Gen Z on News Media, Donald Trump, Alt-Right and Strong Male Leadership

By Jack Myers Jack Myers Think Tank Archives

No discussion of Generation Z would be complete without a mention of the mass media which, like Donald Trump, this generation views with great interest coupled with skepticism. Accustomed to sharing big stories on the spot via Snapchat or Twitter, they inherently distrust news outlets that were once lauded by older generations.  This is evidenced by a recent  Future of Work Research Consortium survey of Gen Z teens all around the world in which they confessed to being super skeptical of mass media; just 4.64 percent of respondents admitted to trusting the media completely, compared to over 11 percent of whom completely trusted banks or a whopping 23 percent the pharmaceutical industry.  These three categories were actually the least trusted sectors in the survey, and yet, pharma and banks beat out the media by a mile.

Why the distrust of news media?  Gen Z thinks today's anchors and pundits have an agenda.  Technically, they think that about social media as well, but on Instagram it's easier to dispel that belief by building a stronger, more personal relationship with followers.  Our social media lives may be carefully cultivated, but at least they're dictated by us and not some mass media conglomerate.  With social media we're in charge of our own story.  With mass media we're passive consumers.

Donald Trump and Alt-Right

When he first rose to political prominence, Barack Obama provided a new, and to some, refreshing take on masculinity.  He demonstrated that powerful men could show both compassion and superior intellect.  During the 2016 election, however, Donald Trump turned that image on its head, returning to a more traditional take on what it means to be male.  His campaign was one of unbridled masculinity, at least according to old school definitions.  Women, the LGBTQ community and many men found this distasteful, but Trump's message appealed greatly to a significant segment of Gen Z, those born between 1995 and 2005.  These individuals have increasingly turned away from the traditional political voices of Hollywood and towards new role models.  For example, Milo Yiannopoulos has been largely referred to as the new voice of young conservatives; he's brash, in your face and a master of social media.

Since Trump's election, young activists have doubled down in their support.  Although the president's most loyal advocates remain Gen X and Baby Boomer men, he continues to enjoy a strong following among conservative pockets of Millennials and Gen Z adolescents and adults.  Once concerned about not having a voice, several young men have shifted their allegiance from the Republican Party to the growing alt right movement. Already, studies indicate that today's teens and young adults are more conservative than their Millennial predecessors.  According to an AnchorFree study of 2000 young people born between 1990-2009 commissioned by MyersBizNet, young people born post-1996 are progressively more likely to be conservative and less likely to be politically progressive.*  As more of the younger Gen Z cohort age into the voting block, they may help to elect future "fringe" candidates such as Donald Trump. 

A Real Man Can Get His Point Across in 140 Characters

Much of Gen Z's admiration for Trump derives from his willingness to call it as he sees it, a trait we'd be just as inclined to admire in his liberal counterparts.  Hence, the concurrent popularity of Bernie Sanders, who, despite holding many opposing views, shares Trump's status as renegade.

Whether Gen Z men identify as MAGA enthusiasts or Bernie Bros, it's clear that their generation values bold rhetoric.  They're not about beating around the bush; as far as they're concerned, a real man can get his point across in 140 characters.  They'd love to see younger politicians, but ultimately, rhetoric matters way more than age.  If a male politician is active, enthusiastic, in tune with their viewpoints, and addressing their fears, they'll provide wholehearted support -- and he will influence their perceptions of masculinity just as much as (if not more than) movie stars and Instagram influencers.

Click here for Jack Myers' Complete Understanding Gen Z series.  Myers is author of The Future of Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century and Hooked Up: A New Generation's Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World.

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Research and support was provided by Stephanie G, a Gen Z copywriter, dance team coach and event marketer. She is passionate about Gen Z and confident that, if young adults support and encourage one another, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.

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