by Baylie Clevenger
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
Midterm elections are less than a month away, and, for many states, the deadline for registration has passed.
In the last few days before registration closed, the New York Times reported that the whole country saw a spike in voter registration, with more than 150,000 new registrations. Just a little fewer than half of those registrations came from people ages 18-24. The state of Tennessee also saw a spike in registrations of about 6,000 people.
This spike in registrations is no coincidence after pop star Taylor Swift took to Instagram to discuss her political stances and particularly endorsed two Democratic candidates from Tennessee.
“I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now,” said Swift.
In the age of social media, celebrity opinions have a significant impact on votes as well as the political opinions of their fans.
View this post on Instagram
I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! 🗳😃🌈
This kind of influence is expected from anything celebrities do. When they endorse anything, political or not, their fans pick up on it and make it part of their lives. Celebrities have been this way for a long time, but it seems they are more influential now because their message reaches further and faster with social media.
After Swift expressed her opinions, she turned her Instagram comments off, assumedly to prevent arguments and hateful comments. Similarly, Kanye West recently expressed support of Donald Trump as well. He has taken to social media more than once to display his “Make America Great Again” hat and supportive words for the president, after which he has deleted both his Twitter and Instagram. Kanye West even visited President Trump at the White House on Thursday.
As with discourse of any kind, celebrities sharing and endorsing different political stances raises questions. Should celebrities remain unbiased? Why are their voices so influential?
The answers are relatively simple. Celebrities are people with thoughts, feelings and yes… opinions. Regardless of what views they may have, it is unreasonable to expect celebrities to keep silent on their political opinions or partisan biases.
At the end of the day, celebrity endorsement or not, social media and technology in general increase voter turnout. For example, the transportation app Lyft is offering free and discounted rides to citizens who are have been unable to vote in the past due to a lack of transportation. They even used Twitter to announce this campaign, which they are calling “The Ride to Vote.” Social media sites like Facebook also offer users reminders about registration, as well as about when election day is.
Over 15 million people cited transportation as their primary barrier to voting in the 2016 election — that’s why we’re introducing The Ride to Vote. Lyft will provide free and discounted rides to the Polls. #TheRidetoVote https://t.co/E8GVhNNkE8 pic.twitter.com/1kmqWlSpsB
— Lyft (@lyft) August 23, 2018
Though voter turnout and registration fluctuates every year, support from social media and celebrities can certainly spike civic participation at least temporarily. It can especially increase participation for midterm elections, which are far more overlooked than general presidential elections. Celebrities and social media combined are incredibly influential.
Images: Instagram, Billboard, Twitter
Featured Image: Time
Baylie is a Journalism major minoring in Gender Studies. She writes for The Odyssey as well as Byte. Baylie has two dogs and owns too much lipstick.