- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2024

If you believe the adage you have to meet voters where they are, former President Donald Trump has President Biden on his heels in the battle to connect with young voters.

Mr. Trump expanded his unmatched social media reach this month when he opened an account on TikTok that put him in an online arena with millions of Millennials and Gen Zers who count on the platform for the news and to interact with the world. In less than 24 hours on the app, Mr. Trump attracted more followers than the Biden reelection campaign since February.

For Mr. Biden, it was another warning sign. His biggest liability, running for reelection at 81 years old, fuels Democrat’s concerns about energizing younger voters who have been central to the party’s electoral successes.

Biden should be concerned that Trump has so many different followers on TikTok because Biden needs a very large turnout from young people in order to win,” said Darrell West, a senior fellow at The Brooking Institution.  “If Trump does well with his messaging, he may be able to cut Biden’s margins with young voters.”

Home to 175 million users in the United States, TikTok is one of the preeminent ways to reach young people.

“No other platform comes close to it in terms of viewer engagement,” Mr. West said.

SEE ALSO: Trump digs deeper into Bitcoin, calls for remaining cryptocurrency to come from U.S.

The Chinese-owned platform also has been a lightning rod for controversy on Capitol Hill where Beijing-inducted fears over national security, privacy and election interference culminated in Mr. Biden signing a law that requires TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, to sell the platform or get it banned in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden continues to post on the platform. The 77-year-old Mr. Trump has entered the fray and no longer supports banning the app, though four years ago he signed an executive order that sought to do just that.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump posted his second video on TikTok, capturing a mock boxing faceoff with social media personality Logan Paul.

Mr. Trump has racked up 6.1 million followers since posting his first video with UFC CEO Dana White, who announced, “The president is now on TikTok.”

“It’s my honor,” Mr. Trump said in the June 1 video, which included footage of him at a recent UFC event in New Jersey and has been viewed over 124 million times.

“It’s my honor,” Mr. Trump said in the June 1 video, which included footage of him at a recent UFC event in New Jersey and has been viewed over 124 million times.

Mr. Biden has picked up 374,000 followers since he launched his account on Super Bowl weekend with a post in which his aides quizzed him about the big game between the Kansas City Chief and the San Francisco 49ers.

Mr. Trump has touted the disparity in followers.

“No one shows up to see Joe Biden speak in person and they certainly don’t want to watch him on TikTok,” Mr. Trump said. ‘We are going to use TikTok to connect with young voters and show them how my plan will Make America Affordable Again!” 

Hyper confident in his social media abilities, Mr. Trump has described himself as the “Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters” on Twitter, now known as X.

Whether Mr. Trump can drive young voters his way remains to be seen. What is clear is the opportunity exists.

According to Pew Research, over 60% of US adults under 30 use TikTok. The percentage of users tapers off among older cohorts — going from 39% among those 30 to 49 years old to 10% among the 65-plus crowd.

The TikTok community has more Democrats than Republicans, while roughly 30% of TikTok news users are Hispanic and 19% are Black.

A Pew study conducted between November 2019 and December 2020 found that 41% of 18 to 29-year-olds got their news from social media, compared to 17% of all adults.

A Data for Progress study released late last year also found that younger voters are more likely than older generations to view politicians more favorably when they make nonpolitical social media. It makes them more relatable.

Mr. Biden outperformed Mr. Trump by 60% to 36% in 2020 among young voters.

But there are signs of deterioration.

The Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School released a recent survey of 18 to 29-year-olds that showed Mr. Biden led Mr. Trump by a 45% to 37% margin, with the remainder undecided. He also held a 56% to 37% lead among likely voters aged 30 and under.

At this point in 2020, Mr. Biden had a 23-point edge over Mr. Trump among all young adults and a 30-point edge among likely voters aged 30 and younger.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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