Gen Z and Local Government

October 26, 2020 by Meredith Trimble

Gen Z and Local Government

Communities across the country are rich with diverse populations comprised of many active generations. As local governments consider how to continue operations in the wake of COVID-19’s disruptions, understanding an applying this critical generational context is timely and necessary. Many governments, for example, are examining whether or how the virtual solutions they implemented to continue operations remotely and serve residents online should remain in a post-pandemic environment. Central to these discussions should be how diverse community members receive information from and interact with local government.

New national research conducted by Tyler Technologies and the Center for Generational Kinetics provides insight to inform decisions about effectively reaching, serving, and engaging all community members.

The Rise of Gen Z

Among the generations studied, Gen Z – born between 1996 and 2012 – merits special mention. Gen Z is what the future looks like for government – from employees to constituents – making it a necessary topic now. According to the research, Gen Z wants to engage more with government. Its members want to drive outcomes and have better relationships with local government, on their own terms.

The Rise of Gen Z

Driving Trends

“For the first time,” explained Jason Dorsey, president, Center for Generational Kinetics, “Gen Z is driving trends from the youngest to the oldest.” Not only is Gen Z bringing change to communities relative to other generations, those changes represent the new normal. In order to meaningfully capture Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers, understanding Gen Z is imperative. “If you don’t adapt to Gen Z,” said Dorsey, “you could end up losing the other generations, too.”

New Research

Here are some takeaways around Gen Z from this new research:

  • 66% of Gen Z responded “politicians neglect my generation.”
  • 85% of Gen Z felt government can do a better job of engaging citizens.
  • 61% of Gen Z trusts social media more than government.
  • 51% of Gen Z prefers to receive government information via social media; word of mouth from friends followed in second; ahead of third-place, websites for information.
  • Because of this higher use of real-time digital channels, 34% of Gen Z reports receiving information from local government weekly, as opposed to Baby Boomers, who report monthly frequency for receiving the same.
  • More than 20% of Gen Z don’t vote in elections of any kind.
  • Gen Z places higher expectations on federal government to solve problems than local government, including fighting climate change and providing fair access to justice.
  • Continuing education is the most important local government service for Gen Z while economic and community development are most important for Gen X.
  • Gen Z believes local government serves them but does not engage them, showing an interesting distinction.
  • The top barrier to engagement with government for Gen Z was “a frustrating process.”
  • 40% of Gen Z indicates clear, easy-to-use technology is the number one way to improve interactions with local government.
  • 76% of Gen Z responded, “better technology would go a long way toward helping local governments.”

Gen Z and Tech

To effectively serve Gen Z, government will need to catch up to the real-time, digital channels the generation strongly prefers. Gen Z has always known smart technology; its members don’t remember a time before the cloud. “What we see is that Gen Z has always been able to look at a screen and engage with their world,” said Dorsey. “And that’s true in every aspect of their lives: banking, dating, education, news, you name it. All Gen Z is doing is bringing what they believe is normal to every environment.”

If governments employ the technology Gen Z is dependent on, they can harness Gen Z’s energy, creativity, ideas, and diversity to great benefit. In short, Gen Z presents a significant opportunity for government leaders to drive deeper engagement and create stronger communities.

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