Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses the impact of social media.
Anna P. Kambhampaty at NYT:
Social media has played a role in political campaigning since at least 2007, when Barack Obama, then an Illinois senator, registered his first official Twitter handle. Since then, enormous numbers of political bids have harnessed the power of social platforms, through dramatic announcement videos on YouTube, Twitter debates, Reddit A.M.A.s, fireside chats on Instagram Live and more. TikTok, with its young-skewing active global user base of one billion, would seem a natural next frontier.
So far, though, compared with other platforms, it has been embraced by relatively few politicians. Their videos run the gamut of cringey — say, normie dads bopping along to viral audio clips — to genuinely connecting with people.
“TikTok is still in the novelty phase in terms of social media networks for political candidates,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican political technologist.
Many of the politicians active on TikTok are Democrats or left-leaning independents, including Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and the mayors of two of America’s largest cities, Lori Lightfoot and Eric Adams (who announced he had joined this week with a video that featured his morning smoothie regimen).
This could be because the platform has a large proportion of young users, according to internal company data and documents that were reviewed by The New York Times in 2020, and young people tend to lean liberal. (TikTok would not share current demographic data with The Times.)
“If you are a Democrat running for office, you’re trying to get young voters to go out and support you,” said Mr. Wilson, the Republican strategist. “That calculation is different for Republicans, where you’re trying to mobilize a different type of voter” — someone who is likely older and spends time on other platforms.