Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers drove from Appleton to Green Bay Tuesday afternoon to show that Gov. Scott Walker’s flight between the two cities in 2016 was an unnecessary financial burden on Wisconsin taxpayers.
Evers, along with his running mate, Mandela Barnes, live-streamed the entire drive on Facebook. For 45 minutes, Evers and Barnes chatted about recent campaign events, the Milwaukee Brewers, what Walker would be doing at that point in his flight, Wisconsin health care and being responsible with taxpayer dollars.
They also spoke over the phone with several Wisconsin politicians and candidates, including Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Wisconsin attorney general candidate Josh Kaul.
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The live stream currently has around 22,000 views, 260 shares, 584 reactions and 417 comments on Facebook. Evers also tweeted about the live stream, generating another 241 likes and 147 retweets.
This live stream not only showed driving from Appleton to Green Bay is more responsible than flying — both financially and in terms of time — but that politicians are catching on to what younger voters want to see from campaigns and how they can reach those audiences.
Gone are the days of TV advertising to reach young audiences. According to the Pew Research Center, “The internet … is closing in on television as a source of news in the U.S.”
Sixty-one percent of those ages 18 to 29 use a streaming service to watch television, instead of through a cable or satellite subscription, and “37 [percent] of the younger adults who prefer watching the news over reading it cite the web, not television, as their platform of choice.”
Young voters are using a wide range of social media platforms involving messaging, sharing, videos and text, and politicians have to be both aware of those trends and tech-savvy enough to stay relevant in the future.
In short, politicians can’t rely on television, newspapers or phone banking to get their messages out to young voters. They have to go to social media — where the young people are — and find creative ways to share their ideas, as Evers and Barnes did Tuesday.
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The Evers campaign went above and beyond simply having a campaign social media account, promoting in-person campus events on Facebook and replying to tweets. The campaign made use of a relatively new feature of social media to make a political point about Walker’s extravagant transportation activities and, perhaps more importantly, to interact with the public through the comments section.
If that level of real-time engagement can be maintained, one can hope that the Evers campaign — and each campaign that follows its lead — may find itself in an excellent position with young voters in the future.
While candidates shouldn’t rely on social media to carry them over the finish line, given there are many negatives to social media use like fake news and opportunities for hostile exchanges, they can take extra steps to make sure that they are taking advantage of every useful feature social media provides them with.
Social media may just be the key for campaigns to stay connected with young voters and keep them excited throughout an exhausting election process bogged down with partisan nitpicking and attack ads playing before every YouTube video.
In the long term, finding more creative ways to engage young voters online could lead to higher rates of participation in elections and a healthier, more representative democracy overall.
Juliet Dupont ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and journalism.