AP Gov: How campaigns have changed strategies to reach younger voters


The Political Science Club hosted a prevote booth at ClubFest in the Memorial Union on Sept. 12. 

Mallory Tope

Reaching voters is the main goal for campaigns, without voter support there is no campaign. Over the last decade the way campaigns have reached voters has changed drastically. 

Campaigns use different strategies to reach voters. Some main ways campaigns reach voters is through door knocking or canvassing. Due to COVID-19, campaigns have turned to different strategies. Social media, email, text and call are the main ways campaigns now reach voters. Over the past several elections, campaigns have utilized different means in order to reach voters and win their elections. 

Barack Obama is heavily attributed as being the first presidential candidate to use social media as a platform to campaign on.  

Obama was the first presidential or congressional candidate to attempt to reach younger voters through online social networking such as Facebook and MySpace. 

The main social media platform candidates use today is Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has become a battleground for candidates. President Donald Trump has utilized the ability to tweet to his supporters. Trump sends out tweets regularly that receive roughly 12,000 retweets per tweet

The use of social media is effective in reaching younger voters and younger potential voters, said Mack Shelley, Iowa State professor and chair of the political science department.

Using social media like Twitter and Facebook are not the only ways campaigns reach voters. Many campaigns still use older campaigning strategies such as yard signs, bumper stickers, mail flyers and door knocking, but due to COVID-19, many campaigns have abandoned using door knocking as a way to reach voters. 

“Door knocking still happens but it has to be done very carefully, with social distancing and wearing a mask,” Shelley said. 

Political advertisements through email, YouTube ads, texting banks and phone calls are still common ways candidates reach voters. 

Kelly Snawerdt, a sophomore in world languages and cultures, said she mainly sees political advertisements on YouTube and Hulu, sometimes on Twitter and Instagram. 

Campaigns have been trying to reach younger voters through social media and other platforms. 

“Most campaigns I have seen during this election cycle have been campaigning on social media in order to reach the younger people,” said Ashlyn Dunn, a sophomore in political science. 

Most social media platforms have an algorithm, which shows people the type of content they interact with the most. TikTok, Instagram and Twitter all follow an algorithm so users will most likely only see the content they interact with, meaning it’s harder for campaigns to reach voters without paying for an ad. 

“Personally I am very politically active so my TikTok, Twitter and Instagram are filled with politics,” Dunn said.

People who are not politically engaged are less likely to see ads, even though they are the individuals who campaigns and candidates are pushing toward, Dunn said.

The Joe Biden and Kamala Harris campaign has turned to video games in an attempt to reach a younger generation of voters. In the popular game, “Animal Crossings,” players can create their own islands and decorate it. Now supporters can have their own Biden-Harris sign in their virtual yards. 

The campaign has made four signs available on the platform. One sign has the Biden-Harris logo, others say “Team Joe” and “Joe,” with the “E” in Pride colors. The fourth is an image of Biden’s signature aviator sunglasses.

It is an exciting new opportunity for the campaign to connect with supporters, said Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden-Harris campaign, in an interview with the New York Times.

Supporters can send their friends the sign or players can download the signs via a QR code.

“Our generation grew up completely on technology and we are the first voters to ever experience that,” Dunn said. “Campaigns will definitely adapt as they learn more about it all.”