release a research report on how to best engage young voters in the political arena. For the past year, we worked with the Walton Family Foundation and SocialSphere to research Gen Z (ages 15-25) about their attitudes and perspectives on a range of key issues.
Our most recent round of research, detailed in this report, was conducted immediately following the 2022 midterm elections and includes four key takeaways:
1. Gen Z and Millennials share little common ground with older voters on which issues are important in K-12 education today.
2. As compared to older generations, more Zoomers (members of Gen Z) think it is important to protect groups whose rights have been recently threatened and demonstrate urgency around protecting those rights.
3. Zoomers report high levels of anxiety and depression. But instead of shutting down, they continue to mobilize and show up to vote.
4. Zoomers wish they had more information about candidates and issues before the 2022 midterm election.
Our findings indicate that young voters share little common ground with older generations on K-12 education issues. Younger voters were far more likely to indicate that mental health support and teacher pay were prominent issues for them, whereas older voters rated parental involvement, transparency, and gender or sexual policy as the next most important education issue after school safety.
Underpinning Gen Z’s perspective is how they place value and loyalty to political issues over party identification and the importance they place on maintaining democracy above all else. Our research revealed that Gen Z didn’t identify with one party significantly more than another. However, Gen Z ranked reproductive rights (29%) as their top concern when filling out their ballot in November 2022 and was the only generation to rank the issue above the economy and inflation (12% combined). Because of their alignment on issues, young voters played a role in Democrats outperforming expectations, especially in battleground states, despite not self-identifying with one party over another.
Gen Z also expressed concern that parents, mentors, teachers, employers and older generations more broadly are unable to understand or, worse, are dismissive of the depth of their struggles. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the research indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated Gen Z’s mental health challenges.
This research comes after two previous reports, Looking Forward with Gen Z, which first established the value of better understanding how Zoomers view political issues and their role in shaping the direction of our country, and our Back To School Check-In, which more closely examined how student opinions were changing as a new school year began in September 2022. Incorporating post-2022 midterm election data into our Gen Z research has allowed us to better understand how the views and perspectives of young Americans translate into civic participation at the polls, and is crucial to engaging with this voter bloc in the future.
This research project was led by SocialSphere’s John Della Volpe, the director of the Harvard Youth Poll (but it is not affiliated with Harvard). The post-election research project included exit polls with n=606 voters including n=151 18-29-year-olds across the country, six focus groups with 18-40-year-old registered voters, four of which were conducted with those voted in the midterms and two with non-voters, a national survey with n=3,227 15-25-year-olds and n=1,036 adults 26 and older, and a series of conversations with high-school and college students in markets across the country.
As another year comes to a close, I once again look to the future with optimism and excitement. There are sure to be challenges, losses, and setbacks. But the individuals in our community and the organizations in our network will, as we always do, rise to the occasion. With each challenge we face, I see opportunities for impact; even in losses, I see learnings to set up future successes. But none of this is possible without you – the extraordinary people who are doing the hard work in communities across the country.
As I look back at 2022, I feel immense pride and a sense of real accomplishment about our collective work. Murmuration supported 165 races across 19 states, more than double the number of campaigns we supported in 2021. We built a dozen custom statewide turnout scores and four custom issue/support scores that were used by dozens of partners. We also invested in learning more about Gen Z voters so that our partners can build support amongst this growing, diverse, and action-oriented generation, and established an Organizing & Advocacy Fellowship to help partners expand this crucial aspect of their work. These are just some of the ways that together we made great progress in advancing our shared mission this year.
Some might think of 2023 as an "off year" on the electoral calendar, but our partner community knows there is no “off year” for us. Hundreds of municipalities and school boards will hold elections that are sure to determine the path ahead for cities and school districts, and determine control over local policies that impact thousands of students; and advocates will organize stakeholders to hold officials accountable. We look ahead with anticipation and with gratitude, knowing that your commitment to making public education better for all children is unwavering.
Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season.
We all know that elections are just the beginning of hard work to come. To help you better understand what happened in the most recent midterms and what to expect from future election cycles, we have been collecting and analyzing data over the last month to share with you and your organization. So far, this work has focused on identifying some of the important trends in midterm voter turnout, deepening our knowledge of what motivates Gen Z voters to engage in the civic process, and connecting with experts in a variety of fields related to education politics to provide our partner community with a diverse range of viewpoints on changes to the political and social environment.
