In November’s midterm elections in the U.S., an unprecedented 31 percent of voters under 30 turned out to cast their ballots. Young voters face a challenging future—more brazen white supremacy movements; the worsening effects of climate change and income inequality—all of it motivation enough to hit the voting booth. But a month before the election, Vote.org made headlines by claiming that it was pop star Taylor Swift who was partly responsible for record-breaking registration numbers.
On October 7th, Swift took to Instagram and encouraged her 112 million followers to register to vote, endorsing two Democrats running for office in Tennessee. It was a stark contrast to her actions in 2016, when she didn’t publicly acknowledge the election until Election Day; her silence led to the alt-right proclaiming her an “Aryan goddess
” that May.
While crediting a previously apolitical pop-star for results that generations of activists have worked for is a dangerous line to walk, there is something to be said about the power given to a single Instagram post. It’s hard to picture young voters waiting by their phones, with bated breaths, for Swift to give them the thumbs-up to vote. But according to Vote.org, that’s not too far from what actually happened. “The bottom line,” a Vote.org spokeswoman told the New York Times, “is that she did significantly impact registrations.” Over 166,000 people registered to vote during the subsequent 36 hours, 42 percent of which were under 25. And although it’s normal to see similar surges as registration deadlines approach, Vote.org pointed to the surge of 6,200 registrations in Tennessee in those three days (which equaled the number of registrations from May to September) as proof of how far a celebrity endorsement can go.