Republican presidential candidates use TikTok and Taylor Swift to compete for young voters

Republican presidential candidates use TikTok and Taylor Swift to compete for young voters


By 2024, Gen-Z and millennials – anyone born between 1981 and 2012 –  will likely make up about 49% of the voting population. Young voters historically lean toward Democrats, but Republican presidential candidates have been trying to make inroads ahead of next year’s GOP primaries.

Biotech CEO Vivek Ramaswamy is using social media to appeal to younger voters. Although he used to call the Chinese-owned app TikTok “digital fentanyl” over fears China is using the app to spy on the U.S., he became the first Republican presidential candidate to join TikTok, and now, he posts regularly. 

“I’m on TikTok now,” said Ramaswamy in his first video. “We’re gonna be on here a lot. You can’t play in the game and then not play in the game – so, we’re here.”

In the same video, Ramaswamy said he signed up for the account to reach young voters. 

“I care about the issues that affect not just millennials, but Gen-Z and all young people in this country, ” he said.

Ramaswamy defended his choice to get an account on the app during the second Republican debate Wednesday night, when he was asked about his recent collaboration with influencer Jake Paul. 

“We need to win elections and part of how we win elections is reaching the next generation of young Americans where they are,” he said. 

Former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley responded by criticizing him for this, calling TikTok one of the “most dangerous” social media apps. 

But some young Republicans think Ramaswamy’s strategy may be working. 

Victoria Carlson, a spokesperson for the George Washington University College Republicans told CBS News that his presence on social media has “made him popular.” 

“A lot of younger voters seem receptive to candidates such as Ramaswamy, due to his young age and new-generation agenda,” Carlson said.

Other candidates, like North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, are capitalizing on pop culture. Burgum is selling a Taylor Swift Eras tour-themed t-shirt in his campaign’s online store. It shows the different “eras” of Burgum’s life, mirroring Swift’s eras for each of her albums. More than half of Taylor Swift’s fan base is made up of Gen-Z and millennials.

Burgum shared a graphic of the shirt on X, and asked his followers, “Which era is your favorite? 

Other candidates are relying on college campuses to get the word out. Haley launched two groups, Young Americans for Nikki and Students for Haley, which have chapters around the country. 

“We are here to connect young college students with the Haley campaign and get people to get out and vote in their primaries for Nikki,” a Catholic University member of Students for Haley told CBS News. 

Haley also recently held a town hall with Fox News and fielded questions from young voters as she promoted a message of unity for voters of all ages and parties. 

“We’re going out bringing in everyone, whether it’s women, whether it’s the younger generation, whether it’s independents, whether it’s conservative Republican, and we’re bringing them together, we’re not dividing them anymore,” she said.  

Like Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is also trying to appeal to college students. Students For DeSantis, affiliated with the super PAC supporting him, Never Back Down, has chapters at over 100 universities. 

“Given his age and the fact that he has young children himself, I think that a lot of young people are drawn to him,” said Ed Bailey, chairman of Students for Desantis at the University of South Florida. 

Bailey hopes to show DeSantis that he has “support from the youthful generation.” 

Some young voter groups, like the Clemson University College Republicans, in South Carolina, are frustrated with what they view as a lack of voter engagement from GOP candidates. 

“Our thoughts on how well GOP candidates are doing in reaching young people vary for each candidate, but overall, there is a lack of understanding of the average everyday American,” the group said in a statement to CBS News. 

These young Republicans may be studying in the home state of two Republican presidential candidates, Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, but they think neither is as successful in reaching young voters as Donald Trump or Ramaswamy. 

That’s similar to what CBS News found in recent polling of younger voters in another early-voting state.  Among registered Republican voters under 45 in Iowa, 63% are considering voting for Trump, and 35% are considering a vote for Ramaswamy. But if the election were held today, 46% say they would vote for Trump, and 10% would vote for Ramaswamy. 



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