Millennials and Gen-Z voters make up 35 percent of the U.S. electorate, and Snapchat reaches 75 percent of them daily, making the Snap app attractive to Donald Trump’s campaign as he bids for re-election.
Trump has tripled his Snapchat following to more than 1.5 million in eight months, exceeding rival Joe Biden’s audience, Bloomberg reported
Snap’s political clout may be small, but the app’s bizarre face filters and short-lived photo messages are a battleground in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Up to 500,000 people turn 18 each month in the U.S. and when they do, Snap displays a voter registration link on users’ profiles during their whole birthday week.
Hoping to improve the historically low voter turnout of young people, Snap started promoting voter registration for the midterm elections in September 2018. It partnered with the non-partisan voting group Democracy Works to allow users to register using the TurboVote.org app.
Millions of young Americans who weren’t eligible to vote in the 2016 election were eligible for the midterms, Time reported in October 2018:
“To many of them, the 2016 election was yet another example of an older, less diverse generation of voters making decisions that they disagree with on everything from the environment to the Supreme Court. Trump won solid majorities of voters over 45, but people under 29 voted against him by almost 20 points.”
In a normal election year, first-time voters would be registering to vote on college campuses, at the library or their local DMV office, Bloomberg reported. Covid-19 has made that impossible. Snapchat is one of the best ways to get young voters involved and influence their thinking, political groups say.
“Snapchat is the platform that can fill all the institutional gaps in reaching young people,” said Mike Ward, the program director of voter engagement at Democracy Works. “They are uniquely positioned to be the most powerful youth voter registration force in the country.”
Snap now has a dedicated staff working closely with campaigns’ digital teams to train candidates and governments.
Biden isn’t just lagging behind Trump on Snapchat. He has 5 million followers on Twitter compared to Trump’s 80 million and 2 million followers on Instagram compared to Trump’s 19.6 million. On YouTube, Biden has 32,000 subscribers compared to Trump’s 332,000-plus, New York Times reported.
Forced to abandon in-person gatherings and adapt to an all-digital campaign strategy, Biden has just announced three digital hires from the campaigns of Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris. He plans to double digital staff to about 50 with optimistic content that has the potential to go viral, in contrast to Trump’s divisive messages, according to his campaign.
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By comparison, Trump has a digital staff of about 100 people, Bloomberg reported.
While some Democrats are worried that Biden is losing the internet, others don’t see social media success as a prerequisite for winning the White House, New York Times reported.
“We’re not campaigning for YouTuber in chief. We’re campaigning for president,” said Andrew Bleeker, the president of Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic strategy firm. “He has a message of bringing the country together around the American spirit. He doesn’t need to change that to get views.”