How Candidates Are Using TikTok to Secure Younger Voters

If all politics is theater, then representative Tim Ryan is one of its subtle actors. A moderate Democrat from Ohio’s 13th District who has represented the state for nearly two decades, his speeches and debates are often described as coming out of the central casting. His style choice is DC standard. It’s not usually the subject of late-night skeet or memes.

That doesn’t mean he’s not trying. Back in the spring of 2020, as Kovid-19 was knocking the country out and the divided Congress was pushing it out on a comprehensive stimulus bill, Mr. Ryan, 48, was so frustrated with the stalled law that he decided to channel his feelings into a tic-tac-toe video.

In a 15-second clip, Mr. Ryan walks around his office in white button-down and dress pants, his tie a bit loose, as he mimics the clean version of “Board in the House” by Curtis Roach. It’s a rap song that resonates with Cop-up Americans at the very beginning of the epidemic, featuring abandonment (“I’m bored at home, and I’m bored at home”) that appears in millions of videos across TikTok. Most of them have lost their minds in the lockdown. Mr. Ryan’s interpretation was a little more literal: boredom … in the house … do you understand?

Mr. Ryan is not a politician who easily connects with TikTok’s chandeliers. The topics of their discussion revolve around issues such as reviving American manufacturing rather than defending the police. But the chino-clad Congressmen were not naive towards unconventional places where political influence flowed. Years ago it was on meditation. Why not try the social platform of the moment?

Her teenage daughter, Bella, speeded him up and taught him some dances that went viral on the app. “I just thought it was insane, and it was really something nice that she and I could do together,” said Mr. Rhea said in a phone interview.

Soon, he was posting on his own account, video montage of his floor speech and sharing his views on infrastructure legislation, supported by the voice of Taylor Swift’s “All to Well”. (As any TikTok novice will learn quickly, popular songs help find videos on the platform.)

Said Mr. Rhea. This year, he is running for the Ohio Open Senate seat; He believes that TikTok can be a crucial part of the race.

But as the primary elections for the by-elections begin, the real question is: What do voters think?

Social media has played a role in political propaganda since at least 2007, when Barack Obama, the then Illinois senator, noted his first official Twitter handle. Since then, through dramatic advertising videos on YouTube, Twitter Debates, Reddit AMA, Fireside Chats on Instagram Live and more, a large number of political bids have harnessed the power of the social platform. TikTok, with its one billion youth-skipping active global user base, seems to be the natural frontier.

So far, however, compared to other platforms, it has been accepted by relatively few politicians. His videos run a series of crogies – say, Normi ​​Deads connects with viral audio clips – to really connect with people.

“TikTok is still in the innovation phase when it comes to social media networks for political candidates,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican political technologist.

Republicans in particular have expressed concern about Baitdance, the parent company of the app, which is headquartered in China. In the final year of his presidency, Donald J. Trump signed an executive order banning the app in the United States, citing concerns that user data could be retrieved by the Chinese government. (President Biden revoked the order last summer.)

After a brief stint on the application, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, His account was deleted, He has since called on President Biden to block the platform altogether. In an email statement, Mr. Rubio, 50, wrote that TikTok “poses a serious threat to US national security and the privacy of Americans – especially children.”

The issue has been disputed by national security experts, who believe the application would be a relatively inefficient way for Chinese agencies to obtain US intelligence.

Adam Segal, director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ digital and cyberspace program, said “they have better ways to get it,” pointing to targeted attacks on phishing emails, staff or politicians. “

Regardless, TikTok seems to have empowered the new generation to become more involved in global issues, to seek ideological recognition and to participate in the political process – not old enough to vote.

Rare but significant examples of TikTok-inspired political action. In 2020, young users encouraged people to sign up for Tulsa, Okla, in support of former President Donald Trump as a prank to limit turnover. Ahead of the rally, Brad Parscal, Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Tweeted That there were more than 1 million ticket requests, but only 6,200 tickets were scanned at the ground.

Such activity is not limited to the young liberals on the platform. Iona Literate, an associate professor of communication at Columbia University’s Teachers College, who studied youth and political expression on social media with Neta Kligler-Vilencic of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, drew attention to the political “hype house” that became popular. TikTok during the 2020 election. Owners of those accounts have debated live streams, removed misinformation spread on the app, and discussed policy issues.

“Young political pundits on both sides of the ideological divide have been very successful in using TikTok to reach their respective audiences,” she said. The writers said.

Many politicians active on TikTok are Democrats or left independents, including Georgia Senator John Osoff, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar and the mayors of two of America’s largest cities. Lightfoot and Eric Adams (who announced that he had joined a video this week featuring his morning smoothie regimen).

