New Age Politics: Presidential Candidates Turn to Cyber Spaces to Engage With Young Voters

By Charlie Hobin

Sixty years ago today, deciding what to watch
after supper came down to the wide variety of three
options: NBC, CBS or ABC. Jumping to the present day,
Americans are exposed to an infinite amount of media
coming from an infinite amount of sources.
The formation of the internet and the subsequent
diversification of media makes reaching American people,
especially younger generations, remarkably complex.
According to PEW social trends, millennials and
members of Generation Z represent nearly 40 percent of
eligible voters in the 2020 election. These voters are avid
users of social media and tend to avoid orthodox media
source, coaxing presidential candidates to new outlets.
Projections by Borrell Associates Inc., a marketing
research firm, predict that roughly 12.6 Billion dollars
is to be spent on campaigning during the 2020 election.
Candidates are aware of the wide array of media outlets
and aim to reach all types of Americans in creative ways.
For example, Bernie Sanders, senator of Vermont and
Democratic candidate, regularly live streams on Twitch,
the largest video game streaming platform.
Andrew Yang, entrepreneur and 2020 presidential
hopeful, funds large meme Instagram accounts to create
and post memes about his campaign and his beliefs.
California senator Kamala Harris recently worked with
Instagram influencers to publicize her campaign.
Each of these outlets provide candidates with the
opportunity to reach the millions of younger voters
searching for their place in the world of politics.
Reaching these voters, an estimated 5.1 million current
high school students eligible to vote in the 2020 election,
is a task that requires modern solutions.
“Given the low voter turnout among young
Americans, it’s quite clear candidates aren’t doing
enough to connect with them,” junior Alex Shafer said.
“Candidates need to work on building more connections
through social media on places like Snapchat and
Instagram in order to remedy the situation.”
Diving deeper into the influence of social media
on young voters, a pool of roughly one hundred high
school students from Bend Oregon were surveyed
on their knowledge of current democratic candidates
and the media outlets where they learned about them.
Interestingly, Andrew Yang who ranked seventh in a New
York Times’ national poll and tenth in overall fundraising
has reached 34 percent of the students, while Pete
Buttigieg–who ranked fourth in the poll and has raised
over six times more than Yang–reached only 20 percent.
Yang’s presence on YouTube channels, meme accounts and numerous podcasts has given him an
advantage in the eyes of younger voters. His tactics
in the realm of social media serves as one of the key
success factors in his presidential run.
“Andrew Yang has used social media outlets I
would never expect anyone in politics to utilize,”
junior Zach Jepson said.
“I couldn’t believe a presidential candidate was on
a comedy podcast and I honestly respect him more for
participating in it,” Jepson said in reference to Yang’s
appearance on the H3 Podcast.
Yang’s use of social media to project his campaign
to a younger audience is crucial for the curation of an
evenly distributed age range of voters.
According to social scientists Eszter Hargittai and
Gokce Karaoglu for “Socius,” because many political
polls are conducted by phone during the work/
school day, participants tend to be among the older
generation. The underrepresentation of younger
voters skews the poll data, leaving many analysts
scratching their heads on election day.
Over 50 percent of students have connected with
candidates on Snapchat and Instagram, further
demonstrating the critical role social media plays in
the upcoming presidential election.
“Given almost everyone uses social media, it’s
imperative that candidates make the most of it if they
want to be elected,” Shafer said.
The rapid rise of social media and technology makes
garnering the attention of America more complex than
ever. For candidates, finding ways into this complex
system and into the media habits of each individual
American is a determinative factor in the 2020 election.

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