By Sofia Weddle
Taylor Swift releases Instagram stories rallying her followers to vote. Amy Schumer announces her pregnancy at the bottom of her list of endorsed candidates. Chelsea Handler urges people to vote to help those who need it. The news is constantly filled with these headlines and stories,
but do they really make a difference? Do celebrity candidate endorsements and registration encouragements actually work? Until November 6th arrives, it seems America will just have to choose a side (CNN or FOX) and wait.
This year’s Midterm Election is the most social media-crazed yet. No matter the political viewpoints you have or the party name you may identify by, endorsements and #vote posts encircle us like a wake of vultures. The most impactful unifier yet may be the one who, during the Trump vs. Clinton era, was silent: Taylor Swift. Whether you love or hate the singer, no one can dispute her following of 112.5 million people. One post through her account has the magnitude to reach nearly all of Japan. That means 112.5 million prospective voters. Swift has posted numerous videos of her fans registering to vote in hopes that the content may incentivize Americans (and especially the targeted Gen Z’ers) to register and vote. According to Maddy Rothfield, a Junior at Glenelg, “...260,000 people registered to vote after Taylor Swift posted something on Instagram.” Her call-to-action, as well as those of many other celebrities, seems to be having a political effect. Registration on September 25th, the 2018 National Voter Registration Day, reached an all-time high of 800,000 Americans, compared to the 750,000 voters who registered on the same designated day in 2016; the year of the most controversial presidential election in America’s history. This registration explosion is mainly due to political unease, but maybe registration campaigns are having an impact.
The amount of Americans actively using Instagram has reached a startling number of almost 80 million. This may seem high, but when compared to the present population of the USA, the statistic composes a mere 26% of the population. That leaves 74% of Americans without a vocal opinion about the election--at least not on social media. Rothfield argues that, “Older generations care much more about voting than people do now. They don’t need social media to tell them to do that [voting]. They find it to be their political duty to vote. The problem is with Millenials and Gen Z’ers that aren’t voting. The people who don’t use social media are not the problem.” So what does this mean about the Midterm election outcomes? Even though it cannot yet be determined whether or not the liberals or conservatives will take control of Congress, celebrity support for registration will surely be a turning point in attracting younger, first-time, and previously-apathetic voters.
Registration campaigns, both online and offline, are the real influencers. Celebrities can endorse candidates as much as they want, but the likelihood of Americans truly taking celebrity political advice is slim. Devika Elakara, a Junior at Glenelg, believes that, “[Celebrities’ votes] do influence voters because [voters] look up to these celebrities and a lot of kids base their life choices off of them…. Is it necessarily a good thing? I don’t know because it is good to get your opinion out there… No matter what you say in the end, the other person has to choose to believe it. They aren’t forced to believe it.” While the political preferences of celebrities may be unimpactful, their endorsement of voting as a human right is powerful. Whether conducted by famous people, universities, workplaces, or news outlets, calls to register truly have an impact on voters and new adults.
Liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike need to vote NOW to make an impact. In today’s world, it is hard to have your own opinion without the voices of millions screaming at you through social media posts, news articles, comedy shows, and every day lunch conversations. Registration allows all voters to mute out the rest of the world and express their own voice.
Celebrities may hold monetary power or fame, but their endorsements hold none. This year, choose the candidates you believe will do America justice. Listen to the registration campaigns, but ignore the lists of favorable candidates. Outsider bias is the death of your true independence.
For those who are 18 and older, register to vote here today.