The Rising Gen Z Tide: Barnes & Noble Education Survey Finds 94% of Currently and Soon-to-Be Registered College Students Plan to Vote in 2020

BASKING RIDGE, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (NYSE: BNED), a leading solutions provider for the education industry, today announced findings from Conversations with Gen Z®: The 2020 Election Report, Second Edition. Conducted by Barnes & Noble College Insights™, the report looks at the attitudes and perspectives of Gen Z college students across the U.S. as they plan for the 2020 presidential election. The 2020 Election Report, First Edition, was released in June 2019.

Early and Mail-in Voting Lead with Gen Z Students

This year’s report shows that, while the majority (94%) of registered and soon-to-be registered Gen Z students plan to vote, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a notable impact on how and why they plan to do so. One third (32%) of surveyed students report feeling nervous about voting in-person due to COVID-19, and more than half (60%) say they plan to vote early or by mail-in/absentee ballot in the 2020 election, compared to just 27% the year before. Among this group, 60% say these plans were a direct result of the pandemic. Despite the fact that early and mail-in voting plans lead with Gen Z students, almost half (42%) say they are concerned about the accuracy and trustworthiness of mail-in ballots.

The report shows that there is also voter registration confusion among Gen Z students, even as registration deadlines approach for many states. Of those students who are planning to register, 39% say they feel uncertain about where and how to register to vote. For the majority (81%) who have registered, there are concerns about the impact of possible campus closures as 15% say they will have to change their registration due to the pandemic.

Inspired by Recent Events, COVID-19 and Racial Justice Top Gen Z Concerns

Already an active and engaged generation, the events of the past six months have inspired more members of Gen Z to get involved. Nearly half (45%) feel that recent events such as the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and others have inspired them to become more politically active. It has also shifted the issues they feel are most important for presidential candidates to address, with COVID-19 response and management and racial injustice and inequality rising to the top of the list for 74% and 67% of Gen Z students, respectively. While more than half (59%) identified last year’s top issue of gun violence/mass shootings as important to address, the 12% drop took it out of the top five issues for Gen Z students this year. Addressing the health of the environment – last year’s second-most important issue – dropped to the fourth, with 62% of students identifying it as a top issue. Police/criminal justice reform (63%) and healthcare reform (60%) rounded out the list.

Trust Deficit: Media Bias and the Search for Solutions

While Gen Z wants to stay well-informed on the political issues driving the 2020 presidential race, the report shows that concerns regarding disinformation have increased since last year and are influencing how students view media. Written news publications (such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times), were designated as trustworthy by just over half (52%) of Gen Z students, down from 62% in 2019. These publications were followed by rallies or political events (44%) and podcasts (41%), both of which saw similar drops in trustworthiness compared to 2019. Word of mouth remained the least trustworthy source of information according to almost half (47%) of students, while radio discussions and social media generated the most “not sure” responses. While just 23% say social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok are trustworthy sources of information, nearly half (48%) are not sure.

Despite these concerns, they continue to rely largely on social media platforms (67%) and major news networks (62%) to research candidates, taking potential biases into account in their approach. Most (84%) feel it is important to get information from unbiased sources, and 66% actively try to learn about opposing viewpoints on political issues. The challenge is that many (69%) find it hard to find unbiased informative sources, and most (70%) are not subscribed to any media outlet, limiting their options.

“For many college students, this November will mark their first time voting in a presidential election. If Gen Z turnout in the 2018 midterm election is any indication, college students are positioned to be a critical demographic in deciding the future of our country,” said Michael P. Huseby, CEO and Chairman, BNED. “Gen Z students have demonstrated that they are politically engaged and thoughtful about the issues of the day. Like many though, they may need additional support in navigating the unique challenges this year has presented. As members of the higher education industry, it’s important that we all work together to support and educate students in the weeks ahead, ensuring they are well-prepared to safely engage in this year’s election.”

To access the full report, please visit For more information on Barnes & Noble Education, visit:

Survey Methodology

Barnes & Noble College Insights™ conducted an online quantitative survey of 2,832 Gen Z college students across the U.S. this August, asking about election voting, their preferred methods for researching candidates, and the political issues that are most important to them.

About Barnes & Noble Education

Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (NYSE: BNED) is a leading solutions provider for the education industry, driving affordability, access, and achievement at hundreds of academic institutions nationwide and ensuring millions of students are equipped for success in the classroom and beyond. Through its family of brands, BNED offers campus retail services and academic solutions, a digital direct-to-student learning ecosystem, wholesale capabilities and more. BNED is a company serving all who work to elevate their lives through education, supporting students, faculty, and institutions as they make tomorrow a better, more inclusive and smarter world. For more information, visit

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