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Social Media & TikTok: Meet Young Voters Where They Are [WRN Voices]

It is almost tradition for older generations to rail against the habits of those younger, but sometimes this trope ignores reality. The world is changing at the fastest rate in human history. The political debate on social media use is over. You use it, or you lose. Every serious candidate for every elected office is on platforms like Facebook.

Most people have several social media platforms on their phones for leisurely use. Young adults, however, rely on these platforms in their day-to-day lives. TikTok is one such platform that has stirred the most political debate and is also the platform Gen Z is most attached to. When our Republican leaders propose banning TikTok, they seem out of touch with the issues that matter and the tools required to reach younger voters. This serves no purpose other than to alienate the next generation of Republican voters and provide fodder for the Democrats. Republicans have been leaving tools on the table for too long, they cannot cede this one. Simply put, if Republicans continue to advocate for TikTok bans, we will lose young voters in 2024.

Economic confidence is historically low, government spending is out of control, and our border is wide open. These are all very real issues that must be addressed. If Republicans fail in 2024, these problems will grow larger, and we will only have ourselves to blame for ignoring young voters. As Aveline Clark, a student at the University of Akron, states, arguments against TikTok are “laughable,” and candidates’ efforts to ban TikTok appear “out of touch” with young voters. Expanding on her assertion, Clark said that candidates’ complaints about TikTok “do not help their chances” to persuade young voters to support their campaigns. “complaining about social media and complaining about TikTok just kind of lends to that image of an old man who doesn’t understand anything… It does not help their chances. It does not help their public opinion.” Clark is correct. One in five voters use TikTok daily, and 41 percent of 18-34 year-old Americans say they use the app once a day or more. Republicans ignoring or openly advocating against TikTok is not politically tenable to do better with Gen Z.

Democrats understand TikTok’s power in reaching young voters. It is no longer a question of whether Democrats will use TikTok to prop up Biden; the question is how much time will be spent campaigning on the social media platform. When Biden jettisoned the traditional Presidential pre-game Super Bowl interview and opted for a TikTok debut, the conservative political pundit class rejoiced. They are missing the mark.

In the six key swing states, Biden is “effectively tied with Donald Trump among voters aged 18-29.” In an election that seems destined to be decided on the margins once again, the youth vote may be decisive. Allowing Biden to roam free on a platform without the presence or pushback of prominent Republican voices could be an election death knell. The Republican party must examine the data and encourage candidates to join and use TikTok. If they want to win, they must be where young voters will see them.

In Greek and Roman times, there was word-of-mouth. In our Founding Fathers’ time, there was print media. With Kennedy and Nixon’s televised debate in 1960, cable news rose to prominence as a medium to reach the electorate. Now, social media is the main medium for political consumption. Social media is not new, and Republicans have recently embraced platforms, particularly X. However, the tug of war continues, and rather than seeking to ban the platform, Republicans must embrace TikTok. Three years into Biden’s presidency, America is in dire straits; the stakes are too high in 2024 to risk losing young voters by pursuing a policy of banning TikTok. Instead, Republicans need a paradigm shift in their approach to reaching young voters. Recruit and mobilize young voters using every social media platform, including TikTok.

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