This may be due to the fact that according to the company’s internal data and documents reviewed by The New York Times in 2020, the platform has a large share of young users and the youth tend to be liberal. (TikTok will not share current demographic data with the Times.)

“If you’re running for Democrat position, you’re trying to get young voters out and support you,” Mr. Wilson, Republican strategist. “That count is different for Republicans, where you’re trying to gather a different kind of electorate” – someone who is probably older and spends time on other platforms.

For his part, Mr. Marquee follows up with a video on Tiktok that is a mix of nonsense (like he boils pasta in recognition of “Regaton’s Day”), serious (for example, he re-introduces the Green New Deal with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Corey Bush). And seriously stylish (it comes out in a bomber jacket and Nike high top). Comments on her video have been filled with fans calling her “Bestie” (“Go Bestie !!”, “I Love You Bestie,” “Yes Bestie !!!!”).

Feelings are reciprocal. “When I post on TikTok, it’s because I have fun online and talk to my friends about the things we all care about,” said Mr. Mark, 75, wrote in an email. “I hear and learn from young people on TikTok. They are pioneers, they know what is happening and they know where we are going, especially online. I am with them. “

Daphne Valenciano, a 19-year-old college student in California, said she was a fan of Mr. Ossoff’s TikTok account. During his campaign season, “he had a lot of funny stuff and he urged young voters to vote,” Ms. Valenciano said. “The fact that politicians have access to this social media makes it easier for my generation to see their media instead of news or articles.”

Some of the videos posted by Mr. Osof, 35, who have good looks like moppy brown hair and boy, are interpreted by his fans as a trap of thirst. “YAS DADDY JON,” a user commented on one of his videos discussing the seriousness of climate change. Another wrote, on a post celebrating the first 100 days of his office, Mr. Osof was “hot and he knows,” calling him a “confident king.” The senator has more than half a million followers on TikTok.

Some politicians inadvertently fall on the platform. Take, for example, the viral audio of Kamala Harris after winning the 2020 election, “We did it, if.” Even though the vice president does not have his own account, there are millions of plays in his voice.

Providing such a viral impulse may seem prudent, but it is an essential part of any candidate’s TikTok strategy. Political advertising is prohibited on the platform, so politicians cannot promote most of their content to target specific users. And the app pushes videos from around the world into users’ feeds, making it difficult for candidates to reach people who can actually vote for them.

Daniel Dong, a 20-year-old college student in New Hampshire, said he often sees posts from other states’ politicians in his TikTok feed, but “that race doesn’t matter to me because I can never vote. A random person from another state.”

Christina Haswood, a Democratic member of the Kansas House of Representatives, first launched her TikTok account in the summer of 2020, when she was running for her seat.

“I went to my campaign manager and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if I could create a Tiktok campaign?'” Ms. Haswood, 27, said.

She won the race, making her one of the handful of Native Americans in the Kansas state legislature. “A lot of people don’t see indigenous politicians, young politicians of color. You don’t see that every day in the state, let alone in the country, “Ms. Haswood said.” I want to encourage young people to run for office. “

Initially, Ms. Haswood created TikToks that were completely informative – videos that spoke directly to her camera, not getting much traction. When one of the candidates running against her in the primary started ticking, she felt that she needed to raise things.

Connor Thrash, a high school student at the time and now a college student at the University of Kansas, Ms. Haaswood videos. Mr. Thrash, 19, said. “I realized I had the potential to bridge the gap between a politician who is trying to expand his outreach and people like my young, teenage self.”

So he reached out to Mrs. Haaswood, and the two began creating content together and perfecting the art of viral TikTok. The video should strike a balance between being entertaining but not embarrassing; Low-fi without looking careless; And brings something new to the trendy but innovative, never ending scroll.

In one of her most watched videos, Ms. Haswood’s platform, which includes the protection of reproductive rights and the legalization of recreational marijuana. The video is set on a viral remix of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” and follows a trend in which Tiktok users move the camera away from Midsong. (Ms. Haswood used a penny skateboard to achieve the effect.)

TikTok is probably Ms. Haswood has won her race, but few candidates have found her success. Many politicians with large tic-tac-toe followers, including Matt Little (a former Liberal member of the Minnesota Senate) and Joshua Collins (a Socialist who ran as a U.S. representative for Washington), lost “badly – in their respective elections.” “So technically they have not succeeded in a political perspective,” Literat said.

The behavior of young voters in particular can be difficult to predict. In the 2020 presidential election, according to Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, nearly half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted – a record turnout for an age group not known to show up to the polls.

Still, “young people help drive culture,” says Jennifer Stromer-Galley, author of “Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age” and a professor of information studies at Syracuse University.

“Whether they ever vote for John Osoff or not, staying on TikTok helps shape Ossoff’s image,” she added. “Osof’s name will be known to more people today than ever before because of his TikTok stunt.”

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.