By Emily Minster and Anna Gephart
PHILADELPHIA — In the final few days before the midterm elections, candidates were looking for ways to energize and motivate young voters — and using social media to do so.
Students waiting in line outside of a get-out-the-vote rally at Temple University on Saturday were looking forward to posting pictures of former president Barack Obama on their social media accounts. Some said they were going to the rally to post its headliners, including Obama, President Joe Biden, and Democratic candidates for senator and governor, John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro, respectively, on their BeReal platform.
“I’m being fake,” said Isabel Wesman, an undergraduate student at Ursinus College in southeastern Pennsylvania. “I love Obama,” she said, explaining that she was waiting for him to take the stage to make her post for the day.
BeReal is a new social media platform sweeping the country designed to show “life without filters” by having all users post within the same two-minute period each day.
Users can also choose to post late if they miss the notification or don’t want to take a picture right away. BeReal and other forms of social media are becoming more commonly used by campaigns to reach different demographics.
“Our strategy has been to meet people where they are, and that’s everywhere,” said Annie Wu Henry, a social media strategist for the Fetterman campaign.
“Young people have so much power, and they’re some of the largest groups in the electorate now,” she said, “and getting them motivated and wanting to be a part of the civil process of voting and being involved in elections and advocating candidates they believe in has not been lost on us.”
Candidates such as Attorney General Josh Shapiro have begun using BeReal with the campaign’s Students4Shapiro initiative as a way to show young people’s involvement at rallies. “We are the only campaign in the country to be on BeReal. We made it about a week ago. We really just want to show that he’s on it,” said Gavin Lichtenstein, senior engagement strategist for Shapiro
Students involved in the campaigns and turnout efforts have found that social media is valuable in reaching young voters.
Lauren Jacobs, vice president of Temple University College Democrats, said that TikTok has helped her reach a wider audience.
“I posted a TikTok with Josh Shapiro a couple of weeks ago that already has over 200,000 views and like a bunch of comments,” she said. “So now all those kids know his name. The use of social media, at least for young kids, is definitely, like I think, the most efficient way to spread information nationally.”
Youth voters have turned out in record numbers in the past two elections. In 2020, about 50% of young people cast votes, up from 39% in the previous presidential election in 2016. Similarly, 36% of young voters turned out in 2018, up 16% from the last midterm election in 2014. Youth voter turnout in early voting has been lower than average, but a poll from Harvard’s Institute of Politics showed 40% of young people said they “definitely” plan to vote in the 2022 midterm elections.
The candidates understand the importance of turnout and of young people in particular. . As Shapiro said at a rally in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, “Gen Z is going to be the difference maker.”