Can Social Media Bring Young Voters Into the Fold?

A team of student reporters from Philly's Girls’ High School talked to voters during the DNC in July.

Girls High Young Voters

Student reporters Amina Thomas and Jaylynn Green interview Bernie Sanders supporter Galen Bratton during the DNC in July | Photo by Saleem Ahmed

Editor’s Note: This report was created by a team of student reporters from Girls High School, working as part of a Youth News Team program during the DNC. The student reporters were Amina Thomas, Jaylynn Green, Xani Wise, Janet Pennington and Rashiyah Powell. They were advised by Louis Austin, a teacher at Girls High, and Saleem Ahmed, a media lab instructor at WHYY. Philadelphia magazine staff helped guide the reporting.

If the United States were to be graded on voter participation, it would get an F. In 2012, the national average for voter participation was 57.5 percent, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. In the same election, voter turnout in Philadelphia hit 58.8 percent, according to an NBC 10 report.

The problem may lie in a disconnect between young voters and the available candidates. According to FairVote, a voting advocacy group, young people are much less likely to vote than older ones. “From 1972-2012, citizens 18-29 years old turned out at a rate 15 to 20 points lower than citizens 30 year and older.”

Why are young people more likely to be disengaged from politics?

“Younger people don’t vote,” said Annie Tan, a delegate from Illinois. “Hillary Clinton has a mixed history and Donald Trump is a racist. Why vote when you don’t have a vote that matters or a candidate that doesn’t matter to you?” 

Is Political Information Reaching Millennials?

Most people between the ages of 18 and 30 are active on social media, and go there for most of their information and news, according to a 2015 Pew report. Since candidates disperse information through traditional sources rather than social media, 18- to 30-year-olds, who are more likely to connect through social media, are less likely to acquire adequate information, and thus more likely to feel disconnected. Americans aged 35-65 are likely to be more informed, more connected to candidates, and therefore more likely to vote.

India Bey, a recent high school graduate from Philadelphia, believes that even though we live in an age of information, the information is just not reaching young voters.

“I think a lot of young people don’t know what is really going on because it’s not on social media that much,” Bey said. “They have to search for it and a lot of people think that their vote doesn’t really count that much. It’s just about taking time to look into it and a lot of us are kind of lazy and don’t want to put in the time and effort to look into it.”

Despite living in this age of information, political news is still not reaching young voters.

Chris Cazalas, a 30-year-old resident of Texas, said that young voters need to be more aware about misinformation, as well as educated about the issues.

“People are ill-informed. So much information is on the internet that it is hard to know what is real versus what is on Facebook,” Cazalas said. “Young people need to seek out truth and knowledge.”


In Philadelphia, the election commission has recognized low voter turnout as a local and national problem.

“People don’t really feel that their vote counts,” said Lisa Deeley of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, which is in charge of elections. “People don’t see the connection between when they go into the voting machine and the effect it has. People don’t realize that when they are unhappy with something the opportunity for them to speak up and the greatest power they have is in the voting booth.”

In an effort to reach the social-media demographic, she spearheaded a project called #IVotedPHL during her campaign for the Commissioners seat last fall.

“A lot of young people saw it and they tweeted it,” she said. “We trended a little while on election day.”

Perhaps Deeley herself has created a trend and her efforts to increase voter participation through the use of social media will soon be the norm.