The PM and Gen Z | Why Young People Are Ready to Riot

It’s been all over the news and has been hard to miss – Boris Johnson’s party (or work meeting) that was held during one of the harshest UK lockdowns in 2020. At a time when the public could only mix with one household outdoors, were following strict social distancing rules and were forced to watch loved ones die via Facetime instead of being with them in hospital, the PM was gathering with colleagues and drinking wine.

Regardless of political opinions and voting loyalties, it’s easy to understand why Gen Z (as well as many others) are annoyed. And whilst the cheese and wine night gathering jokes that preempted Allegra Stratton’s resignation was met by humour from Gen Z (their favourite coping mechanism), they don’t seem to be laughing anymore. According to a recent poll by The Tab, 91% of young people think Boris Johnson should resign as Prime Minister. 

Why do they care so much?

It’s no secret that Gen Z is a generation of politically driven and liberal individuals, and they expect this approach to be carried out in every aspect of their lives. They fight for equality and are incredibly altruistic, as proven in 2019 research run by British Heart Foundation which revealed that ‘people aged between 16 and 24… are more likely to have volunteered for charities than any other age group’ (ICAEW). According to a report published by the Institue of Economic Affairs in The Guardian ‘…younger Britons have taken a decidedly leftwing turn.’ A big part approach of this is fairness and honesty, hence their general disgust at the Prime Minister’s past choices and response. 

We’ve explored Gen Z’s approach to politics and activism on our Voxburner blog before, hearing from young activists themselves and asking what causes are important to young people. Our US Youth Trends Report also revealed that 66% of Gen Z consider their generation to be caring and 62% as ethical; this explains why young people have taken such umbrage with the Prime Minister following this latest scandal – they’re empathetic and demand justice. 

Social media facilitating political engagement 

Last week we spoke about the most recent Molly-Mae debacle and looked at how Gen Zers were using social media to call out the influencer, and we’ve previously looked at how social media is one of the generation’s favourite political tools. With so many platforms informing people of various causes and offering education, as well as 76% of Gen Z admitting to posting on social media about causes they care about (Student Life Report 2021), it’s no surprise that Twitter, TikTok and Instagram have been the generation’s first port of call when reacting to the news. 

According to 25-year-old journalist Chanté Joseph, many young people are now using TikTok and Twitter because “it’s where young people create a lot of political content that’s really personable and relatable. That’s why a lot of young people feel more radical – it seems more normal when these ideas are explained to you in a way where you think: ‘How can you possibly disagree?’” (The Guardian). Whilst objecting to the Prime Minister breaking his own rules might not be considered ‘radical’, this does explain why Gen Z are so politically involved and are so aware about what’s going on. 

The pandemic 

It’s also important to remember how much young people have suffered during the pandemic, which offers an explanation into why they are so enraged by the recent news. They’re a generation that’s had to limit their social and academic lives and really suffered as a consequence, both now and in the future. As The Guardian put it, ‘The sacrifices made by young people during the pandemic have further crystallised the sense of injustice.’ 

“I thought Boris Johnson looked knackered in 2020 cos he had really bad covid but it turns out he was just hungover from all the nights out. So that’s nice.”

— Bella Mackie (@bellamackie) January 13, 2022

Student news site The Tab has published a number of pieces on this, and the general consensus seems to be that Gen Z is no longer using humour to deal with these ‘government failures’. As writer Hannah Van De Peer put it: ‘There aren’t any more memes to be made about this situation. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single person who can see the funny side of our government’s betrayal. We can’t let this one slide, not again. The government must be held accountable.’ This generation is sick and tired of these injustices, and they’re taking to social media to make their voices heard. Whether it’s in the form of memes (although, as mentioned, this is no longer enough) or thought-provoking pieces, these empowered young people are fighting back. 

So what can your brand do?

It may seem bleak right now, both for you and for Gen Z, but it’s vital that you and your brand keep supporting this young generation. Every Gen Zer has suffered enough as a result of the pandemic, and now they’re facing another blow. Keep offering them opportunities, listen to them and platform them – they’re determined to get their voices and opinions heard, but you can really support this. Be aware that they’re political – they engage with socio-political issues (as we already know) and hold their opinions very close to their hearts. And, perhaps most importantly, be aware that they are taking this seriously; just because they’re laughing and making jokes online about it doesn’t mean they don’t care. Laugh at the jokes, but take the sentiment seriously!

These young people need your brand’s support, and you’ll both benefit from the relationship.


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[Cover image 📷: @borisjohnsonuk on Instagram]

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