The resources linked below include our early learnings – turnout analysis based primarily on precinct- and county-level voter data and topline findings from our latest public opinion research with Zoomers, in addition to a conversation with education historian Dr. Jonathan Zimmerman about the trajectory and impact of culture wars on public education and education politics. Over the coming months, we will continue to expand on this research, sharing more detailed election analyses, a full report of all the Gen Z research we have conducted since November 8, additional insights from experts in the field, and more. If you have any specific topics you would like our team to examine, please reach out to Gregory Hatcher, VP of Partnerships, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the 2022 midterm elections, we conducted an initial analysis of available voter data to identify trends and insights that we think will provide you with a more nuanced understanding of voter behavior in this election. Based on both an analysis of precinct and county level turnout in Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, and a closer look at individual-level turnout data from Georgia, we can conclude that turnout was disproportionately higher among Republican voters, that Black voter turnout was disproportionately low, and that youth voter turnout was down from 2018’s record high, but still quite high by historical standards. Read our 2022 Election Turnout Takeaways Memo for more detail on our initial findings.
To help you better engage with and mobilize Zoomers in future cycles, Murmuration has been working with the Walton Family Foundation on research to understand Gen Z’s values, political activity, and interests. As we learn more about voter behavior in the 2022 midterms, one thing is becoming clear: Gen Z played an important role, turning out in large numbers and tipping the balance in some key state and federal races.
From our polling, we learned that young voters prioritized issues that they deemed most urgent in 2022 — the cost of living, reproductive rights, personal freedoms, and preserving our democracy. Education, which many Zoomers told us was important to them personally, as well as to the success of the country as a whole, was not seen as urgent in this election season. Based on our learnings to-date, there is opportunity for you to educate Gen Z about local elections, particularly school board races, and about the importance of down ballot completion – as our post-election polling also found that Zoomers were more likely than other groups to not complete their entire ballot.
Read our latest research on Gen Z to learn more about what we've uncovered about young peoples' perspectives and voting behavior in the aftermath of the 2022 midterms.
Leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, cultural wars played a central role in the debate about public education. And despite the fact that parental rights advocacy groups’ efforts fell short of creating the conservative sea change many were expecting in the midterms, culture war issues remain pervasive in many communities around the country. To understand the historical context and how the discourse around these and other similar issues may change in the future, Murmuration spoke with education historian Dr. Jonathan Zimmerman. In this Q&A, Dr. Zimmerman discusses how organizations can learn from and think about the evolution of culture wars in America, including changes to how young people view our country, to bridge partisan divides and engage in more empathetic and critical discourse. Read the complete conversation here.
Every election is important, but this year’s midterm elections felt particularly consequential – for our sector and for our country. This cycle we supported 165 electoral campaigns, with partners working in 19 states and the District of Columbia, in addition to supporting our organizing and advocacy partners’ efforts nationwide. There are still many votes to be counted and races to be called. Still, we wanted to share that our partners had a 72 percent win rate, with 28 races still not called and nine heading to a run-off.
Certainly, win/loss rates are not the only measure of success, nor are they reflective of the small gains in local communities or of all of the hard work that you did on the ground to support powerful community movements. There are many lessons to unpack from this year’s midterm elections to set us up for greater success in the future, but we are proud of the great progress our sector continues to make cycle after cycle. The wins our partners earned in the 2022 midterms underscore what our research and polling have suggested about local elections over the last couple years: Americans believe there is a need to change our education system and want politicians who will come up with transformative solutions to ensure every child has access to a high quality equitable education.
One clear takeaway from this election is that young voters played an important role, with early reports indicating that Gen Z turned out in large numbers – short of 2018’s record levels, but higher than those of prior generations at their age – and helped to deliver victories to Democrats across the country. We have more to learn about Gen Z’s turnout and motivations, but we believe Gen Z is an important audience for the future of education politics and they have incredible potential to shape a positive future for public education in this country. This election underscored the importance of our ongoing research to help our partner community better engage this key demographic and turn them into education voters. To learn more about Gen Z, you can view our Gen Z exit poll and focus group findings.
Election Day and the resulting outcomes are just the beginning of important and hard work ahead. In the coming weeks and months, we will share additional research into Gen Z, analyze different aspects of the election, and identify new learnings that partners can apply to their future efforts. We look forward to working alongside each and every one of you to ensure our democracy works for everyone and children have equitable access to opportunities for future success.
Education is now, more than at any point in recent memo, being recognized as one of the top political issues in the country. Along with women’s rights, inflation, civil liberties, and the health of our democracy, many voters are thinking about education as they prepare to vote. Meanwhile, the division and partisanship that has defined the national political discussion has infiltrated local communities and is influencing the public’s understanding of and commitment to public education. With the debate over the future of public K-12 education in this country likely to play a big role in the 2022 election, the stakes couldn’t be higher. What happens this November will shape education politics at the national level and influence voter perceptions of other important issues facing our communities, now and into the future.
This memo outlines what Murmuration believes are the most pressing challenges facing partners and other education champions this year and outlines options for investment to ensure we are in a strong position for future cycles as well. The guidance we provide is informed by Murmuration’s ongoing public opinion and other research, as well as conversations with sector leaders and political strategists.