TikTok’s Influence on the 2020 Election


Taya Demianova '23, Arts and Culture Editor

As Election Day nears, political content on all social media is being produced at a feverish speed. Young users on all social media platforms have been posting more about their political views and beliefs, especially on TikTok. This can be good for those who are now able to construct their own political beliefs apart from their families’, but may be harmful if the information is false. Supporters of both candidates in this upcoming election have been posting numerous videos on the app, but the question is which candidate is more popular with TikTok users? How are TikTok users swinging the vote to the left or right?
Some famous creators have made joint accounts to support both Biden/Harris and Trump/Pence campaigns. One profile, @tiktokforbiden, has gained an impressive following of eight-hundred thousand people. This particular profile along with many others on the app, serves as a place for popular creators to make videos that help others find their own political opinions and views. In addition to informative posts, lots of creators including Amelie Zilber, Claudia Conway, and Kiera Marie have all been speaking out and encouraging their followers to vote in the upcoming election.
On the app, it isn’t uncommon to find a video of someone filling out their ballot and encouraging the just-turned-legal voters to cast their vote. This exposure to political posts on all social media may be part of the major spark in young voters throughout the country this year. Research shows that this presidential election will have a much higher young voter turnout than in past years, and TikTok, along with other social media platforms, has an influence on the turnout.
On the topic of helping young users establish their political opinions, it is quite common to come across explanatory videos about controversial topics. These particular videos show the creator expressing his/her ideas and arguments and leaves it up to the viewers to decide what they think is right. These videos might be biased based on the creators’ political compass, but the most popular ones are filmed with neutrality. Along with controversial topics, there are many videos circulating on the app comparing and contrasting the two presidential candidates. Just like the videos about controversial topics, the viewer can decide which candidate they choose to support.
A joint effort back in June 2020 consisted of thousands of young TikTok users, who didn’t support Trump, requesting seating at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which they inevitably wouldn’t attend. Trump’s campaign manager even tweeted that more than 1 million people had requested tickets for the event. On the day of the event, President Trump, the attendees of the rally, and his supporters around the country were shocked to see a crowd, much smaller than expected. The venue’s seating capacity was about 19,200, but only 6000 people showed up. While President Trump tried to conceal his embarrassment by blaming other factors from preventing the arrival of his supporters, TikTok users around the world celebrated with each other on their small victory and satisfying achievement. Part of this negativity towards Trump on the app might have been sparked by the threat of banning TikTok in the United States. This is a jab at the users around the country, considering how prominent the app has become in their lives since the initial outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
TikTok is usually known for being a light-hearted and shallow place to relieve stress and scroll all your worries away, but it has actually proven itself to be an informative and helpful app to many. All different kinds of topics are discussed on the app, from gun control, to the subject of abortion, and even views on the death penalty. As the election draws nearer, many profiles have found a way to encourage younger users of the app to vote. TikTok has helped people of all ages build their own political and general opinions, free from an outside influence. TikTok has definitely affected the decision for many to vote this year, especially citizens who have just turned 18, considering the percentage of younger users on the app. While supporters of both candidates have been very active on the app leading up to this year’s election, the number of Biden supporters is much bigger than the number of Trump supporters. While @tiktokforbiden’s videos earn about 100,000 views and 50,000 likes on average, @conservativehypehouse’s earn only about 75,000 views and 20,000 likes. Although TikTok is swinging the general vote to the left and encouraging the support, in this year’s case, for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ campaign, it is hard to say how much the app and political content produced will really impact the outcome of this year’s election. Nevertheless, it has clearly played a part in energizing young voters.