Many Americans on both sides of the aisle were speechless after watching the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The debate was a chaotic verbal wrestling match that left viewers without crucial information about the candidates’ platforms. Although many woke up the next morning feeling less optimistic about the nation’s future, a group of young TikTokers decided to mobilize. Four hundred content creators on the platform with a collective following of over 80 million formed the account TikTok For Biden to help motivate young voters to support former Vice President Biden and Senator Kamala Harris.
Since launching the account at the beginning of October, TikTok For Biden gained 808,000 followers and 10.7 million likes on their videos. Even though some of the members are not old enough to vote and do not even live in the United States, that has not stopped them from speaking out.
The Big Brother House meets the 2020 Election… #tiktokforbiden
In an interview with NBC News, co-founder and TikTok creator Aiden Kohn-Murphy said, “This election is not just about politics, it’s about decency and it’s about what we want in this country and it’s so much bigger than traditional politics. … Teens are realizing that our rights come from politics, for better or for worse. I think people who are younger than 18 are realizing how they can be politically and civically engaged even though they can’t vote.”
Anyone can join the platform — the only catch is that you must have at least 30,000 followers by the time you apply. TikTok For Biden hopes to register more young people to vote, raise awareness about the importance of the election and help put Biden in the White House. They regularly post content about general world news, upcoming voter registration deadlines in each state and comparisons between each candidate’s policies to better inform their followers. The account is also taking a hands-on approach in helping Biden’s campaign by hosting phone banks and virtual events and donating profits made from merchandise sales to his campaign and other liberal nonprofits.
As the election approaches, more and more users are expressing their political opinions on the app. Many express their discontent with the current administration or with Biden’s policies and spread awareness about problems that need to be addressed.
Another TikTok account is also using influencers to help Biden win among young voters. The House of US is a virtual TikTok collaboration house created by the political action committee 99 Problems. With just eight members and a collective following of 25 million, The House of US wants to boost voter registration and turnout rates for millennials and Gen Z.
“We are looking to create content that makes participation personal, sharing their POV on issues that affect them as individuals and using that to motivate action in their peers. We will also look to weave in facts about the Biden/Harris policies on issues we know this generation cares about,” said Jesse Stollak, treasurer of 99 Problems, in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
The power TikTok holds with regards to connecting with young people is significant. On other social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, users have to create a following, and this can often take months, if not years. However, users on TikTok can gain instant fame by having videos featured on the For You page. The lack of effort needed to create a following and become popular is what many Gen Z kids find attractive about the app. Despite the growing effectiveness of the app in reaching out to young voters, very few Congressmen and neither presidential candidate are on TikTok.
Celebrities and other social media apps are also encouraging young people and their followers to vote in this election. Every time you open Instagram or Facebook, a banner encouraging you to check your voter registration pops up at the top of the screen. We have all probably received countless emails from a variety of companies about the importance of voting. Many influencers and celebrities are posting images of themselves with their “I Voted!” stickers and mail-in ballots.
The year 2020 is the first in which the number of eligible millennial and Gen Z voters will equal Baby Boomers and prior generations, and young people are already shattering records for voter turnout weeks before Nov. 3. The number of absentee and early votes made by 18-29 years olds in swing states is much higher than they were at this point in the election in 2016, according to CIRCLE at Tufts University. In Florida, more than 257,000 young people have cast their votes so far, compared to only 44,107 in 2016. Similarly, more than 145,000 young people have already voted in Michigan compared to 7,572 in 2016.
Before 2020, many Americans had the luxury of staying out of politics and not worrying about it directly affecting their everyday lives. The pandemic has shown us that this is no longer possible. Many young people are now realizing politics is a matter of life or death, because we rely on people in positions of leadership to guide the nation through our current crises.
Although there is no definitive way to find out whether the numbers mentioned before are due to the pandemic or increased voter enthusiasm, we can only hope more Americans show up at the polls this election and that the efforts put into encouraging young people to vote pays off.