The pandemic has shown social media is a vital tool to influence young people to vote

Voting information at our hands, in any social media app. (Monica Correa/SFMN)

Social media can motivate young people to go from intending to vote to taking action, according to a study by Tufts University. 

Isabel Muir, a campus organizer for the Florida Public Research Group (PIRG ) students chapter at the University of Central Florida, said that social media is avidly used by young people, but they can get overwhelmed. 

“The role of social media often becomes diminished because of how much content there is,” said Muir. “But just seeing a graphic on how to request and submit your mail-in ballot can be a useful resource to someone.”

Her organization has been working with 15 other college campuses to engage people and get them registered and voting. 

“We want to make sure that the social media we produce really grabs students and holds their attention,” said Muir. “Each of our teams has a dedicated social media person who thinks about what students are going to be interested in seeing and works on it.”

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have done their part in incorporating registration and voting information in all of their platforms.

“Social media allows voting to still be something kind of exciting and fun with graphics, tagging your friends on challenges to register to vote,” said Muir. “It keeps the idea of voting lively and exciting, and something that can create a sense of community.”

According to a Circle 2018 pre-election poll by Tufts University, 28% of people between ages 18 and 24 got their election information solely from social media. 

“Most young people get a lot of news and information now through social media—whether that’s right or wrong, that’s where they’re getting it from,” said Michael Garcia, chairman of the Hispanic Vote Political Action Committee, a non-partisan group. “That’s why you see so many candidates on social media.” 

In previous years, Garcia said, the committee had meet-and-greets with candidates who were running locally, so young voters participating in these events could interact with them. 

This year, because of the pandemic, the committee has turned to social media.

“We should have done that earlier, but COVID-19 forced us to,” said Garcia. “It is currently the best way to engage voters, especially young Hispanics who are becoming less Democrat and less Republican, but more independent, to try to educate them about candidates and local elections, which have more impact than national elections.”

Garcia said he hopes his group has been effective in getting people to show up. 

“Four years ago, almost half of Hispanic citizens did not vote,” he said. “So, we’re on social media encouraging people to vote, in South Florida and nationally.”

The Media Insight Project by the American Press Institute and the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in 2017 reported that people are influenced more by the person sharing information than by the information itself. 

“We have sent information to our members about making sure they had a plan to vote, put links in their bios and repost graphics,” said Muir. “It sounds like something very small, but it has impact on a lot of people.”

When the voter registration was extended in Florida to Oct. 6, the organization at UCF created a graphic displaying the new deadline and information on how to register on time.

The graphic was reposted 200 times that day.

“We have every single one of our interns across the state, different student groups and student government bodies reposted, letting everyone know they still had an opportunity to register,” said Muir. 

“Especially in the times of COVID-19, I know our organization has started prioritizing social media in a much larger way than we have before,” said Muir. “It’s a place where a lot of people get a lot of their information and we’ve worked really hard to make sure that our social media is far-reaching and accessible to young people.”

SFMN Contributor

Monica L. Correa is a journalism student with a strong passion for social issues, international law and politics. Correa has a background in Spanish literature and hopes to become a voice for her community.