Political campaigns

MA Political Campaigns Use Social Media to Boost Youth Voter Turnout

BOSTON — Political campaigns in Massachusetts are using social media this midterm season as a tool to improve voter engagement among young Americans, who consistently have the lowest turnout, according to a United States Elections report. Project.

Hiba Senhaj, project manager for progressive consultancy Field First, says social media is an opportunity to make politics more accessible to more groups. She says that in previous generations, people often became involved in politics through family ties.

Social media is definitely democratizing democracy,” she said. “I think social media is so important because it fills the gaps and divides so many communities.”

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Amanda Orlando, Geoff Diehl’s governors campaign manager for Massachusetts, said social media is vital to all campaigns, especially because traditional news media don’t provide equal coverage to Republican campaigns.

“One of the benefits of social media is that you can get your message straight to people without the media filter,” she said. “So for that reason, it’s important for Republican campaigns. Because we don’t get any help from the mainstream media, ever, and the Democrats do.”

However, the Pew Research Center found that 64% of Americans said in 2020 that “social media has a primarily negative effect on the way things are in the United States today.”

Both Senhaj and Orlando said that Twitter and Facebook are the main social media for connecting with voters and getting messages across. But they also pointed out that the door-to-door campaign was the most effective in winning votes.

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“I just don’t think social media has gotten to a point where it’s as effective as the pitch,” Senhaj said. “But they go together. It’s so important, how you develop a field program, and you can use social media and vice versa.”

“You have to balance it out,” Orlando added. “That’s what a good campaign does.”

Young people can make a difference

Elections, especially ones that are close, can be won or lost depending on how young people turn out.

Rhode Island Republican House candidate Allan Fung was 8 points ahead of Democratic challenger Seth Magaziner in the Oct. 11 Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll in the traditionally blue state. Fung has about 2,000 more followers than Magaziner on Twitter and about 6,000 more on Facebook.

Hopkinton resident and registered Republican Jake Simmer, 21, plans to vote by mail midterm. He says he gets some of his political information from TikTok but prefers “normal conversation” when discussing political differences.

Abby Klar, a 21-year-old registered Democrat from Newton, cast her ballot early in this year’s general election. She says she doesn’t pay much attention to paid ads and prefers to listen to messages from “normal people” online.

“I think all politicians have their own agendas,” she said. “A lot of times they vote for reasons other than what they think is best for their community, even though that’s what they’re supposed to do. It’s just harder to trust politicians in general.

But Klar also said the more posts she sees online about an issue, the more “concerned” she feels about it and its impact.

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., was first elected to Congress in 1976 — long before social media — but now has a significant online presence. The “Markeyverse” has been credited with helping him fend off a much younger Joe Kennedy in the 2020 Democratic primary.

“Young people are our nation’s strongest advocates for confronting climate change and tackling the issues that matter most,” Markey said in a statement. “When we come together on platforms like Twitter, TikTok and Twitch, it’s as part of a larger community, fighting for our values, while having fun online.”