Is Snapchat the new playing field for political campaigns?

/ 01:07 PM September 30, 2020
20200930 Snapchat

Snapchat recently revealed that 750,000 young Americans have registered to vote via its social media application. Image: AFP/Denis Charlet.

Those of you who believe that Snapchat is only useful for sending short-lived messages, think again. Politicians are increasingly using the application for electioneering. Question and answer sessions, amusing filters in candidates’ colors — anything goes when it comes to encouraging young users of the social network to take part in the political life of their country by going to the polls.

This is particularly the case in the United States, where the giants of Silicon Valley are pulling out all the stops to encourage members of Generation Z on their social media platforms to go and vote on Nov. 3.


According to the Pew Research Center, these young users, aged between 18 and 23 years old, account for a tenth of Americans who will be eligible to cast their ballots in the presidential election on that date.

Members of this age group could weigh heavily in the presidential election in certain key states such as Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida, pointed out the Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).


Notwithstanding these encouraging statistics, young Americans do not always sign up to vote as soon as they reach the required legal age.

As the director of CIRCLE Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg explained to Bloomberg, “Nobody turns 18 and thinks,`Oh, time for me to register to vote.’ They don’t just come equipped with knowledge on exactly how to do that.”

With this in mind, Snapchat is now encouraging American users who are old enough to register on the electoral rolls directly via its messaging application. It is a surprising project that has proven highly effective, because 750,000 users of the social media app have now done just that.

Video adverts and dedicated filters

The social network has further announced a series of initiatives to encourage its users to go to the polls on Nov. 3, including the educational series “Good Luck Voter!” which will be hosted by several Snapchat celebrities and stars.

Former United States President Barack Obama also appeared in a video advert encouraging Americans to go and vote, which Snapchat posted on Sept. 22 in the “Discover” section of the application.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and the former Ohio Governor John Kasich will feature in similar content in the coming weeks.


Although Snapchat does not seek to promote any particular candidate, many of the candidates themselves are using the social media app to reach out to young voters and breathe new life into their campaigns.

A case in point is the former NASA astronaut and Democratic candidate in the Arizona Senate election, Mark Kelly, who recently launched his own Snapchat filter. He has also promised to post video content in English and Spanish on the application.

Campaign tactics of this kind may seem surprising to politicians who are not eager to use new technologies, but they have already been successfully adopted by a number of world leaders including former Argentinian President Mauricio Macri and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

During his presidential campaign in 2017, the French leader notably posted a question and answer session, as did his rivals François Fillon, Benoît Hamon and Marine Le Pen. It was a well-oiled communications operation, which nonetheless included some surprising sequences among them, such as a moment when the future French president hummed a well-known pop song. As we said earlier, anything goes when it comes to encouraging young voters to go to the polls. CC


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TOPICS: Applications, Pew Research Center, political campaigns, Snapchat, voter registration
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