How Social Media has Made an Invincible Trump and “Sleepy Joe” for Young Voters

Image via Democracy Docket

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Unlike the presidents that have preceded him in recent history, Joe Biden lacks charisma or connection with pop culture. While Obama makes posts on Instagram about listening to Megan Thee Stallion and Trump has created his own social media platform entirely, President Biden’s social media presence often feels like a series of superficial posts on a LinkedIn profile. Likely due to his age and career focus on politics, in comparison to his most recent predecessors who have spent careers speaking in law firms, as a political organizer, or as a businessman and star of a reality TV show, Biden’s presence is bland and uninteresting, causing many young people to lose interest in his campaign—according to recent polling from the Economist.

When Trump and Biden are pitted against each other, the difference between the type of support for their respective campaigns is stark. In an article for the New Yorker, author Jelani Cobb compares Trump to a rapper, arguing that his arrogance, flamboyant commentary about his wealth, inflammatory remarks about women, ability to sell merchandise, and the large crowds at his events suggest that his persona is remarkably similar to that of a rapper. Fans’ sheer dedication to his rallies does appear as fascinating to them as Astroworld was to Travis Scott fans several years ago, and his commentary recorded in the Access Hollywood Tapes is more vulgar than many of the songs on the new Future album. With this magnitude of dedication from his followers, Trump has profited handsomely, relying on supporters for funds during his current legal battles. 

Aside from the fact that his comments about women mirror the lyrics throughout NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, Trump’s messaging and energy is much more clear to voters than his opponent’s. Trump is notoriously vocal online, but his campaign website is highly organized and clear. Although he does not explain how he will accomplish his campaign goals, said goals are readily available on his campaign’s website. By contrast, a clear display of Biden’s platform for his 2024 run is not as easy to access. While Biden has made lists of accomplishments, his priorities during his first term, and a campaign video available through his and the White House’s websites, his objectives for a future term are somewhat unclear. Biden spends much of his campaign video discussing why Trump is bad without focusing much on why he is uniquely good. Biden repeatedly asserts that he supports freedom and equality for all against images referencing his past achievements, but he doesn’t explain his exact targets if re-elected in 2024. While he suggests in his video that he will try to expand upon the policy enacted in his first term, the means by which he will do this are unclear. Media outlets, such as the New York Times, describe his platform and future plans, but Biden does little to promote his campaign in an obvious and accessible way.

Biden’s social media presence is also quite bland. Using TikTok and social media has proven vital to many successful campaigns in recent elections. In Indonesia’s recent election, for example, the Economist reports that Prabowo Subianto’s victory was heavily influenced by his friendly and comical presence on TikTok. Despite previous electoral losses and widespread allegations that he had allowed war crimes, Prabowo Subianto was able to catch the attention of young voters through social media. Dancing (badly) to popular songs has given him the reputation of a sweet old man among young people, causing many to overlook the atrocities many believe he’d committed. His running mate, a much younger man, also had a massive TikTok presence, participating in popular trends among young Indonesians and gaining millions of views. Seeing these candidates as fun and relatable, younger audiences fell in love with the duo, and the candidates ultimately won the election despite Subianto’s previously bad reputation. 

While Trump’s inflammatory tweets aren’t as enticing to young voters as amusing dancing videos of Subianto, The Economist suggests that Trump is controlling his image in the media quite effectively. Trump has managed to turn his mugshot, an image that would typically be viewed very negatively by the public, into evidence that he alleges demonstrates that President Biden is targeting him. Trump’s attention-grabbing tweets and enthusiasm about his priorities and image have captured a broad audience and have motivated supporters to engage with him. A striking example of his ability to command an audience on social media, Trump rallied supporters to support him by investing in Truth Social, and even convinced people to participate in an insurrection at the Capitol.

Like Subianto, though, content about Trump has gained traction on TikTok. The Economist reports that views of videos with the #donaldtrump2024 hashtag are over twenty times higher than those with the #joebiden2024 hashtag, noting that supporters of Trump have made videos and have even written raps about him despite the fact that Trump himself does not use or endorse the app.

While Biden’s fundraising has been successful thus far, demonstrating financial strength for his campaign and support from older, wealthy donors, Biden seems to be losing hold of young voters, a traditional demographic stronghold. With growing unrest and popular uproar among young Americans against his actions in Gaza, Biden is rapidly losing support from the youth. Without more aggressive pressure for a ceasefire in Gaza and a better campaign strategy targeting young voters, Biden risks losing the base that was critical to his 2020 victory.