Top 5 Election 2020 Issues Teens Want to Talk About (According to Teens)

Last August on KQED Learn, the Above the Noise team asked hundreds of high school students from around the country what Election 2020 issues matter the most to them and why. We were deluged with submissions across a range of issues.

Below, we break down some of the policy debates at the heart of these big issues and provide resources for students to use as starting points for their research for the Let’s Talk About Election 2020 youth media challenge

Climate Change

Young people are passionate about our environment and the many approaches to solutions, like the Green New Deal, wildfire prevention and fossil fuel regulations.  

Gun Legislation

Gun legislation rose to the top as a critical topic among Gen Z. Some specific issues students could investigate include: strengthening background checks, banning assault-style weapons and Red Flag Gun Laws. 

Immigration

Immigration is an important issue for many teens right now. Some questions up for exploration are: Should people living in the US illegally have a pathway to citizenship? Should border crossing be decriminalized? What should happen with DACA?

College Affordability

Top of mind for lots of teens is college affordability. And that’s no surprise since the cost of college has jumped 25% over the past 10 years by some reports. Students could ask: Should colleges be free? Should there be loan debt forgiveness? Should schools provide technical career pathways for professions that don't need a college degree?

Abortion and Reproductive Legislation

Abortion and reproductive legislation continue to be hot-button issues this election for teens on both sides of the debate. Some topics that have come up are: parental consent for access to abortion services for minors, federal funding for Planned Parenthood and health insurance coverage for birth control.

Recommended Resources

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world.
Climate Change, Gun Legislation, Immigration, Abortion and Reproductive Legislation

Sponsored

Pro/Con.org offers contrasting perspectives on debatable issues.
Gun Legislation, Immigration, College Affordability, Abortion and Reproductive Legislation

Above the Noise is a YouTube series for teens from PBS Digital Studios and KQED that dives deep into the research behind the issues affecting their daily lives.
Climate Change, Gun Legislation, Immigration, College Affordability

Other Top Issues

Runners up that did not make the top 5 Gen Z issues for Election 2020 but are still important to teens today include:

  • Healthcare
  • Economy
  • LGBTQ Issues
  • Education
  • Racism and Equality

Research More Issues!

If your students want to engage in further research, these are a few links to help them learn more about the issues, policies and party positions that are central to election 2020. 

Issues to Watch for 2019 (Governing.com)
According to this magazine's website, these are the top issues to watch this year. 

The Democratic Party Platform (2016)
This is the Democratic Party's positions on key issues.

The Republican Party Platform (2016)
This is the Republican Party's positions on key issues.

Student News Daily Issues map by Conservative/Liberal positions
This is a primer on the biggest hot-button issues of the last couple decades. It gives a short summary of the conservative and liberal viewpoints on everything from abortion to welfare.

Add Your Students’ Voices!

KQED, the National Writing Project and PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs want to hear from students around the country about issues that are important to them. The Let’s Talk About Election 2020 youth media challenge seeks audio and video commentaries from students in grades 6-12. Top submissions will be shared with local PBS and NPR stations.