Snapping All The Way to The Oval Office
Take a minute to think: where do you get the bulk of your news? If you’re over the age of 50 or have a stubborn affinity for print media, it might be the newspaper. If you are a political junkie like yours truly, you might have several news apps blowing up your phone constantly. However, those who do not seek out the news for themselves are getting it anyway thanks to Snapchat’s coverage of the 2016 election.
Snapchat has been playing a significant role in keeping the millennial generation informed about candidates, campaigns, and issues—yes, even this early in the election season. Snapchat has featured live stories such as “Campaign 2016” and “GOP Debate” among others that offer a peek into the early presidential election process. These live stories feature 5-10 second video clips and pictures submitted by average voters, attendees, candidates, and campaign staff. At this point in the election, the majority of these snaps come straight from—you guessed it—Iowa. It is, put simply, campaign coverage for the people, by the people.
These snaps are also supplemented by breakdowns of certain issues and the positions that the respective parties hold regarding those issues. For example, on the most recent “Campaign Battleground 2016” live story, Snapchat featured the economy as one of the issues to watch and supplemented it with summaries such as “Republicans want to lower taxes so more money can flow into the economy to help businesses grow and create jobs.” Though this coverage is neither extensive nor detail-oriented, it offers a quick insight into important issues and the differences that often construct party lines.
Not only has Snapchat put coverage of the presidential election at our fingertips, it has been a tool for increasing civic engagement, especially among us young people—a group notably criticized for our ambivalence and indifference towards politics. Many of Snapchat’s 2016 election live stories feature young people at rallies, campaigning, and screaming in anticipation of meeting their favorite candidate. Snapchat paints a very different picture of political activism for our generation than those usually propagated in traditional media.
Snapchat is not the only social media outlet that is targeting youth participation. Reddit has been making noise lately as a core source of organization, communication, and outreach for Bernie Sanders’s campaign. Following President Obama’s lead in 2008 and most notably 2012, Facebook and Twitter have become hotspots for millennial organizing—both Scott Walker and Ted Cruz ditched the podium for social media to announce their initial candidacy for president. Hillary Clinton opted for YouTube as her social media platform of choice to announce her candidacy in a two-minute video entitled “Getting Started”.
This transition into a digital age of democracy marks a new era for electoral politics. Even more significantly, this transition marks new opportunities for young people to reclaim their stake in American politics. As Snapchat and other outlets continue to engage this voter bloc, the question remains: how will this change the future of our country’s leadership?
Steirer is a senior LPS, politics, and rhetoric triple major and a mother of three, aspiring travel blogger and lover of traditional architecture and any and all dogs. Follow her on Twitter.