Political Activism on Tik Tok Sways Gen-Z Voters


Payton Breck

With the approaching presidential election, a new wave of voters has the opportunity to impact the outcome of the election. This year, around four million teenagers will turn eighteen before the election, giving Gen Z the numbers to make up one tenth of all eligible voters. Because tennagers are inherently impressionable, various young social media influencers have taken it upon themselves to turn to social media, particularly the app Tik Tok, to spread their political views among their generation. This form of political activism has thoroughly spread throughout “Gen Z” on both sides of the political spectrum. 

“Tik Tok for Biden” is a prime example. The account, with little over a half a million followers, is run in unison by many popular creators on the app, with particularly impressive followings. These creators alone have millions of followers, for example xobrooklynne with a total of seven million followers (more than Joe Biden’s official Instagram page), Austin Peyton with two million followers and Kiera Marie with six hundred thousand followers. Their messaging encompasses and utilizes many political campaign tactics: specified language, diagnostic frames, prognostic frames, consideration of audience and mass media platforming in order to appeal to their intended young audience.

 First, on the topic of The United States’ criminal justice system, one of the influencers featured in the video commented that “by leading an effort to end cash bail, Joe [Biden] will bring more equality to the criminal justice system.” This statement does corroborate Biden’s political agenda as he stated that “no one should be profiteering off of our criminal justice system.” Most of the platform’s political statements hold the same value as well as the same form. This statement in particular used specific wording such as “will” instead of “can” to solidify Biden’s standings. Additionally, the statement uses diagnostic frames, or diagnoses the issue, by stating that Biden will make an effort to end the cash bail system, which confirms the cash bail system as the issue. Following that diagnostic frame we see the prognostic frame, or offering a solution to the problem, by stating that Biden will promote the ending of the cash bail system. The combination of these three tactics allow these creators to get their point across swiftly as to address and provide a solution to the problem. 

While the content itself uses political campaigning tactics to appeal and provide information to their watchers, the account also uses the platform of Tik Tok as well as their own personal platforms to further appeal to their audience. 

From investigating their content, I came across a comment from one of the account owners saying “[Tik Tok for Biden is] a mobilization group rather than a persuasion one. If we can get Gen-Z to turn out to vote (those who are 18), we can win.” This comment was in response to another comment that suggested that they should target more independents and moderate conservatives on the app. In this sense, the original intent of the account is purely for spreading the ideologies of Biden to fellow democratic supporters. However, while intended or not, the account has spread widely over the app, to undoubtedly sparking debate among mentioned independents and moderate conservatives. 

Because the account is run by teenagers who have their own large independent platforms, the account surely gained a significant amount of traction among Gen Z. For example, Tik Tok’s “for you” page features videos tailored to individual users that most commonly come from larger accounts. Thus, having these somewhat large and admired creators come together in one account can allow for their political videos to spread widely across the app’s one hundred million American users, One can also see Tik Tok for Biden’s mission statement on their website where they additionally sell merchandise, an increasingly common tactic for popular creators to increase profits for themselves. However, the account states that the fundraising form their merch will go to local liberal causes such as the LGBTQ+ community, climate action and women’s rights, to name a few. 

It is impressively apparent that this group, entirely made up of Gen Z creators, facilitated a platform to spread awareness to other voting Gen Zers regarding Biden’s political campaign. 

Tik Tok for Biden is certainly a prominent example of teen political activism, there are many other different accounts striving to accomplish the same goal, just on the opposite political party. Here we can look at another Tik Tok account called “The Republican Hype House.” While many of the videos under the Trump 2020 hashtag are videos making fun of Trump supporters, this particular account is in favor of Trump and has amassed eight hundred thousand followers. Their mission statement on their website states that “the Republican Hype House brings youth into modern day conservatism. Started and led by young creators Aubrey and Christian, the Republican Hype House breaks the common belief that younger people are more liberal.” 

The account uses similar political campaigning tactics, and  features many different independent social media creators with somewhat large platforms. However, one discrepancy remains in the targeted age audience. While Tik Tok for Biden’s mission is to appeal to Gen Z voters through Gen Z creators, The Republican Hype House features creators that are still particularly young, but not solely Gen Z. This tactic is to appeal to a large audience because although the app has many Gen Z users, there still remain many users who are older voters. 

These two social media accounts are certainly not the only examples, and across all political accounts the open comment sections leave opportunity for debate. Here we can see the different political activist accounts further spread their ideologies for all Tik Tok users to read. Through the use of traditional political campaign strategies, a first time or even a second time young voter is very likely to be swayed by their favorite creator’s options or even a video they believe makes a good point. These accounts, as well as personal users that also spark political conversations, are becoming a prominent part of Tik Tok, and the lives of young voters.