Election

Ossoff Uses TikTok To Court Young Voters Crucial To Democrats’ Success

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff speaks after voting early in Atlanta on Tuesday. To reach young voters, Ossoff is using social media app TikTok as one tactic to get them to vote in the January runoffs.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff speaks after voting early in Atlanta on Tuesday. To reach young voters, Ossoff is using social media app TikTok as one tactic to get them to vote in the January runoffs.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press
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This coverage is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. The article is available for reprint under the terms of Votebeat’s republishing policy.

With the help of online influencers, Georgia Senate candidate Jon Ossoff is using social media app TikTok as one tactic to get young voters, who were essential to President-elect Joe Biden’s November victory, to vote again.

Ossoff joined TikTok in early December, shortly before early voting began in the runoffs that will determine control of the U.S. Senate and a Public Service Commission race.

On Monday, Democratic organizers from the youth-led national group Future Coalition joined with influencers from the popular app in an effort to reach young voters.

“We want to be talked to by people who sound like us and understand what we’re going through, and TikTok is great for that. It really has empowered young people to speak on a peer-to-peer level with one another,” said Ethan Asher, director of engagement for Future Coalition.

Ossoff may have some advantage speaking to voters in their 20s, as he is only 33 himself. If elected, he would be the youngest U.S. senator currently serving.

“[Ossoff]’s all over my ‘for you page,’ and it’s been fun to see him on that platform. But I also want to say that was young people — young people run his TikTok, and it came from some of the young people working on his campaign,” Asher said.

The videos Ossoff’s campaign has shared on TikTok have included clips from more traditional campaign ads — for example, one criticizing his opponent Sen. David Perdue for not attending their televised debate. There have also been videos of the candidate participating in the trends that dominate the app, usually with a message reminding Georgians to vote.

“Our Digital Program’s strategy is intended to meet young voters where they are: online. TikTok is one creative element we’re using to speak to young voters about the issues that impact their lives, like stopping the spread of coronavirus, protecting our environment, tackling student loan debt, and passing a New Civil Rights Act,” said Jake Best, press secretary and spokesman for the Ossoff campaign.

Since joining TikTok, Ossoff has accumulated more than 170,000 followers, and the 20 videos he has posted have collected almost 3 million likes, collectively.

There is special focus on Georgia’s youngest voters for the runoff because of their high turnout rate in the general election.

According to analysis by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, voters ages 18-29 made up 20% of the electorate in November. Their analysis suggests the youth vote is especially important for Democrats because 58% of voters in that group chose Biden, versus 39% for his opponent, President Donald Trump.

“Georgia’s unprecedented youth turnout in the general election was a result of years of Georgia Democrats’ hard work and Jon’s relentless focus on turning out young voters,” Best said.

In addition, an estimated 23,000 teenagers in Georgia who were too young to vote in the November election will turn 18 in time to participate in the Jan. 5 runoff races for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats, according to The Civics Center, a nonprofit that promotes youth civic engagement.

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